The New ESPN “Odds And Info” Page

by A.J. Coltrane

ESPN has what I think is a new page — “Odds and Info”. It’s on their front page tab right above “Poker”. Clicking through takes you to a page called “Chalk”, which is about as neutral a name as they could have picked so as not to upset the squares.

The funny thing is that when I stumbled onto it yesterday the tab and page were both named “Betting.” Maybe ESPN instantly got complaints?

Two thoughts:

1.  It’s going to continue to get harder to gamble on sports as information becomes more widely available. That process has been going on since the 1980’s — it’s always been a matter knowing more than the general population. Back then a copy of the Sporting News was enough. Not anymore.

2.  On September 5th, new NBA commissioner Adam Silver said that legalized sports gambling was “inevitable” [ESPN]:

NBA commissioner Adam Silver believes expanded legalized sports betting in the United States is “inevitable,” and the league is open to participating in it.

Speaking at the Bloomberg Sports Business Summit on Thursday in New York, Silver said that he understood that cash-strapped states will pursue legalized sports betting and that the NBA can benefit from it.

“It’s inevitable that, if all these states are broke, that there will be legalized sports betting in more states than Nevada,” Silver said, per Bloomberg.com. “We will ultimately participate in that.”

It’s a change in tune for the NBA, which in 2012 joined the NCAA, NFL, MLB and NHL in suing New Jersey over its efforts to bring legalized sports betting to its casinos and race tracks…

and

“If you have a gentleman’s bet or a small wager on any kind of sports contest, it makes you that much more engaged in it,” Silver said. “That’s where we’re going to see it pay dividends. If people are watching a game and clicking to bet on their smartphones, which is what people are doing in the United Kingdom right now, then it’s much more likely you’re going to stay tuned for a long time.”

More than $3.6 billion was wagered on sports at Nevada sports books in 2013. The American Gaming Association, citing the National Gambling Impact Study, estimates that as much as $380 billion is wagered illegally in the U.S. annually.

Silver seems to think that legally allowing gambling will be good for the NBA, attracting more eyeballs to the telecasts. Given what fantasy football has done for the popularity of the NFL, he may be right. It certainly won’t lead to *fewer* people watching the NBA.

My guess is that ESPN is very quietly trying to get ahead of the curve, or at least not get left behind. Between Silver’s statement, the New Jersey lawsuit, and this new ESPN page, it seems like we’re near a tipping point for legalized sports gambling in the USA.

Something else to help keep me entertained in my retirement!

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