The Pandora’s Box of Sports

Nicholas Pililian

Sports isn’t what it used to be.
The days of watching games as a fan and enjoying the thrill of a close game has changed into moments where you’re engaged looking at over/under numbers and hoping for fiscal gain during a match.
The hold that sports gambling has in today’s culture is a net negative for sports and its advertisement will continue to pump out problems for young people and the future of athletics.
Whether you’re at a sporting event or sitting watching a game in front of a screen, you’ll be exposed to the opportunity to bet on the game. It’s guaranteed you’ll see FanDuel, Draft Kings, BetMGM or Bet365 ads appear on broadcasts of sports games. This would’ve never been imagined a decade ago but this dystopian way to consume sports is now a reality in today’s society.
According to, the sports betting gross revenue across the U.S. accumulated to $11 billion in 2023. The worldwide size of online betting amounted to $235.46 billion U.S. With that sort of revenue, it’s no surprise that gambling is seeing an increase in marketing.
Sportsbook brands spent $314.6 million on national TV ads in 2022, according to iSpotTV. Online sportsbooks that can be accessed on phones are highly marketed online as well and not just over the air. BIA Services estimated that $1.8 billion was spent on gambling promotion on the internet – a sizable portion of that went toward sports betting according to the report.
That large investment to get new online gamblers is working. A poll from Siena Research found that 35% of online sports gamblers signed up within the past year, 35% signed up more than a year ago but less than two years ago and 29% have had an account for more than two years.
“Ads and commercials are everywhere, it’s like an episode of Black Mirror or something,” Emiliano Gomez, a 21-year-old avid sports fan, said. “You’re always aware of all the apps and their promotions; it’s pretty hard to escape hearing that.” Gomez regularly consumes the NFL, MLB, NBA, and NHL broadcast – where tempting gambling promotions can be found daily.
An example of promotion to get new online gamblers is “Matching Deposits.” Typically, this offer is associated with online casinos rather than sportsbooks. When you make a deposit, you’ll receive site credit equivalent to either the full deposit amount or a percentage of it. For instance, if you deposit $100 with a 50% match, you’ll earn $50 in site credit to use. This type of offer is enticing and if you engage with it, you’re set on course to fall down the sports gambling rabbit hole.
“I’d be lying if I said it didn’t interest me at all,” Gomez said with a chuckle. “I can see how people get into it and start to gamble more.”
That’s exactly what gambling companies want to hear.
This model hooks new users and adds to the growing number of people with gambling problems across the U.S.
As states across the nation have loosened their online gambling restrictions, it’s correlated with an increase of people needing help with their gambling addiction.
The Connecticut Council on Problem Gambling reported a 200% increase in hotline calls and chats in the first six months that gambling became legal in the state. Nicasa Behavioral Health Services – a substance abuse prevention program in Chicago– told ABC,“Now we’re upwards of 40% of our practice is sports bettors.”
It also doesn’t help that sports media has been another influence to get people to bet on games. Instead of just airing highlights and debate shows on the air, we’re seeing networks and prominent sports personalities start to include betting odds and advice at every opportunity possible.
In ESPN’s coverage of the 2024 NBA Playoffs is where the network receives one of its largest audiences in the calendar year. Promotion for ESPN BET, a new sports book operated by PENN Entertainment under the ESPN branding, is present in every game as the network goes into a commercial break. It’s common to see networks and sportsbooks work together but this is the first time that a network is using its branding to create/market a sportsbook.
Sports journalists are also finding themselves in the crossfires of online sports gambling. Shams Charania, one of the most influential basketball insiders, was the center of changing betting odds during the 2023 NBA Draft. Aside from his job at The Athletic, Charania is a FanDuel partner where he regularly makes content about the inside scoop across the NBA. He is one of the most revered sports journalists in the world and his reports hold lots of weight among NBA followers.
Charania reported that G League Ignite star Scoot Henderson was “gaining serious momentum” to become the No. 2 pick for the Hornets just hours prior to the start of NBA draft.
FanDuel Sportsbook listed Henderson at +400 to be the No. 2 pick the day prior to Charania’s reporting. However, after his tweet, the odds on Henderson getting selected at No. 2 drastically flipped to favorite odds at -700. Henderson ended up getting selected third overall and put lots of money into FanDuel’s pockets.
“It probably will mesh and become more ingrained, it shouldn’t. It’s a huge conflict of interest,” said Robert Jalón of L.A. Taco about journalism’s impact in sports betting.
“I, in good conscience, can’t write an article about a team that I’m actively putting money on or actively betting on to maybe sway public opinion,” said Jalón.
With more people placing prop bets on players online, sports journalists are key to reporting player availability. If a player is absent or playing through injury, it affects the betting lines across the multitude of betting sites.
Accurate reporting is what fans care about most now that money is involved. Instead of worrying about how their team will perform without a key player, it’s now about looking at which players could hit the over to win them some extra cash.
The combination of betting incentives and the importance of insider reporting has tempted more than just your average Joe wanting to gamble online. It’s no longer a strange sight to see a professional athlete on the news due to gambling. There have been multiple notable incidents involving gambling athletes in the last 10 months.
Before the start of the NBA Playoffs, the league announced it suspended Jontay Porter for life due to violation of the leagues gaming rules. The investigation into Porter revealed that he disclosed confidential information to sports bettors, restricted his own involvement in one or more games for betting reasons, and wagered on NBA games.
Baseball star Shohei Ohtani’s start to his Los Angeles Dodgers career was interrupted by a betting scandal involving his translator Ippei Mizuhara. This scandal brought up questions if Ohtani was involved rather than focusing on baseball for the first few weeks of the MLB season. Mizuhara was charged with bank fraud and accused of stealing more than $16 million according to prosecutors on April 11.
Across the pond, the Italian Football Association banned Newcastle United’s Sandro Tonali for 10 months of the 2023-24 season due to breaches of rules on betting on matches in Italy including on his own team. The midfielder was Newcastle’s signing of the summer transfer window, arriving for a fee close to $76.28 million. The Italian played just 12 games for the English side this season before the ban went into effect.
“Now, it’s too ingrained in the game,” said Jalón. “The hypocrisy is that some of these players are getting in trouble while the game that they’re playing is literally sponsored by a betting network or a betting organization”.
Seven English Premier League teams (AFC Bournemouth, Aston Villa, Brentford, Burnley, Everton, Fulham, West Ham United) have front-of-shirt sponsorship agreements with betting companies. Other sports such as Formula 1 and Rugby have gained multiple betting sponsors for teams in recent years. Because of this conflict of interest, the EPL agreed to remove all betting sponsors on team kits by the time the 2026 – 27 season comes around in April 2023.
“It’s crazy that you have so many sports teams with betting ads even though players would be crucified if they got involved,” said Gomez. “There’s problems with players getting involved but they wear shirts promoting when they play.”
The owners of clubs and betting companies are the biggest winners despite the ongoing issues that have resulted from the rise of online sports betting – It’s clear they are the least affected from betting addictions and suspended players.
“It’s good for one person, the owners and the owners of these betting sites, but when players try to do it, obviously there’s that conflict of interest. They get the harsh slap on the wrist, whereas you know maybe a team owner, or like an owner of the betting site would not.”
Sports isn’t what it used to be. It will never go back to what it used to be.

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