By Damon Sayles / APSE Diversity Fellow
Gambling has been a polarizing topic of discussion in and out of sports for decades.
In “Sports Betting in 2023 and Beyond,” the first general session of the APSE Summer Conference held in Las Vegas, Bill Speros served as the moderator of the gambling presentation. Speros is a senior betting analyst with Gambling.com.
“Sports is becoming, certainly for younger people, more of a transactional and less of an emotional experience,” Speros said. “There’s a focus on other outcomes opposed to just the final score — point totals, player props, etc.”
Gambling in previous years has seen an increase in revenue, as well as an increase in fan engagement. Per Speros, it not only is a multibillion-dollar industry but also one that has been made legal in 38 states as of early July 2023. Thirty-four of those states are taking active wages, and four more — Kentucky, North Carolina, Vermont and Maine — have legalized betting but have yet to launch.
“It’s legitimate, whether we want it to be or not,” Speros said.
The session included four panelists: Doug Kezirian is a longtime sports betting insider most recently at ESPN. Bill Pascrell III, Esq., is a lawyer and lobbyist with PPAG Group (Princeton Public Affairs Group) who led a 10-year campaign in 2018 to legalize sports betting in the U.S. Johnny Avello is the director of race and sportsbook operations at DraftKings. Stormy Buonantony is an Emmy Award-winner who is a studio host for VSiN (Vegas Sports Information Network) and a sideline reporter for ESPN.
The session covered a variety of topics, from distinguishing the handle from the hold to point spreads and why they exist. Pascrell added the future of sports betting could be heavily impacted by three states he called the “three brass rings” — Florida, Texas and California. He also said the industry could see a favorable movement in states like New York.
One of the biggest threats to sports betting, Pascrell said, is gambling addiction. He said he’s been working with Amani Toomer, a Super Bowl XLII champion with the New York Giants, and Martin Lycka, senior vice president for American regulatory affairs and responsible gambling at Entain, to “promote responsible gaming and gain a regulatory-friendly framework that’s self-regulated.”
The panelists were asked what the sports journalism industry does best and needs to improve regarding gambling coverage. All agreed that the elementary understanding of the industry — terminology, basic explanation, etc. — can be better in an effort for publications to come across as an expert to the growing audience.
“They’re learning. I like to speak on the knowledge they have for it, and if they don’t understand it, I’m willing to take the time to explain it to them,” Avello said of reporters. “Being in this business for over 40 years, gambling dialogue comes quite easy. … But, we’re getting there. It’s taking some time, but overall, I like the progress that we have made.”
“Whether or not you like it or care about gambling or support it, it’s very much what’s happening and important right now,” Buonantony added. “It’s just going to get bigger and bigger in the future.”