Betting in Sports

The world continues to change; The growing effect of gambling; An in-depth look

 

Solomon

Why Watching A Sports Event On TV Can Affect Your Health And Wealth (As It Has To So Many Others Viewers); Sports Leagues And Networks Use Obvious PR Stunts To Lessen Criticism For Fostering Youth Gambling.

  • Research indicates that alcohol use during the teenage years can interfere with normal adolescent brain development and increase the risk of developing alcohol use disorder. In addition, underage drinking contributes to a range of acute consequences, such as injuries, sexual assaults, alcohol overdoses, and deaths—including those from motor vehicle crashes, according to a 2023 post by the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIH).
  • Another 2023 article from Newsweek Magazine reported: “The latest edition of the American Psychiatric Association’s Diagnostic and Statistical Manual lists “gambling disorder” in the same category as heroin and opioid addictions.” Some studies have found that as many as 19 percent of problem gamblers attempt suicide, the highest rate of any addiction.
  • But sports events on television have another take on alcoholic beverages and gambling: They make watching the games more of a fun event and these “sin” products are promoted by ball clubs, networks and sadly sports announcers.
  • Beer advertisements during sports events have been hawked on radio for decades, long before the first sporting event was televised. Hard liquor ads are a more recent addition to the commercial mix on sports telecasts
  • But the most recent addition to addictive products that are permitted to advertise during televised sporting events is online betting from home.
  • The Associated Press  reported this year that “Americans have bet over $220 billion on sports with legal gambling outlets in the five years since the U.S. Supreme Court cleared the way for all 50 states to offer it, and the industry shows few signs of slowing despite some recent scandals that have put a spotlight on wagering safeguards.”
  • Few TV viewers have been spared from repeated ads featuring a Caesar character discussing sports gambling with members of the Manning football dynasty, or from actor Jamie Foxx placing sports bets in between takes on a film, reported the article.” These “amusing” betting TV commercials are evidently doing their job. A 2022 story originally posted by Stateline, an initiative of the Pew Charitable Trusts, reported, “With online and retail sports betting now legal in more than 30 states, the portrait of a new problem gambler is emerging: the high school student.”
  • “Although the legal age for gambling ranges from 18 to 21 depending on the state, between 60% and 80% of high school students report having gambled for money in the past year, according to the National Council on Problem Gambling. The group says the pandemic and easy access to online gambling have heightened risks for young adults. And 4% to 6% of high schoolers are considered addicted to gambling,” the group says.
  • Add in the junk foods and misleading TV commercials that are as much of a sporting event staple on television as are hits, TD passes, jump shots and slap shots and it’s undeniable that watching a sporting event on TV can affect your heath and wealth, as it does to so many viewers.
  • At one time, in the mid-1900s, baseball and football teams welcomed the commercials of cigarette manufactures and game day sports announcers would help promote them. Also promoting smokes were prominent athletes like Babe Ruth, Joe DiMaggio, Ted Williams, Lou Gehrig and Frank Gifford, who hosted Wide World of Sports and was a mainstay on Monday Night Football.
  • Tobacco products on TV have been outlawed by the government. But the teams and networks have replaced tobacco with another addictive product – online gambling from home.
  • How times have changed: NFL announcer Al Michaels once referred to a play that made the game’s total points exceed the point spread by saying, “that’s over-whelming.”
  • Today sportscasters no longer use code words when talking about betting on games. Lisa Kerney, Jalen Rose and Charles Barkley are among the prominent sports announcers who have signed endorsement deals with betting concerns.
  • And one of the most popular betting commercials is “Win Terry Bradshaw’s Money,” on Fox during the football season. Also, during the baseball season even announcers not affiliated with sports books, regularly update viewers how much money they can win by betting during the game, from the comfort of their home. After the game programming also includes betting information in between the studio hosts analyzing what happened and interviewing athletes. (Public relations pros know how valuable third-party endorsement can be when hawking a product or idea. In affect, sports commentators are playing a similar role for the legalized bookies.)
  • A Feb. 2023 CNN story said, “The booming sports betting industry, lawmakers and even the professional sports leagues themselves are making it easier, faster and more tempting for people to bet on games — and develop gambling problems, say gambling researchers and addiction specialists.
  • “In the past five years, there has been an explosion of online sports betting apps from companies like DraftKings, FanDuel and Caesars…”
  • “Sports betting has been infused into game broadcasts with commercials and in-game advertising. Meanwhile, point spreads and odds, which used to be taboo for league media partners, are now as common as scores and statistics,” reported an ESPN article on May 12, 2023.
  • And a New York Times story on May 13, 2023, reported, ” An estimated $1.8 billion was spent advertising online gambling last year in local markets in the United States, according to BIA Advisory Services, an industry data aggregator, up nearly 70 percent in just one year, contributing to a sense among certain state regulators — and many sports viewers — that the airwaves had become too saturated with sports betting adsmarkets in the United States.”
  • The article said, in part, “Legislators and regulators who began the headlong expansion of legalized gambling in the United States are now moving in spots nationwide to tighten oversight of the gambling industry, particularly as it relates to advertising that may reach underage bettors.” (Like on sporting events.)
  • In the past, such famous sports announcers like Red Barber and Mel Allen excitedly called home runs an “Old Goldie,”(Barber on the Brooklyn Dodgers telecasts), and a “Balantine Blast (Allen on the New York Yankees telecasts).
  • The “NFL Today” pregame show which began in 1976 featured Jimmy “The Greek” Snyder on CBS for 12 years. “The Greek” got into a fist fight with CBS studio partner Brent Musburger.
  • But there is a major difference between yesteryear and today regarding betting. Since online betting, with one click you can place your bet from the comfort of your couch and there is no way to prevent these TV betting commercials from reaching very young children. In Snyder’s days, a person would have to contact the neighborhood bookie. (The Greek)
  • Probably in response to possible government action,  the Associated Press reported on April 19, 2023, “Most of the nation’s major professional sports leagues, plus the media companies Fox and NBCUniversal are creating an alliance to ensure that sports betting advertising is done responsibly and does not target minors.
  • “The Coalition for Responsible Sports Betting Advertising was created recently, consisting of the National Football League; Major League Baseball; the men’s and women’s leagues of the National Basketball Association; the National Hockey League; NASCAR, Major League Soccer, Fox and NBCUniversal.”
  • As a long time public relations practitioner, I’m eager to see how this obvious and unoriginal PR stunt works. (Perhaps by telling minors to close their eyes and put plugs in their ears before running the ads?” Or by televising those “Bet Responsibly” commercials in a bigger font?)

Because of online betting, alcoholic beverages and junk food commercials on sports telecasts, watching a sports event on TV can affect your health and wealth and, unfortunately, can have a disastrous outcome for many viewers. You can bet on it.

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Arthur Solomon

Arthur Solomon, a former journalist, was a senior VP/senior counselor at Burson-Marsteller, and was responsible for restructuring, managing and playing key roles in some of the most significant national and international sports and non-sports programs. He also traveled internationally as a media adviser to high-ranking government officials. He now is a frequent contributor to public relations publications and consults on public relations projects. He can be reached at arthursolomon4pr (at) juno.com.

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