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Gambling on Sports In a Pandemic World

“When you see the advertising dollars that are coming in to radio stations, it’ll call for hosts to further their education on the subject matter.”

Tyler McComas

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New Jersey took in $315.1 million dollars during the month of July in sports betting. That number was up from June, when the state brought in $165 million. A change in revenue that drastic can only mean one thing: sports came back and Americans were ready to fire off on the action. 

With Americans craving sports more than ever, and states continuing to legalize sports gambling, the industry has an unstoppable force of momentum that only a worldwide pandemic can slow down. Once it side steps that hurdle, the future of sports gambling will exponentially grow across the country. 

For three sports radio hosts who share a deep interest in the future of sports gambling, the pandemic’s impact on the world of sports in 2020 has been unique, and at times, challenging. But in some instances it’s caused bettors to research and learn to bet on new sports, which, in turn, has expanded their level of expertise.

These three gambling aficionados and BSM members took a few minutes to offer their thoughts on a few sports betting related questions.

2-minute warning' debates: Are sports venues safe? | MSNBC

Tyler McComas: If the pandemic continues and sports continues to get cancelled, what kind of long and short-term effects will it have on sports gambling?

Scott Seidenberg – ScottsOnAir.com: How much, if any, will the crowd affect games? Travel will be much different, so you’ll be continuing with these contingencies and there will have to be an adjustment and how these games are handicapped. Home and away doesn’t mean as much, when you don’t have 80,000 fans in the stadium. Especially in football season, that’s something that you’re going to have to adjust. But then you also have, is baseball going to go into a bubble? How does that affect things come playoff time? How do you guys hit and pitch in certain ball parks, that changes a lot. There are so many X factors now while trying to handicap games.

TM:  What was your gambling strategy during the Pandemic? Were you betting on KBO baseball and other obscure sports?

SS: I was not gambling on KBO baseball (laughs). I try to stay with my strengths, which are college football and baseball. I was not venturing out. But there were people out there that were itching to get some action. What I thought was interesting, was that the NFL Draft was during the pandemic and it was the most bet on draft that we’ve ever had. People were just dying for action. People weren’t able to bet on anything else, so the books were taking a massive amount of action on the NFL Draft.

TM: Is it going to be tougher to handicap college football since not every conference is playing?

SS: I don’t necessarily think so. You’re going to miss out on a couple of non conference games, sure, but it might be easier to handicap, because each of these teams are going to have more common opponents. Whereas, the two games that you lose, that you normally see, are like Alabama playing The Citadel. You can use Alabama’s schedule to compare with Georgia’s schedule and have a better feel for how the two teams are, as opposed to having only four common opponents. Now everyone has more common opponents.

TM: What about the NFL? 

SS: I think you have to be smart enough to lay off the first couple of weeks. I think we’re going to see that some teams are not as prepared this season as they normally would be. Every year the lack of hitting is a concern and a lot of these guys aren’t in football shape. You need to hit. You need to have contact. You’re not getting that in practice or against another opponent in live looks, which is what the preseason is so important for. It’s harder to evaluate your roster when you don’t see guys in the live game situations. There will definitely be an adjustment.  A lot of people think that we’ll see a lot of under’s to start the season, and I think it’s best to just lay off the first few weeks. Think about the rookies, we haven’t even seen them play. So you also have to factor that in.

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TM: What were your betting habits during the pandemic when none of the major sports were on?

Nick Kayal – Fill-In Host, 92.9 The Game and Cover 2 Podcast Host, Athlon Sports: As much as I love sports betting, nothing changed, other than the fact that there wasn’t much to bet on. As much as I like it, I don’t need to do it, so there are weeks when there’s a full slate of sports and I won’t bet on a single thing. When games started to come back, like the PGA Tour, I would do a little bit with that and mix in fantasy golf to satisfy that itch. I typically bet more during football season than I do in the spring, even though I like betting on NBA and March Madness, but it was already a slower point in the year for me personally.

TM: When you consume gambling content, what are you looking for?

NK: The one thing I don’t want to hear, is someone rattling off number after number and trend after trend. I think there’s a place for it, stats, trends and data certainly matter, but for me, I look at three different things: What’s the Vegas line telling me, what’s the public doing, and then it’s the combination of eye test and your gut. There’s a mainstream media, full deep dive today on sports betting and you can tell there are a lot of people doing sports betting content for different outlets that don’t know what they’re talking about. I think they rely on trends to get by, but that’s a small percentage of what goes into it. I like to be entertained when I’m watching or listening. I already have an idea of what I think about a certain game, and maybe the host will change my opinion, but make me think and laugh during the show, and keep me tuned in for more than hearing about the teams last 10 results and what their record is against the spread. That’s all entry-level stuff.

TM: Do you think sports gambling is going to get so big in five years that hosts are going to need to have knowledge as more of a repertoire?  

NK: I’d love to see it, as someone who loves sports betting, but the most recent thing I saw is about 20% of people in America bet on sports. I don’t think it’s gonna get to the point where more than 50% of the country is betting on sports. I don’t think it’s going to be something that you necessarily need to know beyond a novice level from a sports radio standpoint. If you see a -7 you need to know which team is laying or giving the points. You just need to learn the basic terminology to where you don’t sound completely lost.

TM: Are we going to see casinos release a record number of income this fall?

NK: I think it’ll be even bigger the following year when you have a full slate of college and NFL, post Covid, if all the sports go back to the full schedules. I don’t know if we’re going to see the numbers explode, just because it’s legalized. The one advantage to betting with a bookie is you don’t have to post the money upfront. You’re on the honor system. At a casino you have to walk up and give them your money upfront before you place the bet. That’s one of the setbacks for people who are operating with limited funds.

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TM: How did your gambling habits change during the pandemic? Did you start betting on new sports? 

Corey Parson – Senior editor of Fantasy and Gambling at Sports Illustrated: I didn’t get into KBO baseball because I just didn’t research it enough. So I did two things, once MMA started back, and I had never really been into the sport before or ever even watched it, but when it came back I got into it and reached out to friends who are experts for insight. I really got into it and it ‘s now something that I enjoy and see opportunity in.

TM: Do you see sports gambling reaching a point where it’s almost mandatory for sports radio hosts to be fluent in the terminology and know how to present content?

CP: Yes I believe that 100%. If you look at the talent, particularly on radio, more people will have to not necessarily break down a game, as far as where the sharp action is, but I think they’ll need to be able to make picks against the spread. When you see the advertising dollars that are coming in to those radio stations, it’ll call for increased conversation and knowledge, and more hosts will have to further their education on the subject matter.

TM: Are we going to see casinos post record numbers of sports gambling take in this year?

CP: Once people see the product and say, OK, this is football the way we remember it, and they get the hang of it, then I think we will see record numbers. But that has to happen first for people to feel confident.

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