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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.”

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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.

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.

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.

BSM Writers

Mike Greenberg Asked a Fine Question, But He Can Do Better

Asking questions that can get a subject to talk about their feelings is a much better way to get an interesting answer.

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USA Today

When ESPN’s Mike Greenberg interviewed Paolo Banchero in the lead-up to the NBA lottery on Tuesday, he asked what I’ve concluded is the single most maddening question that can be asked of any athlete preparing for any draft.

“Why do you believe you should be No. 1 pick in the NBA Draft?” Greenberg said.

Before I point out exactly why I have such a visceral reaction to such a harmless question, I want to point out the positives because Greenberg’s question avoids some of the most common pitfalls:

1) It is an actual question. That’s not as automatic as you think given the number of poor souls who are handed a microphone and say to their subject, “Talk about (whatever issue they want a quote or a sound bite on).” This is the mark of an amateur, creating the opening for an uncooperative subject to slam the door by saying, “What do you want me to say?”

2) Greenberg’s question can not be answered with a yes or a no. Questions that start with the word “Can you …” or “Did you …” may sound like they’re tough questions for the subject, but they’re actually fairly easy if the subject wants to offer an answer. Now, most interview subjects won’t take that one-word exit, but some will in a touchy situation.

The problem with Greenberg’s question has to do with the result. Why do we ask questions of the athletes we cover? Seriously. That’s not rhetorical. What’s the goal? It’s to get interesting answers. At least that’s the hope whether it’s for a quote that will be included in a story, a sound bite to be replayed later or — like in this situation — during an interview that is airing live. The question should be engineered to elicit interesting content, and there was very little chance that the question Greenberg asked Banchero was going to produce anything close to that.

I know that because I have heard some version of this question asked hundreds of times. That’s not an exaggeration. I attended the NFL scouting combine annually for a number of years, and if a player wasn’t asked why he should be the first overall pick, he’d get asked why he should be a first-round pick or why he should be one of the first players chosen at his position. Never — in all that time — have I ever heard what would be considered an interesting or informative answer. In my experience, players tend to talk in incredibly general terms about their own abilities and then seek to compliment their peers in an effort to avoid coming off as cocky.

Here’s how Banchero answered Greenberg’s question: “Yeah, thank you all for having me, first off., I feel like I’m the number one pick in the draft because I’m the best overall player. I feel like I check all the boxes whether it’s being a great teammate, being the star player or doing whatever the coach needs. I’ve been a winner my whole life. Won everywhere I’ve went, and when I get to the NBA, that’s going to be the same goal for me. So just combining all those things, and knowing what I have to work on to be better is a formula for me.”

There’s nothing wrong with answer just as there was nothing wrong with the question. It’s just that both are really, really forgettable. ESPN did put a clip on YouTube with the headline “Paolo Banchero: I’m the best overall player in the NBA Draft | NBA Countdown” but I think I’m the only who will remember it and that’s only because I’m flapping my arms and squawking not because there was anything bad per se, but because there was nothing really good, either.

First of all, I’m not sure why it matters if Banchero thinks he should be the number one overall pick. He’s not going to be making that decision. The team that holds the top draft pick — in this case Orlando — is. Here’s a much better question: “How important is it for you to be the number one overall pick?” This would actually give an idea of the stakes for Banchero. What does this actually mean to him? Asking him why he should go number one is asking Banchero to tell us how others should see him. Asking Banchero how important it would be go number one is asking him to tell us about his feelings, something that’s much more likely to produce an interesting answer.

The point here isn’t to question Greenberg’s overall competence because I don’t. He’s as versatile a host as there is in the game, and anyone else in the industry has something to learn from the way he teases ahead to content. What I want to point out not just how we fail to maximize opportunities to generate interesting content, but why. Interviews are a staple of the sports-media industry. We rely on these interviews as both primary content that will be consumed directly, and as the genesis for our own opinions and reaction yet for all that importance we spend very little time thinking about the kind of answer this question is likely to produce.

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BSM Writers

Media Noise – Episode 74

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This week, Demetri is joined by Ian Casselberry and Ryan Brown. Demetri talks about the NBA Draft getting an ABC simulcast, Ian talks about Patrick Beverley’s breakout week on TV, and Ryan reminds us that Tom Brady may be the star, but Kevin Burkhardt is the story we shouldn’t forget.

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BSM Writers

The Client Just Said YES, Now What?

We should spend as much time on what we will do after the client says YES.

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One of the most significant moments in radio sales is when the client agrees to your proposal and says YES. But, when they do say YES, do you know what’s next? We better have an answer!

We spend a lot of time getting ready for clients with research, spec spots (thank you, radio sales trainer Chris Lytle-go to 22:30), proposals, and meetings. All of our focus is on getting the client to say YES. We should spend as much time on what we will do after the client says YES. For example, getting newer sales reps to sell annual advertising contracts would be ideal for building a list. They would have less pressure, more job security, and could spend more time making the advertising work for their clients. But, since most newer reps don’t know the business yet, they don’t bite off more than they can chew and sell a package of the month.

When a client says yes to the weight loss promotion, it’s pretty clear how to write the ads, what the promos will say, etc. BUT, if a newer sales rep starts selling annual contracts to a direct local client who needs a resource, how will that work? Let’s make sure we paint the picture right upfront. More experienced reps know that they need to assume the client will say YES to the weight loss promo and have a plan accordingly.

They have the next steps to building copy and promos, a credit app or credit card payment form, and any other detail the client must provide. But, when we ask a direct local client for an annual advertising contract, watch out! You have just made a partnership. Why not lay out, upfront, what that will look like. And I understand not every local client needs the same level of service.

A car dealer has the factories pushing quarterly promotions, agencies producing ads, and in-house marketing directors pulling it all together sometimes. Other clients need your help in promotions, copywriting, or idea generation. Make a plan upfront with your client about when you will meet to discuss the next quarter’s ad program. Include your station’s promotions or inventory for football and basketball season, a summer NTR event, digital testimonials with on-air talent, etc., in your annual proposal. Go out as far as you can and show what you have to offer to the client and how you can execute it. This exercise is good for you and, once mastered, guides the client on how you will take care of them after the sale. It also opens your eyes to what it takes to have a successful client partnership inside and outside the station.

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