I can’t imagine the celebration that took place last week inside sports radio stations in Louisiana, Maryland and South Dakota.
Two words: Dollar. Signs.
Amidst all the political drama that has taken over the headlines, those three states have legalized sports betting, which has hosts, program directors and sales staff chomping at the bit to take advantage of the new opportunity.
In a COVID world that has limited the ability to sell advertising, the added benefit of pitching to a booming business, such as sports books in casinos, comes at the right time for stations in Louisiana, Maryland and South Dakota.
“Frankly, it’s been long overdue,” said Jerry Coleman of 105.7 The Game in Baltimore. “Maryland seems to be traditionally behind a lot of states, especially the neighboring ones. All the neighboring states had legalized sports wagering, such as Pennsylvania, Delaware, West Virginia and even New Jersey. These are places just around the corner, where people are crossing state lines and bringing their Maryland money to other states. This is long overdue and something we’ve been talking about at our station for two weeks leading up to the election. We did not think it was going to be turned down and it was overwhelmingly approved.”
“It’s been going on for multiple years now,” said Jeff Thurn of ESPN 99.1 in Sioux Falls. “It probably ramped up the most when Iowa passed their laws, because where we’re located, on the east side of Sioux Falls, you are literally seven minutes away from a casino in Iowa that takes sports betting. For a community that probably has over 250,000 to 300,000 people in it’s metro area, those people can drive anywhere from 30 to 45 minutes, depending on where they live in the city, to place bets. That’s been the case over the past couple years. Iowa’s numbers in October were actually even a record number.
“On the show, I bet you three or four years now we’ve been talking about it. It really ramped up when that measure was going to be put on the voting ballot. I probably say from the beginning of the year where we had some guest on it at Super Bowl weekend at Radio Row that was talking about legalization across the country all the way through Election Day. We probably had a handful of folks throughout the country giving us insight on what it might look like and how it might play out.”
What’s funny is that each of these hosts have consistently used sports gambling as content on their show, well before it was legalized in their state just a week ago, They see the appetite that’s out there for sports gambling with their listeners and have routinely mixed in betting lines and over/unders to discuss games. Will that ramp up even more now, seeing a listener, therooticaly, will soon be able to drive 10 minutes to a local casino to place a bet?
“We’ll probably keep the content the same way,” said Jordy Culotta of 104.5 ESPN in Baton Rouge. “We have a gambling segment every Thursday during football season, where we get a six pack of picks. We talk about the local games, LSU, Saints, we always talk about the point spreads and the total numbers. I do that for a radio standpoint, because I understand the popularity of gambling and how much it means to the fans. A lot of people put interest into what Vegas thinks about a matchup. We embrace that as a radio show because that’s real life sports. People look at those elements of the action.
“We’ve made fun of our own state for the past couple of years, as long as sports betting has been on the docket to be voted on, the fact that it has failed and been denied has been comical. We know who we are. We gamble on just about everything and we look for excuses to party. The fact that we didn’t have sports gambling legalized was pretty laughable.”
“We already do a weekly sports wagering segment with Chad Millman from the Action Sports Network,” said Coleman. “We’ll also talk about what’s going on with the Ravens point spread, or what else is going on locally, but also nationally with some of the other point spreads. We also do an over-under segment every week, regarding the Ravens. We do a lot of tie-ins and I think that will only increase now that’s going to be legal moving into the new year.”
This is a huge decision for sports radio because of their ability to turn a profit from it. Think about it, where could a sports book inside a casino find a better place to advertise than the very place it’s betters flock to on a daily basis? Print and TV will find advertising dollars with sports books, sure, but nobody in the media has the advantage sports radio does when it comes to pitching sales to sports books.
“I think from the casino standpoint, you’ll start to see sports books start to pop up within the state of Louisiana, which can be sponsored,” said Culotta. “That’ll open up buying opportunities for advertisers, so I think that’ll change immediately from a sales standpoint. As far as the lingo in the language goes on the radio station I don’t think that will change. We’ve talked a lot of gambling on our show for a while and our station has embraced that angle. So that won’t really change.”
In all, counting Louisiana, Maryland and South Dakota, 27 states have launched some sort of sports betting, or have voted yes on it, which means it’s coming soon. That’s more than half of the country.
Sports radio stations that are in states without the legalization of sports gambling need to take note of the stations that are in states where it’s legal. Why? Because before you know it, it’ll be happening in your state, too. The momentum of sports gambling is strong. So much so, that it seems an inevitability that every state, at some point, will legalize it. In times like this, you don’t want ad dollars to pass by. Make sure capitalizing on the legalization of sports gambling is in your gameplan.
“Even before it became mainstream a few years ago, there was such an appetite for it in our state, that we would always talk about it,” said Thurn. “Also it just became more and more less taboo. From corporate restraints to local restraints, in regards to the content that you put on, you just saw the needle moving in one direction, where it was kind of laughable that we hadn’t passed something in the state.”