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Will More Teams Follow The Bulls & Add Gambling Experts To Radio Broadcasts?

“Alyssa Bergamini will be part of every Bulls broadcast alongside Chuck Swirsky and Bill Wennington offering wagering updates.”

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Legal sports betting has exploded onto the landscape of radio and television at a rapid rate. Bursting on the scene are new ways for media outlets to monetize the industry and use it in new and inventive ways. Gambling’s impact is not going to stop anytime soon, because it’s a lucrative business to be in when you run a radio or TV station. 

Just this week, 670 The Score in Chicago, added a member to its Bulls radio crew with a specific role. Alyssa Bergamini will be part of every Bulls broadcast alongside Chuck Swirsky and Bill Wennington offering wagering updates. She debuted Monday with an update just before tipoff. 

Bergamini is part of a new campaign called “Courtside Odds with Bet MGM”. She had information on the pregame betting lines, including the spread, over/under numbers and some player props. To be honest it sounded like a 60-second commercial for the BetMGM app, and it probably was. Which leads me to a point of how current the information is going to be and how relevant it is to the storyline of the game.

Earlier in the Bulls’ pregame show, it came to light that Nikola Vucevic would not play in the game due to injury. When Bergamini first appeared, I thought that an obvious angle would have been how the line changed without the Bulls’ center available. There was no mention of it in her first report.

I’m not privy to the deal the station or the team entered into with MGM, so perhaps this isn’t what they are trying to achieve. One would think if they had money on the game, this would be the kind of stuff they’d be looking for, right? 

I listened to the update at the end of the first quarter and Bergamini updated the over/under line and how it moved based on the first 12-minutes of action. I’m sure that there is room to grow and I am not blaming her at all for this, not being aware of the responsibilities within the deal. Knowing her a little bit from my time in Chicago and with the White Sox, she’s an up and comer in the market and this is a great break for her. She will get a rhythm going and to be fair, her debut came with the team on the road. Bergamini was in the studio and will be for all away games. 

When I first heard about this idea, I was a bit skeptical. I’m used to seeing gambling information on the ‘ticker’ or on a Megacast, but not actually during a game broadcast. Especially on radio, where the action needs to be described so the fan at home knows what’s happening in the game. If the format stays like it has, it will not be the intrusion I feared it might be. 

Strangely, on the same night, fans watching the Bulls/76’ers game on NBC Sports Chicago Plus and NBC Sports Philadelphia Plus, had a chance to take in an alternate feed, featuring the sports betting angles of the game. The telecast was in partnership with ‘PointsBet’ with NBC Sports EDGE’s Sara Perlman, Sixers’ analyst Jim Lynam, Bulls commentator Kendall Gill and PointsBet oddsmaker Joy Croucher part of the ‘BetCast’ in both markets. It was presented as you might expect with graphics, with live odds data, like the spread, over/under, money lines, along with futures odds and player prop bets.

The special presentation first debuted on NBC Sports Chicago on April 22, 2021 and dates back to April 2019 on NBC Sports Philadelphia.

Gambling is being embraced by the professional sports leagues, including the NBA. It’s also caught on with great interest in Chicago and other big cities, so these reports and specialized broadcasts are serving a growing audience. 

Over the last couple of years, the impact of the gambling market on radio and television has exploded. Not just in commercial inventory, but in shows geared towards those that gamble or are interested in learning about it. VSiN, The Daily Wager and NBC Sports Edge to name a few on the television side. Audacy’s BetQL app is a big player on the radio side. 

Gambling is and always will be a part of sports and now it’s all legal. So why not just accept and enjoy it? For me, I am a sports fan first and foremost. I don’t gamble often, but I do find it very interesting. I want these shows to educate me as much as inform me. 

After talking to some people at the recent BSM Summit in New York City that are serving as the ‘gambling experts’ at various outlets, I’m kind of happy with the approach. Joe Fortenbaugh is a part of the ‘Daily Wager’ on ESPN. 

“It’s been fantastic and it’s great to see that not only are people interested because they know there’s financial implications, but they’re also educating themselves on it. They are learning more about the business,” he told me backstage at the BSM Summit. “3 years ago, we could use certain terms to talk about underdogs, and things like that, people are like, ‘I’m still trying to figure it out’, that’s where I think the most underserved market in sports betting is at the current moment.”

Fortenbaugh continued, “People want to be able to talk about it, they want to have fun with it but we also need to understand that it’s a completely different language to a lot of people.” He also points out the need to remind people to gamble responsibly. 

Those folks are catching on quickly, and they’ll need to because of the ever-changing sports landscape. Get on board or you could be left behind. Even in some of your favorites like baseball. The thought process is you’ll probably draw more people in with gambling talk, than lose them. 

“I think you’d have to be naive to think gambling isn’t coming into every facet of every sport, so that’s first and foremost,” said Dan McLaughlin, the St. Louis Cardinals play-by-play announcer for Bally’s Sports Midwest to USBETS. “In terms of the broadcast, I’m not sure where this is going to take us, and I mean that sincerely. Some people who have never laid a bet and won’t ever do so just want a traditional broadcast. But, also, there are some people who have put down certain wagers on certain sports and they’ll be drawn into it in a blowout game, sometimes in a tight ending, whatever.

“It’s a way to keep fans interested. I do think it’s coming, and I do think it might be another aspect to offer fans during a game. You maybe don’t totally draw it out, but you can draw attention to it.”

What was once a longshot, to even be spoken about on radio or television, is now the heavy favorite to win. Don’t bet against gambling talk showing up where you least expect it. The once taboo is now a topic to be reckoned with. Money is talking and stations across the country are listening closely. 

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BSM’s Black Friday SALE on BSM Summit Tickets is Underway!

Jason Barrett

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Each year I’m asked if there are ways to save money on tickets to the 2023 BSM Summit. I always answer yes but not everyone takes advantage of it. For those interested in doing so, here’s your shot.

For TODAY ONLY, individual tickets to the 2023 BSM Summit are reduced by $50.00. Two ticket and four ticket packages are also lowered at $50 per ticket. To secure your seat at a discounted price, just log on to BSMSummit.com. This sale ends tonight at 11:59pm ET.

If you’re flying to Los Angeles for the event, be sure to reserve your hotel room. Our hotel partner this year is the USC Hotel. It’s walking distance of our venue. Full details on hotel rooms can also be found via the conference website.

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BSM Writers

Media Noise: What Does The Return of Bob Iger Mean to ESPN?

Demetri Ravanos

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Demetri Ravanos has questions about Disney going back to the future with Bob Iger. This entire episode of Media Noise is all about what the change at the top of the Walt Disney Company indicates about the future of ESPN.

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BSM Writers

Media Noise: What Is Realistic For FOX at the World Cup?

Demetri Ravanos

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On this special holiday edition of Media Noise, Demetri Ravanos dives into the controversy and criticism surrounding FOX’s coverage of the World Cup in Qatar.

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