In the middle of the 20th century, television began reframing the way we experience sports. It gave us replays and extended timeouts, pushed World Series games into prime time, scrambled conference affiliations. Through national telecasts and highlights and, later, superstations and cable networks, fans grew intimate with teams many hundreds of miles away. Now gambling is poised to unleash changes just as transformative, and they may come fast. In an October report, PricewaterhouseCoopers estimated that a fully developed sports gambling industry in all states ทางเข้าlsm ล่าสุด would draw $100 billion in bets every year; the congressional National Gambling Impact Study Commission has suggested the figure could be closer to $400 billion. Whatever the size of the jackpot, leagues, teams and broadcasters will want their piece of it. “The players, the sponsors, all the stakeholders in the ecosystem can become beneficiaries of this,” says Peter Guber, an owner of both the Golden State Warriors and the Los Angeles Dodgers.The games we watch are already enhanced by data collected through technological advances. Announcers tell us how hard baseballs are hit and how far they travel, or how many miles a particularly active soccer player has run. Because such derivatives create new opportunities for betting, we’re sure to see many more of them. (The N.B.A. has been advertising for a gambling data analyst on the employment website Glassdoor.) Hockey hasn’t traditionally generated much in the way of metrics, but in order to learn who is skating the fastest or shooting the hardest, the N.H.L. is preparing to record the movements of every player during every game and even put a chip inside the puck. “Leagues are building a fire hose of data around their product,” says Chris Grove, an analyst who consults for gaming companies and investors. “And the logical recipient of that data is the betting industry.”What are the chances that someone homers in the next two innings? Or kicks a field goal in the next five minutes? Imagine those odds sliding across the bottom of your screen like the CNN news crawl. As a sports media consultant and former N.B.A. executive named Ed Desser puts it, “How does the production and presentation of telecasts change to accommodate gambling?” Explicit references to betting might seem jarring during a Masters broadcast, which has the feel of a conversation in a Ritz-Carlton lobby. But Tiger Woods and Phil Mickelson’s made-for-TV showdown in November, which included such information, gave viewers more reasons to care about what happened.Real-time digital wagering has created betting opportunities that don’t rely on the score; the appeal of a game in which the Patriots are up by 30 points in the fourth quarter is altogether different if you can put money down right then on how many more first downs they’ll get. As viewers create their own narrative tension by betting on pieces of the action, broadcast rights fees will increase and franchise values soar. That tension could also be artificially created and exploited by event promoters too. “If you’re the U.F.C. and you have an absolute dog of a fight on a major card for whatever reason, you could use odds and promotions around betting to drive fan interest,” Grove points out. “You could use betting proactively.”Legal gambling also opens the door to an entirely new source of sponsorship income. In English soccer, 26 of the 44 teams that compete in the sport’s top echelons wear shirts festooned with the names of bookmaking sites. Don’t be surprised to see them soon in the N.B.A. or Major League Soccer. Games will be held in venues with names like the Bet365 Bowl or Caesars Coliseum and be analyzed by touts on TV and subscription podcasts. “As you create more interest in these things, people want more information,” Desser says. “And they’re always looking for an edge.”
Perhaps nobody sees more dollar signs on the horizon than legislators. It remains uncertain how quickly states will continue to pass new gambling laws, or how broad or restrictive those will be, but few dispute the potential impact. “I was talking to some economic development people from Alabama,” says Jack Evans, a District of Columbia council member who introduced a sports gambling bill there that is expected to become law in March. “They were asking how they could raise money. I told them: ‘Put in sports gambling and you can pay off all your debts on the Alabama-Auburn football game alone. One game, Alabama and Auburn. You’d make billions.’ ”Leonsis has a stake in nearly all of these possibilities. He envisions simulcasts of every Wizards and Capitals game on NBC Sports Washington that will include a steady stream of betting information. He controls two teams in the resurrected Arena Football League and is pitching networks a gambling-centric concept for its games that’s too overt for the stodgy N.F.L., at least for now. Sportradar’s chief executive told me he expects its $2.4 billion valuation to quintuple in three years with the opening of the U.S. market, which will mean the same for Leonsis’s stake. And if franchise values rise because of fans’ increased engagement in the sports they follow, Leonsis’s N.H.L. and N.B.A. teams could be his most profitable gambling plays of all. In time, sports betting may generate its own Mark Zuckerberg or Jeff Bezos, some forward-thinking entrepreneur who comes to define the zeitgeist of his generation. For now, though, the person whose odds are as great as anyone’s to profit from this emerging industry is Leonsis, a 62-year-old billionaire who has been around since the early days of the World Wide Web.The history of regulated gambling in America goes back to 1931, when Nevada opened the nation’s first casinos. The state was on the verge of bankruptcy, a predicament that motivated it to defy the prevailing national sentiment against gambling. “Any state could have done it,” says Anthony Cabot, who teaches gaming law at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas. “But no others did.” Just as pro football was starting to thrive, Nevada broadened its gambling law to regulate sports bets. Over the next half-century, American attitudes toward gambling evolved. In 1978, with great fanfare, casinos opened in Atlantic City. A decade later, Congress passed a law permitting them on land owned by Native American tribes. By 2003, a Gallup Poll revealed, nearly half of all Americans had played the lottery in the previous 12 months; almost a third had visited a casino. But just 10 percent had bet on a pro sports event, mostly because there were few legal ways to do it.