The Rise of the Sports Betting Hydra By Luke Haward, CDC Gaming Reports August 3, 2018 at 3:00 am Back in May we ran an in-depth piece looking at a host of issues in the sports betting world which Europe has had to navigate, since it has possessed, in most cases, a liberal market of legalised sports betting for some decades. Now the US have to face those issues as it opens its doors to a wider legalised sports betting world. It’s high time for a second glance over that piece, and for the introduction of issues which arise when sports betting becomes readily available everywhere and at all times. We won’t cover match fixing in this piece, as we looked into that in depth back in May, but we’ll consider other issues which arise whenever a gambling phenomenon such as sports betting becomes very widespread and available, thanks in large part to the drastic rise in online and mobile sports betting in recent years. Furthermore, as technology continues to leap forwards, we’re likely to witness a bunch of new trends in sports betting which will receive a turbo boost thanks to a quickly-growing industry in the US. Which are likely to be key, and what additional problems and opportunities might they bring? I believe the key trends will be virtual reality, first person perspectives, and a further rise in social betting. We’ll circle back around to these technological fascinations in a future piece. So media must be our first port of call in today’s discussion on sports betting services and media forms. Online and mobile sports betting has naturally become huge over the past decade. This has brought with it heightened concern for the mechanisms needed to ensure responsible gambling. How do you do an identity check and provide duty of care for customers you never interact with directly or face-to-face? This is something we are still only now beginning to get to grips with in the UK, and multiple bookmakers have faced major seven-figure fines relating to breaches of customer protection, self-exclusion, and money laundering failings within their online services. In fact, the UK Gambling Commission just announced the lifting of any cap in the maximum possible fine it can levy for such breaches. Where there’s a thriving market, there’s opportunism, and where there’s any big money to be made there will be unscrupulous operators. Europe has seen a host of exploitative sign-up offers for sports betting services over the years, typically offering bonuses which are not clearly explained in the advertising, frequently requiring the customer to wager the initial amount numerous times before any winnings are available for withdrawal, in some cases leading to a string of deposits being required in order to chase a bonus to clearance. This kind of practice is also being stamped down on now here in the UK, again via stricter requirements on transparency from the Commission. Advertising itself of course multiplies on the back of any profitable enterprise which requires an active public signing-up to thrive. Italy, the second biggest gambling economy in Europe, has just seen a total ban on gambling advertisement (excepting only the National Lottery). The UK has seen multiple issues raised with the extent of its TV sports advertising and player sponsorship, alongside a scandal over betting sponsors on junior league players. This and more lies ahead of the US as it sharply increases its legalised sports betting. There are those who contend that a legal market will enhance customer protections and avoid the numerous issues any black market contains. This is undoubtedly true, but there’s the added challenge of having a market which faces far more people, and exposes many more innocent folk – who would never go near a black market – to a legal, officially sanctioned activity which carries with it a degree of risk, both financial and psychological. It’s likely that a larger number of children will be exposed to sports betting adverts, and even actual betting activities, under this new legal infrastructure. That’s an almost inevitable consequence of the legal industry growing to dwarf anything the black market could have hoped to become. Such increased exposure can be avoided – but only by a concerted effort within the industry, and such an effort will involve compromises which cap profits. In the end any industry which generates any externalities – in this case it’s human casualties – must make a choice between ignoring those effects (that’s the default status for things labeled as externalities) and taking responsibility for them, and mitigating them. With great power comes great responsibility. In our experience here in the UK, even the presiding government bodies have had a devil of a time ensuring that all operators take that higher moral ground, rather than heading on the shortest route they can find to wherever the biggest bucks are. Sustainability for consumers, sustainability for industry, must be the watchwords of any long-term business venture, else we all suffer.