With Legal US Sports Betting Approaching, Will New Bettors Become Smartly Disloyal And Shop Around?

Posted on April 30, 2018

While the US Supreme Court remains sequestered keeping us waiting for their decision upon on the federal sports betting ban — the Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act — the chess game is on.

The NBA and Major League Baseball are planning two moves ahead by demanding their royalty or integrity fee to ensure fair and impartial games and to get paid for their intellectual property. Not to be left off the board, the players associations of the four major pro leagues have also recently bonded together to be heard for their participation involving legalized US sports wagering. It won’t be long before the vendors at the games will be demanding their share of new anticipated revenue.

Many in sports seem quite eager to unionize in a combined effort. Which brings us to one stubborn group that is often pretty loyal when it comes to where they wager: Sports bettors.

History of sports wagering behavior

The earliest relationship between bettor and bookmaker predates any legal Nevada sportsbook and belongs to the traditional illegal “bookie.” It still exists today but has been updated toward embracing online wagering technology and has applied the term “agent.” That is often in co-venture with the dominant offshore wagering world, where the clear majority of US sports wagering currently takes place. It is estimated to occupy up to a 97 percent share of the market.

Before offshore wagering, it was common for the average sports bettor to secure a partnership with a single bookmaker and form a loyal relationship. This was built on unsecured credit after building years of proven trust from both sides.

In the early 1990’s the onset of offshore sports wagering changed the landscape to include the convenience of online gambling. A key component was the advent of credit cards and banking options besides cash to deposit. The balance of trust subsequently fell more on the bettor’s concern for the security to potentially get paid upon winning plus added time it would take to get paid.   

Large offshore wagering conglomerates have helped ensure some bettor confidence for participating in illegal US online wagering. Many relationships between older bookies and customers have become comparatively outdated. However, we have learned through several years one behavior aspect has not changed almost whatsoever.

Although US bettors now have no shortage of potential options to choose from in the offshore gambling landscape, approximately 75 percent of casual bettors have joined only ONE sportsbook or source to wager upon, according to a US Gaming Services survey.

Why are sports bettors foolishly loyal?

A primary reason for mysterious loyalty could have nothing to do with sports wagering but common to many types of behavior.  

Humans get locked into comfortable habits for one specific source and stay with it, like visiting one restaurant chain or asking for only one person’s advice. We often don’t get a second opinion that could either benefit us or offer a different perspective. In terms of sports wagering this is very foolish and worse, costs nothing.

Popular online sports wagering websites like Vegas Insider and Don Best offer an option to compare game lines from both major Las Vegas sportsbooks plus well-known offshore wagering websites. They offer the bettor some comparison opportunity to view varied lines that different books offer for every game. In similar fashion, a bettor could compare games they are interested in to obtain the best lines for the sportsbooks where they are a current member. Wagering lines change every few seconds to minutes through an ongoing process to become updated.

Two sets of keys

We could think of dozens of analogies here to best paint the picture. Therefore, we make two sets of keys, place an “in case of emergency card” in our wallet, etc.  As new potential US legalized sportsbooks will be aiming to attract the most loyal new customers, there should be a red flag out to consider.

Maybe you were the guy who bet on Michigan vs. Florida State in a recent memorable NCAA men’s basketball tournament game. Florida State let Michigan dribble the ball out to end their college basketball season in a 58-54 loss. Most unlucky bettors who wagered on the Wolverines as 4.5-point favorites were cringing, but a comparative few books had Michigan favored by four points to at least obtain a push. The NCAA tournament only lasts a few weeks, but those type of memories will endure for dedicated college basketball bettors.

We say that because these scenarios will occur daily should US wagering become legalized with both casual and serious bettors limiting themselves to solely one sportsbook option.  

Technology is also a motivating reason to avoid “monogamy” when it comes to sports wagering. Assuming the repeal of PASPA also clears the path for online wagering, bettors will be wagering upon a server being utilized by thousands of customers at very busy times.

Through history, these sophisticated servers have temporarily broken down for a variety of reasons before coming back online. Different from current US online casino wagering, a customer unable to make a sports wager with one minute until game time will cause significant frustration. Having the option of two or more sources eliminates that problem, depending on the game’s outcome. It has happened within the most highly trafficked offshore wagering websites, servicing thousands of bettors.  

One and done?

Knowing that most casual bettors have been faithfully loyal to singular sources should be a cue to the potential US sports wagering sector. Lucrative incentives plus better education could provide necessary help and a win-win opportunity. Urging to the bettor that it is in their best interest investing a bit of extra time costs zero. Like shopping for best insurance rates or auto loans, comparing NFL lines on a Sunday afternoon should become a habit for bettors.

Here’s hoping bettors learn to be “disloyal,” proactively managing the ways they can benefit wagering upon the games themselves.  

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Larry Gibbs

Larry Gibbs is VP of US Gaming Services, a full-service consulting and marketing research organization with 15 years’ experience in US gaming, creating ROI behavior studies and analysis for government, lobbyist and casino industry clients. His focused opinion and outlook have appeared in several gaming industry magazines and newspapers.

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