A vast majority of U.S. citizens made at least one “bet” in the last year.
The type of betting I’m talking about ranges from regulated casinos, poker rooms, and bookmakers to unregulated, gray versions of the same activity – all the way to mothers at the gym “betting” lunch who can run a mile the fastest. Gambling is quite simply a part of human nature.
Scary media images can obscure that fact – like cigar-chomping bookies, terrorist-controlled money-laundering, sinister Mafia leg-breakers, Lifetime movies about daddy losing the college-fund at the track and forcing the nubile daughter to turn tricks from her sorority house.
No doubt, to varying degrees, all this has happened. There’s also no doubt in a regulated environment such horror stories are the exception and far from the rule.
Remove the sensational dark-side, and not only do Americans enjoy betting – but discussions about the odds. At their core, odds are the likelihood of defined events happening. If the public is interested in the event, they also want the odds.
On the Fourth of July I was interviewed by “CBS This Morning” on the subject of Royal Baby betting. (Yes, my mom was proud; the boys back home, not so much). Odds included the baby’s gender, hair color, weight, name, date of birth – all the way to the name of the child’s eventual first girlfriend/boyfriend!
An average of 2.7 million people watch “CBS This Morning” each day – and only a small percentage of the viewers are your typical hardcore gamblers. And yet, the show’s producers – who make a living knowing what people want to watch – wanted to talk odds. Because people want to know the odds of the events they care about.
Every time the media covers the odds, the sensational dark-side becomes a smaller part of the overall story – decreasing the distortion of the truth (the truth that it’s natural for people to bet).
Regulated gambling interests should court the mainstream media – cultivating respectful relationships and providing interesting stories through creative bet offerings. In my personal experience, most media outlets – from the smallest to the biggest – are hungry for Vegas-related stories.
As part of a pre-Wimbledon promotion, Ladbrokes (a British gaming company) agreed to refund all losing Wimbledon Champion bets if Andy Murray won the tournament. Creative! Risky! Once Murray won, this story spread like wildfire, including being mentioned on Twitter by ESPN’s Chris Fowler, the TV voice of the tournament.
Nevada can blame their lack of creativity on the restraints of regulation – but I can tell you from personal dealings, it’s more about complacency. Most sports book bosses don’t want to go to the trouble of doing something different, something that may even be a little risky.
New, different, and creative is what the media wants to report on and, if such a story is not available, they can always report on the college kid who lost his trust-fund betting football.
RJ Bell is the founder of Pregame.com - and co-host of FIRST PREVIEW, heard Monday through Friday at 10 am on ESPN 1100/98.9 FM. Follow on twitter: @RJinVegas. Discussion of this article continues at Pregame.com. Contact RJ at [email protected]