Thu. Jul 19th, 2018

Let It Ride

Sports betting was legalized on Monday. The NBA Draft Lottery occurs one night later. Seems fitting, doesn’t it? Too bad we can’t enter our March Madness pool or buy Super Bowl squares on Wednesday. Many people have been betting on sports for decades. $4.8 billion was wagered on sports in Nevada alone last year. Add an estimated $150 billion in illegal offshore bets and local bookie action. Holy backdoor covers! There is a ton of cash that states outside of Nevada now have the right to pursue.

The Supreme Court found PASPA (the Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act) to be unconstitutional. Right on, Supreme Court. Several states will try to get their hands on all of the betting cash out there. Nevada sportsbooks won a record $249 million last year. Over the next five years, 30+ states are expected to offer legal sports betting. Soon you’ll be able to lean over and tell your buddy, “Yeah, I’ll take a hot dog and the second-half under in this Jets game.”

The ruling is massive. Dallas Mavericks owner Mark Cuban says the value of each professional sports team just doubled. Leagues didn’t take the news lightly either. If you were scoring at home “integrity” was the word of the day. Check out this ultra-serious statement — “The NFL’s long-standing and unwavering commitment to protecting the integrity of our game remains absolute.” Wow. All that was missing was Roger Goodell channeling his inner David Fizdale and smacking a table afterward.

It’s interesting to consider how far leagues will go in an effort to prove their games are legitimate. The NBA’s Last Two Minute Report is aimed at being transparent. The league admitted last Thursday that an Aron Baynes foul on Joel Embiid was missed. That was before the Supreme Court delivered Sweet Chin Music to an outdated law. What might leagues do going forward to ensure they are operating properly? Especially if they’re receiving a cut of the legal gambling money? Maybe instead of the Last Two Minute Report we’ll receive a dissertation of missed calls that only excludes the first two minutes.

There is no doubt the sports landscape has been changed greatly by this ruling. In turn, sports radio has been affected as well. Gambling talk is less taboo than ever. Betting used to be associated with some shady character named Sid who wore weird glasses and drove a converted car that resembles an old police vehicle. Not anymore. Gambling is going from heavy metal to pop music — from underground to mainstream.

The challenge now becomes how to effectively include gambling talk on a sports radio show. Like anything else in sports talk, creativity is king. Anybody can crack a mic and say, “The Patriots are favored by 10 over the Bills. I’ll take the points.” Yawn. It’s important to approach things differently so you don’t blend in with everyone else.

When I did a Sunday night show with Brady Quinn on FOX, we came up with some creative ideas. Our show aired during Sunday Night Football so we would each make a game pick. Brady once chose the Packers to score fewer than 14 points in the first half against the Seahawks. The Packers had 10 points with 6:52 left in the first quarter. James Jones scored a touchdown before halftime. During the review, Al Michaels said, “The right buttock could be down.” Sure enough the touchdown was overturned and Brady ended up being right. Talk about a literal backdoor cover — James Jones’ butt.

The next week I put together some audio highlights of Brady’s unbelievable win. It included our funny reactions during the first half, quick radio and TV calls, and cuts sprinkled in from Disney’s “When You Wish Upon a Star.” Hearing our comments mixed in with everything else was hilarious. We found a way to maximize every drop of value instead of just making betting predictions and moving on.

That’s the stuff that works. There is great value in creating things that only appear in your show. I’ve always believed that it also pays off when people think about your show during the times they aren’t actually listening to it. The audience is in and out, but they are likely to listen more if something sticks with them. They’ll check out the podcast or listen longer during the next show. Doing unique things with betting predictions is a good way to accomplish this.

On a side note, some companies actually oppose gambling. I’ve filled in for a station that is dead set against sports betting. The last thing I would do is get in depth explaining my great idea for a moneyline upset that evening. You’ve got to respect the wishes of employers that remain conservative on this subject. Know what you can and can’t say before you say it.

Now, if your employer is cool with gambling talk then it’s all systems go, baby. Mix it in without going absolutely nuts. There is such a thing as overkill. Betting lines should be used to add to the content and entertainment, not distracted from it. There is a good chance the audience will become fatigued if every single conversation ties back to gambling.

I would also highly suggest learning the language. There are a handful of terms you should be familiar with. Although I knew a good amount about gambling, I referred to sharps as sharks while interviewing RJ Bell about four years ago. I thought that wise bettors we’re like sharks smelling blood in the water when there was a favorable point spread. Oops. RJ covered for me, but it wasn’t my greatest moment.

Although you might actually have a good sense of what’s going on, you’ll sound uneducated and fake if you use the wrong terms. It’s like the kid who wore a flannel and only knew “Smells Like Teen Spirit” by Nirvana. Not a good look. The last thing you want is to sound like a host that jumped on the betting bandwagon without knowing what’s what. You don’t need a doctorate in gambling or have to sound like you were conceived in a sportsbook. Just have a sense of the basics.

The Supreme Court’s ruling to legalize sports betting is a game-changer. The estimated $150 billion in illegal bets isn’t going away. A percentage of that money will only shift to legal cash now. Plus, there will be many people that give legal betting a shot after resisting the illegal world. Gambling will only grow in popularity, which means conversations will also grow. Joining the discussion is the first step, but coming up with unique angles is where the money is at. It isn’t good enough to talk about what everybody else is talking about. Find ways to stand out because the conversation is here to stay.

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