, , , ,

When the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that wagering on sports was allowed, such that each individual state could implement its own laws regarding such bets, it prompted some notable changes. Betting parlors and services expanded rapidly in states that passed laws allowing sports bets; consumers sought out online and mobile platforms that would allow them to place bets legally. Now, as technology advances to a new generation, such services and activities appear poised to grow even more extensively.

In particular, the promises of 5G mobile technology include faster connectivity, with greater bandwidth. Thus the thousands of fans attending a particular sporting event—who currently tend to face slow speeds on their phones, as they compete to send a message with everyone else in the stadium—will soon have vastly improved smartphone capabilities in their pockets.

If a fan attends a game in a state that allows gambling, and also has the technological capacity to access a mobile betting site without any delay, the opportunities for betting expand exponentially. Rather than just predicting which team will win a game, a dedicated fan can place a wager about whether the next play will be a run or a pass, whether a batter will strike out in the current at-bat, or how many penalties a hockey player will rack up in a period. Such in-game wagers already are more prevalent in the United Kingdom, where fans predict which footballer will score first for example.

Other technological advances on the field will facilitate this ability even further. Players already wear various tracking devices that indicate their running or arm speed; balls and pucks can feature sensors that indicate distance traveled and speed off the bat, for example. Such information currently serves mainly to support player development efforts, but it clearly could be leveraged to enable ever more precise betting predictions.

Given these capabilities, fans appear likely to embrace the service option. For example, participants in fantasy sports leagues already track detailed statistics about players and their daily performance. That is, they are already invested in minute performance details, so gambling on their ability to predict such performance displays would likely add to their engagement and enjoyment.

In response to these developments, some critics have expressed concerns that they also will add to the risk of addictive behaviors. Gambling remains a societal problem, and making it virtually seamless for gamblers to place bets may intensify the addictive appeal.

Yet wireless carriers appear determined to make it easy for consumers to adopt these offerings. In addition to leading the drive to make 5G available to all its customers, Verizon already owns Yahoo Sports. That arm of the business currently reports detailed information and news, such that it could easily inform and assess betting outcomes. The carrier also recently entered into a partnership with MGM Resorts International, such that the casino operator accepts bets placed through the Yahoo Sports app. Around the same time, AT&T announced its own partnership with the Caesars International casino chain.

Discussion Questions:

  1. Do wireless carriers have any responsibility to limit access to mobile or online betting capabilities, considering the risks associated with gambling addiction?
  2. Is sports betting legal in your state? If so, would you be likely to place bets while watching a game?

Source: Sarah Krouse, “How 5G Could Drive Mobile Sports Betting,” The Wall Street Journal, November 11, 2019