Supreme Court Decision Means New Frontier for Sports Data By Ted Leonsis, Cofounder and Partner, Revolution Growth
Stats have always been the lifeblood of sports fandom, and a fan today has more stats available to digest and analyze than was imaginable even a decade ago: player movements, biometrics, hyper-detailed opponent history. Data analytics have become integral to teams’ success — but also to diehard fans’ enjoyment of the game.
So, the Supreme Court’s decision today to repeal the federal ban on sports betting and clear the way for legalized sports betting across the country is in many ways the logical outgrowth of fans’ obsession with data. It brings a multibillion dollar industry out of the shadows and into the sunlight, where its integrity can be guaranteed and consumers can be better protected. I believe today’s decision will change the face of sports fandom for the better.
Sports betting is built on a rock-solid foundation of data, plain and simple. The more data a fan has about a player or a team, the better he or she can predict the outcome of a game, or a possession or a play. And as our data analytics have gotten better, sports betting has only gotten more popular. A 2017 gaming industry study estimated that offshore bookmakers are earning $2.5-$3 billion from people in the U.S who are betting illegally. The same report suggested that about 12–15 million Americans are currently active illegal bettors — and they don’t include “casual” or “social” bettors in that count. The appetite for sports betting is there, and now, instead of offshore bookmakers reaping the benefits, we have a pathway to bring this revenue into the US economy — and to ensure that Americans aren’t getting ripped off when they place their bets.
Think about it this way: Wall Street is another industry that’s all about data. It’s about making informed decisions about what the market will do based on the data you have available to you. And there are tremendous safeguards in place to protect consumers — the SEC, for example — to ensure that trading happens on a level playing field. Sports betting is no different. Today’s decision paves the way for the implementation of safeguards against fraud in sports betting, including things like licensing betting operators to ensure they are legitimate and regulated monitoring of betting lines.
Many ask if this decision will impact the integrity of sports themselves. I think it’s just the opposite. I think that the increased transparency that will accompany more legalized betting around the country will only further protect against potential corruption. They say sunlight is the best disinfectant, and in this case I believe that is certainly true.
Of course, there are a huge number of questions about how today’s decision will play out across different states and throughout the different leagues. I don’t claim to know all of those answers today, but what I do know is that this is a new frontier for professional sports and teams who don’t seize on this opportunity will be left behind. As millennials and Gen Z continue to embrace the second screen, it’s not hard to imagine in the near future fans on their devices analyzing data, placing bets and communicating with each other in real time during games. Legalized sports betting will only bring fans closer to the game, ramping up the action in each minute and creating more intensity. It will bring new revenue into the economy, creating jobs and growing our tax base. Today’s decision is a great one for sports fans and I am eager to embrace it.