Get ready, sports fans: Legalized gambling might be coming to a venue near you.
And if that comes true, it would mean high-dollar revenue streams — at a minimum, an average of $500 million per league in rights fees alone, for pro teams and maybe even the NCAA.
On Saturday, some gambling experts made those predictions as part of the “Sports Betting: No Longer Taboo” panel at SXSports, part of the South by Southwest festivals.
Pro leagues and teams already are embracing daily fantasy sports, which represent small change in comparison with the $150 billion that’s illegally bet on games each year.
Dan Wallach, a gaming and sports law expert, said the shift to legalized betting could happen beginning next year. It depends on whether the Supreme Court decides to hear a case involving a New Jersey law that would have made gambling on games at casinos or racetracks legal in the state. Wallach said that a conservative court could rule in favor of New Jersey.
Sara Rayme, with the American Gaming Commission, believes that legalized gambling could come online as soon as 2019.
Do stadium fans even matter anymore?
If you’re a sports team, how do you turn a like or a follower on social media into a dollar figure?
These fans are big business. They buy the team merchandise and are the ones who are loyal to the sponsors. Yet chances are, they’ve never been inside the stadium or arena to watch a game in person.
Claire Lewis, who is marketing director for Italy’s F.C. Internazionale, estimates that only 1 percent of sports fans attend games. So that means teams should start worrying more about the 99 percent, i.e., who they are, what they buy, where they live. That’s where the money is.
But how do you mine the 99 percent for revenue?
Mike Conley is tasked with that as vice president for digital marketing for the Cleveland Cavaliers.
It would seem to be a cool job. The Cavs are the defending NBA champions, and LeBron James could be the most well-known athlete in the world.
But in Conley’s world, it’s about getting fans, especially the international ones, to become loyal to the Cavs as opposed to sticking specifically with James.
“If I can get 2 million people in China to start wearing (a T-shirt) with Cleveland across their chests,” Conley said, “then my job is done.”