Could legal betting make March Madness even bigger? thinks it just might.

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Oh yeah, and the NCAA model of amateurism took one more big hit.

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Bigger is not always better. In my very humble opinion…

I don’t really get how gambling impacts amateurism unless the colleges or NCAA gets a direct revenue stream from it. I also wonder how many people that want to bet on sports don’t because it is illegal in their state. You can bet online legally with offshore books, and nobody has ever been prosecuted for online gambling. Perhaps the convenience at stadiums could draw more people in. Players could already place bets online. I think it is safe to say that players need to have strict penalties for gambling on their own teams less they kill the golden goose before they get a cut.

A big reason CBS and Turner are willing to pay billions to show March Madness is because of bracket pools (which are just a form of gambling) and more traditional betting, both legal and illegal, which has greatly increased interest and thus the number of eyeballs on the tournament. Make it legal to bet in, say, 35 states, and that multiplies. So yeah it does affect the revenue coming to the NCAA, and thus their excuses not to pass some along to the athletes.

Yeah, but everybody in those 35 states is already in a pool. I think the pundits are overestimating how big an impact this will have. 33 million people watched Arkansas beat Duke, whereas 16.5 million people watched Villanova win this season. Gambling and pools have become more accessible and prevalent in the intervening years. The networks are losing sports viewers one funeral at a time. They might get a bump, but someday TV contracts are going to have to reflect that steady decline. The contracts are also inflated by bundling. At some point non-sports viewers won’t be subsidizing the TV contracts.

I also wonder if new rules that reduce the connection between the school and the team will further erode the popularity of NCAA athletics. There are a lot of fans that will buy a Deandre Ayton jersey with Arizona on the front that wouldn’t know who he was if he had played for the Fort Wayne Mad Ants last season. It ain’t all about the players.

It’s somewhat counterintuitive that TV dollars have gone way up while number of eyeballs has decreased, but both are true. It’s also true that with cord-cutting and millennials just having other things to do than watch TV, viewing for all kinds of TV is down. But advertisers are still willing to pay for live sports on TV because it is resistant to time-shifting and ad zapping; the chances that you won’t already know what happened if you want to watch the Final Four title game on Thursday afternoon are pretty slim. And more widespread gambling (not just $10 on a pool, but $50 on the over/under and $100 on Villanova giving the points) only increases the chances that someone will tune in to monitor their bets. The NFL won’t admit it, but they figured this out long ago. There’s a reason that Jerry Jones and Robert Kraft have invested heavily in fantasy sites like DraftKings.

College basketball survived and thrived during the period that Moses Malone, Darryl Dawkins, Kobe Bryant and LeBron James never set foot in a college classroom, so I’m not too worried about that. I think to a large extent it’s about the name on the front of the jersey, not the name on the back, and that’s not going to change, so in that aspect “it ain’t all about the players” is correct. (By the way, it’s an NCAA violation for Arizona to market a Deandre Ayton jersey, just as it was for the Aggies to sell a Johnny Manziel #2).

The most desired demographic for advertisers is 18 to 49 year olds. The median age of the college basketball viewer went from 44 years old in 2000 to 52 in 2016 and 47 to 52 for college football. As the viewing demographic and key demographic have less overlap and total number of eyes decrease, how long will advertisers pay a premium for ad shifting issues?

Professional E-sports are taking off in Asia. That’s what kids play. I don’t think intensity of viewership will last without some interest from childhood. That may be especially problematic for football. I don’t believe the prospect of gambling on a sport will inspire many people to become new fans. More likely, the boon for gambling will be avid fans that start gambling or gamble more than they do now with increased convenience. The economics of gambling is similar to alcohol. Addicted customers, though a relatively small percentage of total customers, provide an extremely disproportionate percentage of the profits.