Look at the world around you. Since the creations of the smartphone and social media, society has done nothing but photograph, record, share and comment on every halfway interesting world event or news story it could get its hands on.
As is always the case, this will only continue to escalate as increasingly creative and useful applications of an ever-improving pool of technologies and tools are invented to make life more convenient, safe, and interesting. Already, we’ve seen platforms like YouTube, Twitter, Reddit, Facebook, and Instagram completely revolutionize communication and how news and information are spread.
In recent years, it’s been hard not to notice that public discourse on these virtual “town squares” is growing more political, more polarized, and more passionate. We will continue to spend higher percentages of our time interacting with the web; the news will keep catering to specific audiences, creating self-affirming echo-chambers; and being right will always feel really good.
If we count on the continuation of these trends – which, I see no reason not to – and people will be looking to escalate their involvement in the debates, it only makes sense that both entertainment and political betting sites will soon play a central role in how we discuss and consume both pop culture and the news.
My beliefs are reinforced by the promising trends concerning attitudes around sports betting. Ever since the United States Supreme Court overturned PASPA, — a federal bill outlawing wagering on sports for all but a few states — we’ve seen corporate operators striking deals with professional sports leagues and franchises; another promising sign that betting is gaining acceptance.
This article takes a look at some of the reasons these two markets, which were formerly considered novelty betting, will explode to be as popular – if not more so – than wagering on sports.
Such a prediction may seem absurd now, but in ten years, throwing a few bucks on an Oscar nominee or Senate candidate will be as commonplace as ordering Uber or drastically altering one’s selfies with dishonest and unrealistic filters.
Overseas Political and Entertainment Betting Markets
In many European countries, entertainment and political betting markets are a normal part of everyday life. For example, in England placing a wager on the candidate or ballot measure you’re in favor of is seen as a measure of support for that outcome.
An article by the Chicago Tribune explains,
“In Britain…some see political gambling as a sort of investment, similar to stock trading. It’s quite common to see big donors, or even candidates themselves, bet on the election outcome they desire.”
While I’m writing this blog with the United States’ gaming industry in mind, it’s worth noting that entertainment and political markets are still on the rise in the UK as well. The 2016 Brexit vote broke records in terms of betting action placed on a political event.
European bettors aren’t fascinated by their own region’s politics and entertainment wagers exclusively, however. Gamblers all around the world have turned their focus towards the United States. With our childish public discourse, bought-and-paid-for politicians, and “unconventional” leadership in the White House, betting on US politics has become immensely popular all around the globe.
Signs of Growth in the US
With only a handful of states offering regulated betting, the United States is still trailing behind their European counterparts by quite a large margin. While the repeal of PASPA is promising, Congress is still considering intervening in States’ legalization processes and even after sports wagering is widely legal, there will be significant hurdles.
One of the biggest obstacles will be legalizing political gambling. While entertainment betting is expected to be allowed at the same sportsbooks that will eventually be licensed and regulated, political gaming is not.
Jennifer Roberts, from the International Center for Gaming Regulation, predicts
“I think you’re going to see an expansion of other types of betting, but there’s no talk, really, on allowing election gambling…There are just some events that we don’t want affected by betting.”
At the moment, they seem to be using the same rationale for banning political gambling that was initially used for sports. They’re worried the increased financial incentives will corrupt the system. That’s a laughable excuse when one considers the extent to which money is already controlling our politicians, particularly after the SCOTUS’ Citizens United ruling.
Despite all of that, some forms of political wagering are catching on. One site called PredictIt.org, operates as a betting exchange, offering odds on a vast range of US political markets – with new opportunities created daily in response to current events.
However, you still can’t place standard wagers against the house. Instead, you have to buy shares in various markets – purchasing either a “Yes” or “No” option. For instance, you may buy a “Yes” on Bernie Sanders winning the 2020 Democratic Primary for 23-cents per share. A “No” bet costs 77-cents.
Once you’ve purchased shares, you can either wait for the wager to be decided or you can sell your shares. So, if we get through Super Tuesday, and Bernie is still one of the top contenders for the nomination, his price-per-share will drastically increase – prompting some shareholders to sell rather than waiting for the final results from the Democratic Convention.
PredictIt.org’s existence makes me hopeful for a thriving political betting culture. Before the sports wagering movement picked up steam in the US, the daily fantasy sites like DraftKings and FanDuel introduced creative ways to “gamble” without technically gambling.
Could this be the Trojan Horse that normalizes political betting in the States and leads to greater widespread acceptance and participation in these polarizing markets? Time will tell.
Increasingly Polarized Attitudes Towards Politics
It’d be difficult not to notice how polarized and vitriolic the political discourse and process have become in the United States over the past decade or so. Ever since the FCC repealed the Fairness Doctrine, we’ve seen “news” channels pushed further to the extremes; framing every discussion in ways that benefit or support their side of the argument, without much concern for things like facts or context.
If you tune into Fox News, they’ll give you all of the Republican talking points as well as counter-arguments to whatever the Democratic pundits are yelling about that day. On MSNBC and CNN, you can find the exact opposite. What you will never see, however, is straight-forward, objective, opinion-less news.
This phenomenon extends to online forums as well. In fact, many Americans can live in a bubble, exclusively receiving information only after it’s been filtered through the preferred echo-chambers, as to always reinforces and confirms their world views.
Where it gets complicated is when these groups run into each other on public platforms such as Twitter, Facebook, and Reddit. The majority of these clashes consist of brainwashed citizens regurgitating talking points given to them by Rachel Maddow, Sean Hannity, and the rest of the outrage peddlers.
“Put Your Money Where Your Mouth Is”
Unfortunately, as they’ve escalated and the US moves towards anti-intellectualism, things have broken down to hurling insults and accusations – usually centered around being a “snowflake,” “Nazi,” or “fascist.”
While this almost certainly spells doom for society as a whole, it’s an excellent indication that political betting is needed more than ever! It doesn’t take much to shoot-off a tweet calling the candidate you hate a “Nazi,” and make bold predictions about how your team is going to take back the White House or sweep the mid-term elections; but, are you willing to put your hard-earned money on the line to back it up?
The Trump Factor
While I was researching political betting, a common theme was 2016 being a monumental turning point for the growth of these gambling markets. Trump’s win was so shocking and so appalling to a large swathe of the population that it’s inspired a significantly heightened level of political interest and engagement.
With so much passion currently spent on politics, it’s the perfect time to funnel some of this energy towards wagering.
People are following what’s going on in Washington D.C. with the same commitment and emotional attachment as they do sports. Whatever their team does is “good,” while anything accomplished or attempted by the other side is inherently “bad.” Did you ever dream you’d see the Left against ending a war and bringing the troops home?
By the way, the hardcore Trump supporters are every bit as crazy. The vocal minority of online extremists will endure any mental gymnastics required to justify all of his actions and comments, no matter what. Wouldn’t they jump at the opportunity to publicly bet a couple hundred dollars on their guy, so that the celebrations will be that much sweeter if he wins?
The gaming industry would be fools not to increase the number of betting lines available for US politics and capitalize off this moment of intense polarization. I hope that the offshore operators will soon provide a wider variety of bets and with higher frequency.
Let the people wager on individual bills passing, Presidential tweets, and individual investigations and testimonies. Give the internet pundits another avenue to demonstrate their loyalty to “the cause!”
Additional Engagement and Higher Stakes
The rush of winning money through gambling is one that all bettors dream about and the experience that keeps us coming back for more. It drives the world of gaming. Nevertheless, I believe it’s only a piece of a greater puzzle that makes betting so entertaining and rewarding.
Perhaps the more significant variable is how wagering improves the spectator experience by raising the stakes and one’s personal involvement in the outcome of an event or competition. I’ve already mentioned how betting is an obvious addition to the current political climate, but it’s a much-needed tool to spice up the entertainment industry as well.
For years now, television has been on the decline. More people than ever are cutting cords and turning to streaming services, which has crushed ratings across the board. Of the people who still watch network and cable TV, many use DVR or On-Demand services, which don’t count the same way to advertisers, since the commercials can be skipped.
What televised products have retained their value and viewership? Sports; and to a lesser extent, awards shows. Things that aren’t beholden to “spoiler” culture. If you don’t watch them as they happen live, you will find out the results through other means and the show will be ruined.
But what if television’s content creators did a better job of integrating their product with entertainment betting sites? Isn’t there a greater sense of urgency to tune-in live if your bet on “which Modern Family character will die this week,” is going to be settled?
Even if the networks don’t embrace gaming, that doesn’t change how significantly a little gambling action can heighten the excitement of watching a show. I have an unhealthy love for Game of Thrones and would enjoy it without needing any additional incentive.
However, my wagers on “who to will die first in Season 8” and “who will eventually site on the Iron Throne” have me almost giddy for its final season! Our society is always looking for new ways to improve the viewing experience – I contend that a revolutionary method of doing so is already here.
A Tool for Honesty
I’m guessing you rolled your eyes at the title of this section. It seems ridiculous, right? That the same activity being kept away from the political spectrum, out of fear it may corrupt the process, is the perfect vehicle to inject a little honesty back into the national discussion seems counterintuitive, at first.
If there’s one group of people on the planet who don’t let any personal biases impact their work, it’s oddsmakers. Sportsbooks are interested in one thing, and one thing only: setting lines that bring in as close-to-equal an amount of action on each side as possible, and turning a profit.
They’re not looking to make a statement or cater to specific sections of the country. The books employ teams of experts in their field and can afford all sorts of tools and insider info to determine probabilities accurately.
Remember the 2016 election, when all of the networks started their coverage by citing polls suggesting Donald Trump only had between a 1 – 5% chance of winning? The sportsbooks didn’t fall for the weeks of inaccurate poll numbers and sure-thing Clinton predictions that preceded voting day. The oddsmakers were relatively steady with the odds, staying within an implied probability of around 25 – 40%.
What if that’s the only way to convince Americans to put their preconceived notions and biases aside so they may see things objectively? If you’re hoping to handicap a race accurately, you can’t stay within your personal news bubble and ignore the other side. You have to study where they’re coming from and consider how their messages may appeal to different types of people in different areas.
You need a realistic appraisal of your “team’s” chances to decide whether the odds have any value and are worth taking or not. And maybe, with success dependent upon being somewhat objective – people will also see the faults of their beloved parties in the process.
All it will take is for more writers and pundits to take the betting lines into account when making public predictions, and this could catch on. We have a resource out there that’s more accurate and fairer than any of the polls, news mediums, or “experts” could ever hope to be – seeing the world through their “left” or “right” colored glasses. Let’s include gambling in the political discussion!
How many people are out there who would love everything that goes into handicapping – analytics, psychology, probability, luck, etc. — but don’t enjoy sports?
Politics and the entertainment industry both appeal to massive blocs of citizens who haven’t been introduced to gambling odds and betting lines and couldn’t tell you the difference between an over-under or parlay.
Most of us learn those concepts while following sports. The talking heads on ESPN will mention the odds, and some of their competitors even scroll the lines on the bottom of the screen or broadcast shows specifically about betting. Whoever hasn’t been compelled to tune-in to these mediums have likely missed out on the gambling basics.
Think of it this way:
Donald Trump currently has 58.8-million followers on Twitter. His 6-7 tweets per day are some of the most engaged-with on the entire platform. Every submission triggers tens-of-thousands of replies, retweets, and likes. Some of the more prominent posts exceed hundreds-of-thousands of various interactions.
Then, you take into account every mainstream news outlet, TV pundit, journalist, writer, and politically-minded celebrity sharing their two cents, and you have hundreds-of-millions of followers consuming every scandal or outrage of the day that’s discussed.
Let’s be generous and say only 10% of those people don’t watch sports or know anything about betting. We’re still dealing with a demographic that’s larger than the number of people who bet on the Super Bowl – the most heavily wagered sporting event of the year – and who tuned-in combined.
The emergence of political and entertainment betting is merely a matter of legalization and awareness. As more states legalize and regulate sports wagering, many of the fundamental concepts will spread naturally, through a kind of cultural osmosis. Increased availability makes it more likely that friends, family, and co-workers will be discussing gambling and using the terminologies around you.
From there, it only takes a single influencer or a journalist with a loud enough voice to include betting odds in their commentary, and things can take-off. It’ll have to happen in stages, but things are moving in the right direction.
In Conclusion – The Future of Betting
Every year, the global revenues of online gambling providers increase by several billion dollars. As memberships to betting sites grow and legalization continues to spread, operators will always be looking for new markets and demographics in an effort to bring in more-and-more bettors.
It’s my prediction that this will eventually lead to oddsmakers redirecting some of their attention away from the male-dominated 18-49-year-old sports fan and cultivate a more diverse pool of “headline news gamblers.”
While entertainment wagers can drastically spice-up any awards ceremony, reality show, singing competition, or popular drama; political betting will become a valuable inclusion into our country’s public debates. There are millions of people whose temperament and taste would mesh perfectly with handicapping, if only they were sports fans. Once they’re introduced to the possibilities provided by online sportsbooks, they’ll fall in love!
Human beings are easy to predict: everything escalates and grows, or dies. As politics become increasingly polarized while everything else becomes increasingly political, we will soon be in need of some way to raise the stakes. The two forms of betting I’ve highlighted in this piece will be the perfect complement to social media punditry.
Bookmakers already celebrate the incredible growth of auxiliary betting markets brought on by Trump’s election and Brexit. With legalized sports wagering expanding to more territories, it’s only a matter of time before putting “your money where your mouth is,” is a way of life.