Sports Media, Betting Companies Joining Forces to Push US Gambling Industry to the Next Level

  • Morgan Stanley forecasts $15bn sports betting and internet gambling market by 2025
  • Macquarie Research predicts a $30bn industry by 2030
  • Major media companies have partnered with sportsbooks to help legitimize industry
  • eSports betting should grow, as well, but challenges in data collection persist
Person holding cash in front of a basketball game on TV
2020 was a record breaking year for internet gambling in the US, but the industry will continue to surge thanks in part to deals between media and sports betting companies. [Image: Shutterstock.com]

Significant growth forecasts

Recent reports from a pair of investment firms are extremely bullish on the combined sports betting and internet gambling markets over the next several years. The reason: companies in overlapping verticals are finally realizing that joining forces can benefit everybody.

grow viewership, increase overall fan engagement, and drive significantly higher market values”

“The once disparate categories of online gaming, media and sports are joining teams to create powerful partnerships that we believe will grow viewership, increase overall fan engagement, and drive significantly higher market values for all those connected,” Macquarie Research analysts explained in a report published Tuesday.

Morgan Stanley forecasts the US sports betting and internet gambling markets to grow to $15bn within the next four years, while Macquarie thinks the value could be double that by 2030. Two-thirds of Morgan Stanley’s projection comes from sports betting.

David Schwartz, a gambling historian at the University of Nevada Las Vegas, told the Associated Press that US geographic expansion is “nearly complete,” so gaming firms are looking to grow upwards instead of outwards. As such, sports betting and online gambling are the most appealing options.

Rush of media, sports betting partnerships

Since the United States Supreme Court overturned PASPA in May 2018, the legalization of sports betting in the US has exploded. Currently, nearly half the states have some form of legal sports betting, either retail, online, or both, and many more states are evaluating legislation.

virtually every major media company has gotten onboard

As a result of sports betting expansion, media companies have partnered with sports betting firms to capitalized on the booming interest in wagering. As Macquarie Research points out, virtually every major media company has gotten onboard: Sinclair Broadcasting with Bally’s, FOX and Flutter Entertainment (the deal was made with The Stars Group), CBS with William Hill, ESPN with both Caesars and DraftKings, Yahoo with BetMGM, NBC with Australia’s PointsBet, Turner Sports with rivals FanDuel and DraftKings, and Barstool Sports with Penn National Gaming.

Daily fantasy sports, which hit the mainstream before the sports betting surge, is also on the move, most notably with the recent Bally’s acquisition of Monkey Knife Fight and Caesars’ investment in SuperDraft.

Despite the cancellation of most sports leagues for a significant chunk of 2020 because of the COVID-19 pandemic, the growth of online sports betting – and to a lesser extent other forms of internet gambling – helped the industry reach new heights while people stayed at home. Morgan Stanley said that combined online gambling revenues beat their $2bn forecast by more than 50%, finishing the year at $3.1bn.

Analysts believe it is not just a pandemic boost, though, but rather a long-term move. Morgan Stanley calls legal US gambling expansion a “once-in-a-generation shift for what was a mature gaming industry.”

eSports sports betting growing despite challenges

2020 was also a crossroads for the eSports industry, which has gained more acceptance in the mainstream, particularly with the streaming boom. To some degree, the pandemic helped eSports, as lockdowns forced people to stay at home, leading to more people both playing and watching games online. Additionally, “sports replacements” like NBA2K leagues and eNASCAR iRacing, rose from near-anonymity as fans looked for something to satisfy their sports fixes.

At the same time, however, the live mega-blockbuster eSports events, like traditional sporting events, were forced to cancel because of the pandemic. For instance, the Dota 2 tournament The International, the largest eSports tournament in the world, postponed its festivities until at least 2021. The International’s 2019 prize pool was $34.3m, generated entirely from the sale of in-game Battle Passes.

the challenge from a sports betting perspective is the collection of data

Mark Balch, VP of eSports betting services at Bayes Esports, said that despite the growth in eSports, the challenge from a sports betting perspective is the collection of data. Because the competitions are in internet-based games (even for in-person contests), it is more difficult to data services to gather and disseminate that data to sportsbooks quickly and accurately. Traditional, live sporting events have “low latency broadcasts” and generally more consistent standards, making sports betting data, especially for in-game wagering, more reliable.

Frequent game updates and an overall lack of transparency compared to traditional sports also makes betting data collection more challenging. Balch believes, however, that while eSports betting might not grow as fast as in traditional sports, it is still an industry with a promising future.