The cornerstone of sports betting in the USA has always been about the concept of two parties taking opposite stances on the outcome of a sporting event. One entity believes one outcome will happen, while the other entity believes the opposite outcome will happen.
Of course, we all know that sports betting in the USA has evolved into much more than that. You can now bet on which team will win a sports league championship, which team will win or lose a certain amount of games, which player will accumulate a certain amount of statistics, and more. And the process of making those wagers has evolved the same, if not with the same complications. Instead of trying to find someone to bet with, we can make wagers through a casino sportsbook (in states where sports betting is legal) or through a bookmaker, aka “a “bookie” (assuming you can find a legitimate one).
So that begs the question: is the world of sports betting now relegated to individualized interactions with one central hub that collects all bets? Are the days of two people making wagers on the outcome of a sporting event now over? The concept of Social Sports Betting looks to bring about an answer of “no” to both of those questions.
Sports Betting in the USA Is A Social Pastime
If you require any proof of the idea that sports betting is as much a social endeavor as anything else, look no further than fantasy sports.
Fantasy sports is easily the most predominant form of gambling on sports in North America. In fact, it’s been estimated that upwards of 59 million people across North America participate in a fantasy sports league. And yet, there’s a large swath of people among that group who would consider themselves a “casual” sports fan at most. So how is it that someone would be willing to wager money — in many cases, upwards of $500 each year — in an endeavor in which they have a (self-professed) casual interest at best?
Sure, the potential for walking away with the entire “pot” of winnings, and/or earning bragging rights among friends have their appeal. But one can argue the biggest draw of fantasy sports as a whole is that you’re gambling on particular outcomes of sporting events alongside friends, friends-of-friends, acquaintances, and even co-workers. What happens during those contests ends up becoming one of the predominant topics of discussion in social gatherings, text message threads, and around the proverbial water cooler at work, especially since people have both financial and competitive skin(s) in the game.
Compare that to your traditional model of betting, which is far more individualized and isolated. You analyze the potential wager you want to make, give your money and your wager to an otherwise indifferent bookie or the sportsbook, and quietly receive your winnings in the situations when your wager turns out to be correct. In other words, whether you win or lose your bet, nobody knows — or cares — outside of yourself.
And yet, the market for the more “traditional” type(s) of betting remains robust. It’s with good reason that the Supreme Court’s decision in Murphy v. National Collegiate Athletic Association in May of 2018, in which the court declared the federal ban on sports betting to be unconstitutional, has garnered so much attention. The court’s ruling in favor of making the legalization of sports a state-level decision, more and more states are legalizing sports gambling thanks to the highly lucrative revenue streams it could potentially generate, thereby giving fans who were otherwise tempted to engage in sports betting may have a legal avenue to do so. Entering 2019, the market cap for sports betting was projected to be in excess of $100 billion.
Disrupting The “Status Quo” Of Sports Betting
At its core, social sports betting in the USA leverages a business model utilized by so many of today’s most popular companies — disrupting the old models of business, and giving a way for consumers to interact with each other, instead of directly with the business itself — to make sports betting a more accessible and enjoyable experience for consumers.
Many of the most prominent “disruptors” have adopted the idea of utilizing peer-to-peer technologies to remove the “middle man” from the process. Thanks to the proliferation of wireless and mobile technology, we’ve figured out ways to eliminate said “middle man” from things including getting a ride from one place to another, purchasing a variety of financial investments, and even the way we can enjoy fitness classes. So, it’s only natural that extend this concept to sports betting.
If you’re making a wager against a friend over the outcome of a particular game, it’s a winner-takes-all, zero-sum situation. And yet, we’re forced to pay a fee to a middle man, in the form of the vigorish (commonly referred to as “the vig”) when making a wager with a bookmaker. Why does it have to be this way? As the saying goes: “if you gamble long enough, the house always wins.” So why force yourself to gamble against “the house” in the first place?
Instead, social sports betting platforms leverage our ability to connect virtually and bring enormous scale to traditional peer-to-peer bets.
Imagine two totally independent users on such a platform, who have differing opinions — and a willingness to wager based on those opinions — on the outcome of a match between Team A and Team B. The platform can find and match those two people, based on their willingness to wager on opposite sides of that bet, and effectively “pair” those two against each other. Whoever ends up being correct about the outcome of the match wins the bet.
Making Sports Betting Betting A Community Experience
As the name implies, the foundation of social media is about being able to communicate and exchange ideas — i.e., “socialize” — with people, through an online medium. And if we’re looking for restaurant recommendations, movie reviews, or pro’s and con’s of any other consumer product, one of the first things people will do is “crowdsource” — pose the inquiry on a social media platform, and make a decision based on the input and/or insights received from other people with whom they are connected.
Not surprisingly, social media platforms and message boards are loaded with people sharing their opinions on the outcomes of sporting events (or people asking for insight on the potential outcome of a particular sporting event). But a majority of those people with whom we’re interacting and receiving input are often little more than “armchair quarterbacks” — offering their opinions and advice without the shared experience of genuinely caring about the outcome of a game (since they’re not wagering on it), and completely indifferent if their predictions turn out to be correct or incorrect.
Conversely, social sports betting platforms offer the best of both worlds: the ability to not only compete and make wagers against other people, and socializing with people participating in the same endeavor. Sports fandom is a communal concept in and of itself, so building a similar community for sports bettors — who care more about the outcome in general, versus the performance of a player or team — also makes sense.
And because sports betting in the USA is inherently based on competition, social sports betting in the USA also allows room for elements of Gamification: being able to compete with fellow sports betters for supremacy within their own domain.
Maybe someday, we’ll be able to bet on that, too?