The Week that Was
Before I share my thoughts on the week that was from the LVH, I’d be doing an injustice to the entire Fox Family and LVH crew that made realizing a brain child from back in October a reality if I didn’t say thank you. The amount of manpower, coordination, and teamwork it took to deliver 8 days of live TV from the largest sportsbook in Las Vegas can’t be quantified simply by ratings but rather by the impact we hope it had on the industry as a whole, especially moving forward. Feedback from the sports betting community was nothing but positive (even if members of the media didn’t love it, we were noticed). Special thanks to all those fans/bettors that made an effort to stop by and say hello as well, it’s your feedback that drives our content. In case you missed the highlights…
Having worked in the casino business for 8 years my affinity for sports betting runs deep. Gambling isn’t a new phenomenon in sports and it’s not going away any time soon. The willingness of major networks to finally embrace it’s existence speaks volumes about where the industry is now compared to 15 years ago. Pointspreads provide news and information about the players, teams , and leagues that tell a different story than a biased fan opinions will or even a journalist’s column. I can’t tell you how many times over the last week on air analysts used the seeding from the selection committee as the gospel instead of referencing Vegas power numbers for a more accurate grading on each team. We’ve seen the integration of advanced college basketball metrics into our analysis thanks to Ken Pomeroy and his outstanding work…it’s only natural power ratings along with pointspreads become the next tool used in the evolution of how the media cover games. Had everyone understand the value in those numbers this year it would make explaining the real on court difference between 3 seed Michigan and 11 seed Tennessee easier or better explain why a 9 seed in Pittsburgh was a 6 pt favorite over their 8 seed counterpart Colorado. We’ll get into the addition of an oddsmaker to the selection committee in a future column…
Betting lines create excitement; they drive people to watch games they otherwise wouldn’t pay attention to at 11 EST on a Tuesday in February. Sports gambling shouldn’t be viewed as a social pariah especially as the stigma surrounding the hobby subsides. There’s no reason to pretend point spreads don’t exist anymore than there’s reason to think 99.9% of people filling out tournament brackets don’t have a bit of skin in the game. I understand the various league’s agendas when it comes to the widespread legalization (ok, no I don’t) but they need to understand the facts; transparent betting markets create a better situation for protecting the integrity of sports since irregularities in wagering lines alert officials almost immediately of potential impropriety. The idea that national legalization of sports betting would create more point shaving scandals and cheating is preposterous. To cite examples from European soccer holds no weight because we only hear about them when they’re being addressed whereas in this country most of the match fixing that occurs is never caught.
Over the last week major strides were made to incorporate gambling content into one of the biggest events on the annual sports calendar. It wasn’t just Fox making the move but also ESPN and CBS that realized the element gambling experts add to their comprehensive tournament coverage. I’ve never understood the reluctance to reference a pointspread on air during a game, quite frankly I probably never will either. The NCAA and NFL among others need to adopt a similar stance on gambling as the UFC who sees the oddsmakers as allies in their sports exponential growth. Putting a betting line on a sport implies validation of a sport’s integrity. Sports betting isn’t just a fad in our culture, its very existence is here to stay. The faster leagues, networks, and individuals get on board with the value gambling offers not only to the viewing experience but also the comprehensive journalistic coverage people seek, we’ll be making moves in the right direction.
What am I most proud of from the week that was? Fox didn’t make gambling coverage an after thought or a carnival side show. We’ve been taking it seriously since football season started, putting a professional spin (most of the time) on a controversial topic. While we offered advice on the games we thought offered value (some of us doing better others), we highlighted the news worthy content weaved into the fabric of pointspreads. They say in this business lines always tell a story; hopefully when it comes to sports gambling that story and it’s newsworthy content is just gaining momentum for an industry that’s been shrouded in mystery for far too long.