When gambling is discussed in Mississippi, it tends to focus on casinos or lotteries, which are the two most evident avenues of betting. But a story on ESPN’s website says that sports gambling, especially on pro football, is rapidly adding options to compete for dollars.
Until recently, most gamblers bet exclusively on teams. If they bet on a favored team, they won if the team exceeded the point spread — the number of points by which an oddsmaker believed they would win the game. If they bet on an underdog, they won if their team kept the score closer than expected or won outright.
ESPN, however, reports that the point spread’s seven decades as “as America’s favorite way to bet on football appear numbered.” To an extent, the popularity of fantasy football, which focuses on specific players instead of on entire teams, is the reason.
“Young bettors, many of whom got their comeuppance in daily fantasy sports, are gravitating to player props — bets based on individual player performance — rather than traditional offerings like the point spread, over/under total or money-line,” ESPN reported. “Soon, it’s expected that more money will be riding on Tom Brady’s passing yardage, for example, than the final score.”
A sports book called PointsBet says that when it first entered the U.S. market, 80% of the bets it took were on team results like the point spread. But the so-called player props have been catching up rapidly, and PointsBet predicts its business soon will be a 50-50 split between team bets and player bets.
The player bets usually are on things like passing, receiving or rushing yards, or whether a specific player will score a touchdown. In fact, PointsBet said their customers put down more money on Los Angeles Rams wide receiver Cooper Kupp scoring a touchdown in this year’s Super Bowl than it did on the game’s point spread. (That was an easy bet — Kupp scored.)
Traditional team bets like the point spread are still dominant at sports books in Las Vegas and around the nation, ESPN reported. But it’s easy to see how competition from online avenues that allow a fan to bet on his smartphone in front of his TV set will change this.
Cooper Kupp’s touchdowns notwithstanding, it’s hard to see how the average fan wins by putting money on sports. An injury, a bad call or an unlucky bounce can sink a wager. But if ESPN is right, sports betting is about to get a lot more creative in the ways the book makes money.
— Jack Ryan, McComb Enterprise-Journal