2022: The year the mainstream media began to question sports betting

Gambling industry New York Times 2023
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For sports betting, 2022 was a tipping point. With the launch of New York online betting, Kansas and Maryland beginning to accept wagers, and Massachusetts and Ohio legalizing the venture, a large swath of the country now offered regulated betting.

Despite the majority of states offering some sort of wagering, the backlash against the proliferation of sports betting grew louder, especially in the mainstream media. For the past two months, the Sunday features in the New York Times have dominated industry conversation.

However, the media consternation around gambling expansion has been building for months. Look no further than California, where nearly every major publication came out in strong opposition to Proposition 27, which would’ve regulated online betting in the state.

The scathing op-ed from the Los Angeles Times didn’t just come after online sports betting, it came after the saturation of gambling in general, arguing California already had more than enough options to gamble. There were also concerns about fiscal responsibility:

“In just one month last year, sports gamblers wagered $7 billion — a 20-fold increase from three years earlier. That’s money they’re not spending in other parts of the economy, or worse, money they borrowed that they may not be able to pay back.”

This past fall, the Washington Post did its own series of sports betting content, one that was more friendly about gambling, but one that took several shots at the industry itself. There was a piece about limiting the size of bets as well as one that discussed a potential rise in problem gamblers.

And then there was the New York Times. With a quartet of pieces casting a negative light on Caesars and its relationship with universities, Penn and its relationship with Barstool Sports, and the gambling lobby’s relationship with lawmakers, the stories have reverberated across the industry since they were published in November.

As the Massachusetts Gaming Commission started vetting operators, both the Caesars hearing and hearings about Barstool’s land-based partner Plainridge Park brought the articles front-and-center to suitability discussions.

Elsewhere, Sen. Richard Blumenthal penned a letter to Caesars CEO Tom Reeg demanding the company cease working with LSU and MSU after reading the story.

In 2023, these stories will likely continue to loom large over the industry. At the start of the year, numerous states will start considering new legislation, including Texas and Missouri. Other states, like New York, have bills filed to adapt existing sports betting rules.

As those lawmakers consider new gambling legislation, these media takes will continue to come up. The question now as an industry is how to best react to and respond to these stories going forward. Decrying their legitimacy hasn’t gone over well so far. In a hearing this week, Penn Entertainment CEO Jay Snowden tried to cast a negative light on the paper and deny the validity its claims. The MGC commissioners shut down this tact almost immediately.

The industry spoke out loudly and collectively about some of the misconceptions the New York Times stories put forth. With 2023 on the horizon, it might be time to tweak the messaging, take some of the criticism, and put a best foot forward in the new year.