In response to a caller question Wednesday morning about Manny Machado’s likely free agency landing spot, possibly with the New York Yankees, Gregg Gianotti, co-host of WFAN’s flagship morning show Boomer and Gio, took to Google to find the answer.
“These betting guys know,” Gianotti said, at least the second time this week that Gio had turned to oddsmakers — regarded as the most reliable indicators of what events are most and least likely to occur. Because bookmakers have good information and, after all, their skin depends upon it.
After the on-air Google search, Gio found a four-way race for the prized but not-yet-claimed free agent third baseman, showing Machado most likely to land in the Bronx at -200 (a 67% implied probability). Other top suitors include the San Diego Padres (+400), Chicago White Sox (+500), and Philadelphia Phillies (+500).
These odds provide great context and set the framework for debates, and New York/New Jersey sports fans sure have strong (and often maniacal) opinions. It’s excellent radio fodder for a show that has four hours of programming to fill five days a week, in a market where sports radio was born.
Okay, so what’s the problem here?
Gianotti’s search brought him to the website of a network positioning itself as the “Bloomberg for sports betting.” Without identifying the source of the odds, the website published an article based around those odds originating from a large sportsbook operation based outside the United States. In these jurisdictions, there are not many restrictions on what betting markets sportsbooks can offer.
The outcome is that Gio presented the odds for the massive audience in the NY/NJ radio market — valuable and completely free publicity for an offshore sportsbook that is now competition of one of CBS Radio station’s biggest cohort of new advertisers: legal New Jersey sportsbooks.
Since New Jersey legalized sports betting in June 2018, you cannot listen to a WFAN commercial break without hearing a spot for one of FanDuel Sportsbook, DraftKings Sportsbook, William Hill, PlaySugarHouse, and recently PointsBet, off the top of my head. (I listen to at least one hour of WFAN programming every day of the week.)
Recently Nevada regulators began allowing betting on the NFL Draft and as of January, in New Jersey, you can make lower-limit (max win $1,000) wagers on the Oscars. Legal Academy Award betting is not permitted (yet) in Nevada or in any other state. Nevada recently considered it but punted. Why? The state cited integrity concerns and the potential for people with inside information to exploit it. Nevada historically only permits wagering on events that occur on the field of play.
Just to get it out there: There are NO Bryce Harper team props at Las Vegas sportsbooks.
Vegas is not allowed to offer these.
So any reports of them being taken down due to his imminent signing are simply false.
— Ben Fawkes (@BFawkesESPN) January 29, 2019
Years ago, offshore sportsbooks stepped into the novelty market vacuum, providing myriad radio producers with some footholds for programming blocks, giving passionate fans context for their debates, and ultimately the books attracted scores of new clients because, and this may shock you, people like making predictions and betting on them, even on events that occur outside the lines of a field.
As regulated markets grow alongside black-and-gray market offshore sportsbooks, lines between the regulated (i.e. legal) and unregulated books are becoming increasingly blurred. And regulators in states will enable this lack of clarity for listeners and hosts alike by overly restricting the range of offerings that sports bettors seek.
Gio is not much of a bettor and almost certainly had no idea he was referencing lines from this popular offshore sportsbook, in part because the network that he referenced omitted, perhaps intentionally, the source of the odds. If the name of the sportsbook was noted, Gio probably would have given it, and that would have been an even better score for that sportsbook.
Do you think that all of those legal N.J. sportsbooks above are happy to hear WFAN promoting black market competitors, on the house? This comes at at time in the U.S. when hundreds of radio stations across the country in legal markets or neighboring markets are getting a big jolt of ad revenue from legal sportsbooks, which basically happened overnight on May 14, 2018 when the Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act (PASPA) was overturned.
Only the New Jersey Division of Gaming Enforcement can remedy these issues; the same goes for regulators in Nevada and in every jurisdiction that wants to foster the most productive commercial environment for state-licensed sportsbooks.
Handcuffed by state regulators, savvier Nevada sportsbooks have in the past offered odds on some markets “for entertainment” and conversation purposes only.
The DWTS odds are for entertainment purposes only from Wynn; it's a non-wagering event in Nevada.
— Mike Wilkening (@mikewilkening) April 16, 2012
U.S. Open betting odds.
— Golfweek (@golfweek) June 17, 2018
But this is not enough, not visible enough. And these lines don’t get bet into, so we don’t really know how accurate they are. Regulators ought to let legal sportsbooks offer (most of) the same markets as offshore sportsbooks. Allow them to post these odds for low-limit betting purposes.
Indeed propositions on Machado and Bryce Harper’s landing spots do not actually draw much action, because sportsbooks won’t take much action on them. They are primarily marketing tools for sportsbooks and obviously an effective one — not just in sports but for political and entertainment markets, too. In a post-PASPA world, the offshore market knows what it’s up against and has known for a while that eventually competition would come from within the United States.
To be sure, I do not begrudge offshore sportsbooks in the least. They are wisely finding and exploiting these opportunities to start conversations in the mainstream. Many are run by smart businesspeople and their marketers routinely hit the inboxes of industry people such as me, some of whom help disseminate these lines in major mainstream U.S. publications.
More broadly, offshore sportsbooks have filled the vacuum that Congress foolishly created in 1992 via PASPA. They service millions of U.S. sports bettors who do not have other means to bet on sports because the federal government put the clamps down, and most state governments, recently enabled to provide a safer, regulated environment for them, have not yet acted. Some states like New Jersey moved very quickly, but legal options remain unavailable in about 90 percent of the U.S.
And some credit to New Jersey regulators, too. In under one year, they did something Nevada has not: They responded to licensed sportsbooks’ requests to post Oscars odds. New Jersey is probably the state at this point most likely to open up the door to low-limit free agency wagering. And if the odds are coming from whichever legal sportsbook in New Jersey, let’s say MGM, a radio producer in Wisconsin will just say the odds are from MGM, and the gap is thus filled.
People want to debate what movies are Oscar-caliber and where the top MLB players will call home. In bars and on the radio. And if regulators don’t let licensed sportsbooks offer these markets and odds, media will continue to give free publicity, perhaps to the benefit of direct competitors of station advertisers.
Do you want to bet on LaVar Ball becoming the next Lakers coach? It’s out there at 500/1, while Jason Kidd is the frontrunner at +125. Odds courtesy of a sportsbook with a domain ending in “lv.” And that stands for Latvia, not Las Vegas.