Live sports betting is coming to your TV screen

Dish customers can now start a bet without taking their eyes off the game.
Dish customers can now start a bet without taking their eyes off the game.
Image: Dish Network
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Promoting sports betting on TV used to be taboo. Now, some Americans can make bets directly from their TV sets while watching a game.

Dish Network and DraftKings, a popular sports betting operator, announced a partnership today that will integrate the DraftKings sportsbook into the live viewing experience for Dish’s 11 million satellite TV subscribers. Those with certain set-top boxes will be able to initiate wagers from their TV screens in the seven states where sports betting on DraftKings is available (Colorado, Illinois, Iowa, Indiana, Michigan, New Hampshire, and New Jersey). That will then trigger a text message prompting bettors to complete the transaction in the DraftKings mobile app.

It’s not quite as simple as pushing a button on your TV remote to place a bet, which doesn’t yet have a legal framework, but that’s not far off. In a statement, Dish and DraftKings boasted that the agreement is the “first-of-its-kind,” while promising betting integrations will be expanded to more TV customers in the future.

Right now, sports bettors can easily use their mobile devices to place wagers during games they watch on television. But media companies—particularly in the US, where sports betting isn’t yet as omnipresent as it is in Europe—are trying to make the TV experience more interactive in order to retain customers (and attention spans). Sports betting through TV screens is one way to do that.

The fast rise of sports betting

Since the US Supreme Court in 2018 struck down a law banning sports betting in most states, the sports betting industry has quickly been accepted into mainstream culture. Many networks, including ESPN, now have daily shows devoted entirely to betting, as well as partnerships with the major operators like DraftKings and FanDuel. Online platforms will highlight betting odds alongside game scores and stats. Flutter, which owns FanDuel, estimates the US sports betting market will be worth $20 billion by 2025. The global sports betting market could reach $155 billion by 2024.

Nearly 20 US states have fully legalized sports betting, while several others have active bills on the table. Betting is legal and regulated in most European countries, though some, like the UK, are reviewing just how widespread it should be after getting pushback from advocacy groups who point out its harmful effects. A 2020 YouGov report found that as many as 2.7% of adults in the UK (1.4 million people) qualify as problem gamblers. Half of them do not get the help they need, according to the report.

Other studies show that the rise of online and mobile betting is leading to a high volume of problem gamblers, particularly among young people. If widely adopted, giving bettors further access to bets through their TV screens could make gambling addiction even more common than it already is. Experts are already concerned that the Covid-19 pandemic and the prevalence of betting platforms is leading to an increase of gambling-related financial and psychological harm.

But perhaps betting from your TV won’t catch on as much as Dish and DraftKings hope. In the 2000s, the UK bookmaker Sky Bet explored the option, before smartphones rendered it unnecessary. TV technology has vastly improved since then, but bettors might not feel they need TV integration, since they have their phones on them all the time anyway.

Whether or not betting on sports from your TV set becomes more popular, the fact it exists at all underscores the industry’s rapid ascendance. A few years ago, sports networks wouldn’t even acknowledge betting odds, even after they were legalized. Now they’re as easy to check as the score.