The X-Games, Dirt Bike Racing, Surfing, and Snowboarding could all use a nice boast in global popularity and ratings. The biggest thing that holds these sports back from gaining more viewership is the sportsbooks.
A recent survey showed that 70% of people watching a football game had some level of vested interest in the game in one form or another. Could you imagine playing daily fantasy Surfing or rock climbing?
The role that sports betting and wagering has played in helping promote some of the major sports around the world to the popular status that they enjoy today is often under-appreciated. Some of the most popular major American sports like football (NFL), baseball (MLB), basketball (NBA), and the two major, popular college sports, college football (NCAAF) and college basketball (NCAAB) have all seen their fancies and tv contracts grow at least in part to the growing number of sports bettors around the world. While on the other hand, some of the new-age extreme sports like snowboarding, motocross, off-road racing, etc. have struggled to grow. One of the obvious missing components from these sports that are struggling to breakthrough is the ability to wager on them and add the extra element of entertainment that comes with betting on a game or event.
Sports wagering has grown exponentially since the 70s and continues to grow more popular by the year. Despite some league’s attempts to disassociate themselves from the betting community over recent decades, sports betting has still flourished amongst the public. During the late 70s into the 80s, and even some in the 90s, sports betting advice was on TV featuring stars like Jon Price of sports information traders and celebrities like Lawrence Taylor. These handicapping shows discussed hand-in-hand with other sporting news something the extreme sports world needs. Since the crackdown begun on limiting the publicity of sports wagering services, it’s done little to nothing to curb the growing popularity of sports betting as it’s as popular as it’s ever been. With new fantasy football leagues and betting applications like Fan Duel and Draft Kings, sports betting is within anyone’s reach who wishes to make money on sports. Because of these new ways to engage fans and give them the opportunity to cash in on the entertainment, the major sports that allow sports betting are exploding in popularity, while extreme sports’ popularity seem to be on the decline in recent years since peaking in the late 90s.
Part of the key to the major sports growing in popularity is that the sports wagering doesn’t just attract strict sports fans, it attracts people who otherwise wouldn’t be watching sports. From average people looking for a cheap thrill, to fans of gambling, and the weekend warrior types just looking to make some money and be entertained… The sports that allow sports wagering give those sports a big advantage to attracting new audiences, while the extreme sports continue to diminish in size for failing to reach those new crowds.
Even less popular sports like tennis and golf have seen their audiences grow in correlation to the wagers being placed on them. What the major leagues failed to see, but are slowly beginning to open up to, is that sports wagering is responsible for a decent portion of their viewers. Just this last year, the commissioner of the NBA, Adam Silver, has talked about possible interest in league sanctioned sports betting. This would be revolutionary and certainly would open the door for other major sports to follow in suit. One thing is certain, the world of sports betting will certainly only continue to grow, and any sport that wishes to grow and prosper in today’s modern sports landscape will need to accept and support the role sports betting plays in increasing their popularity and influence. The question is how will extreme sports do this?