• Analysis

What factors influence sports betting?

Should Ribery move to the MLS?
Getty Images
Advertisement

Should sports betting be considered a game of chance or a game of skill?

Sites like the ones mentioned on Zamsino Canada have seen a massive influx of sports enthusiasts looking to bet on their favorite sports. With money on the line, bettors cross their fingers and hope to win big. But is it really just about getting lucky? Or is there more to sports betting than meets the eye?

As online sports betting becomes more popular, many people, onlookers and bettors alike, have begun to wonder if betting on sports is a game of chance or a game of skill.

A Closer Look At Sports Betting

By definition, sports betting is placing wagers on predicted outcomes in a sporting event. Betting on sport is by no means a recent phenomenon. People have been doing it for ages. But it’s the accessibility of the internet that has revolutionized the way people partake in sports betting. Betting on sports is easier than ever before, so it’s really no surprise that its popularity has grown.

But for sports betting to truly grow into the popular activity that it is today, it had to first be legalized in jurisdictions across the globe. And it was during those legal processes that the argument of luck versus skill in sports betting came to fruition.

The Legalization Of Sports Betting

Sports betting has been recognized as a game of chance throughout its history. But in recent years, big names in the United States have come out in defense of sports betting, arguing that it is instead a game of skill.

According to documents uncovered by ESPN, former U.S. Attorney General Loretta Lynch, who was at the time the U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of New York, stated that she considers sports betting a game of skill. Lawyers for the NFL agreed with Lynch. But why does the opinion of a few, albeit significant, people matter?

It turns out, their stance served as an essential legal distinction that contributed to the growing legalization of betting on American sports. As of May 2019, seven of the 50 states in the U.S. have legal, state-regulated sports betting industries.

But while the United States plays a bit of catch-up, sports betting has been legal for decades in other countries. Sports betting has been legal and regulated in the European Union for decades and has become a major money-making business in recent decades.

With countries all over the world legalizing and supporting online sports betting, millions of people have taken notice. And as the activity piques their interest, many people are naturally curious about what it takes to be successful as a sports bettor.

Sports Betting: Luck Or Skill?

That brings us back to our original inquiry: is sports betting all about luck or does it require a certain amount of skill to be successful?

In 2013, as part of her argument in United States v. DiCristina, former U.S. Attorney General Lynch stated “Sports betting … involves ‘substantial [not slight] skill.’ Sports bettors can employ superior knowledge of the games, teams, and players in order to exploit odds that do not reflect the true likelihoods of the possible outcomes.”

She added “While a sports bettor cannot [legally] influence the outcome of a game, sports bettors can and do influence the ‘betting line’ or ‘point spread’ in order to improve their odds of making a successful bet. Specifically, a gambler intending to make a large bet on one team may first place one or more smaller, strategic bets on the other team to move the betting line and make it more favorable for the ultimate intended bet.”

Legal counsel for the NFL, Covington & Burling, also wrote “Sports betting combines both skill and chance, but the element of chance, though perhaps significant, is not ‘dominant.’ Typical sports bettors gather and analyze information, sometimes in significant quantities, about the nuances of the sports on which they bet. They read about the teams that are facing-off in particular games—their standings, records, box scores, game summaries, injuries, and recent transactions. They then weigh the probabilities of each team winning and compare their determinations to those of the odds-maker…”

Famous lawyer and Harvard law professor Alan Dershowitz also argued in favor of sports betting as a game of skill. “How can anybody doubt it is a skill game?” Dershowitz queried. “Every major sports figure prognosticates on the outcome of games by looking at starting lineups, post-season experience, success without the designated hitter and so forth. The best prognosticators win while others lose and that is skill. It is not like dice.”

Dershowitz went as far as to suggest that betting on sports is comparable to trading on the stock market. “Goldman Sacks makes billions by trying to get a leg up on other prognosticators. The only difference is they are speculating on stocks rather than sports teams.”

These statements are strong arguments in favor of sports betting as a skill-based game. Overall, their perception of sports betting as more skill-based than luck-based seems is accurate. Legally, a game of chance is defined as one that is determined entirely or mostly by mere luck. For example, spinning a roulette wheel or throwing dice. A game of skill, however, is a game in which success depends on the knowledge of the person placing the bet.

Conclusion

It seems obvious to most that by definition, sports betting is a game of skill. But there are still arguments in favor of labeling it as a game of luck. Those people, it must be assumed, have yet to attempt sports betting on their own. Otherwise they would agree, without a doubt, that a significant amount of skill is involved in the act.

The truth is this: to place a sports bet, one must take many factors into consideration.

Like in chess, another game of skill, each move is carefully considered and calculated before a bet is made. Too much information is digested in sports betting for it to legitimately be considered merely a game of luck.