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Sports betting is so popular that companies are moving into other forms of gambling

A MARTÍNEZ, HOST:

North Carolina, this week, became the 30th state to offer legal online sports gambling. Sports betting is so popular, many companies are branching out into other forms of gambling. Emily Stewart is a senior correspondent for Business Insider. I asked her about the proliferation and revenue making potential.

EMILY STEWART: In 2023, Americans bet $120 billion - with a B - on sports. That's a 28% increase from the year before. It's legal in some form in about three dozen states, online sports betting is about two dozen states. So companies are really making a lot of money on this. And it's become sort of part of the American fabric, sort of part of the culture in a way that's pretty surprising. I think a lot of people bet on sports, even people who you really wouldn't imagine.

MARTÍNEZ: Yeah. When I think about sports history and how it has, for the longest time, tried to disassociate itself from gambling, this is kind of an incredible brand-new world. And a lot of this dates back to 2018 when the Supreme Court struck down a law prohibiting sports betting. What's the background with that?

STEWART: Yeah. So in 1992, a federal law was passed that basically barred sports gambling in the United States. In 2018, the Supreme Court said this is really up to the states, and the states were off to the races and started to legalize sports betting. You know, as you mentioned, a lot of the leagues were kind of anxious about this and didn't necessarily embrace this initially. But now a lot of them have really gotten on board, as well. If you're, you know, the NFL, you can get people not just to watch their local team, but you can get people to watch games across the country every Sunday because they're betting on all of the games and multiple parts of the games.

MARTÍNEZ: So how are sports betting companies moving beyond sports?

STEWART: It's hard to make money on sports betting. There aren't games all of the time. So what a lot of these sports gambling companies have done is they look around and say, OK, well, if you'll bet on an NFL game, an NBA game, a March Madness game, I kind of bet you might be interested in betting on something else, right? And so you take the example of DraftKings. Earlier this year, they announced that they are buying Jackpocket, which is an app that lets people buy lottery tickets online, think Mega Millions, think Powerball. They also have an online casino operations. Now, this is not legal in a ton of states, but it's legal in enough states where they can make money. And so the hope is really that they get enough customers in their channel and then they can cross-sell products.

MARTÍNEZ: Yeah. How about gambling addiction? How much does that factor in here?

STEWART: What we do know is that over the years, as more and more people are gambling, that leads to more problem gambling. We have seen a rise in the calls to gambling hotlines, and we also kind of don't know how to talk about gambling addiction as much. I talked to one expert who said we know how to talk about alcohol addiction. We know how to talk about cigarette addiction. We're kind of in a moment now where we don't talk about gambling addiction in the same way, and we don't really think about it.

MARTÍNEZ: And even a company such as Disney, which has long been considered and viewed as very straight laced and buttoned up, they're even getting into the gambling game. What can you tell us about Disney and gambling?

STEWART: Yeah. So Disney, for a long time, was one that was like, no, no, no, we are family friendly. And then last year, they made a deal with PENN Entertainment to make ESPN BET, which takes bets through PENN's sportsbooks. It's also a good way to get younger audiences, and I think that's sort of the core story of sports betting is it really is a way to get people into the pipeline and specifically young people.

MARTÍNEZ: That's Emily Stewart, senior correspondent for Business Insider. Emily, thanks a lot.

STEWART: Thank you. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

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Devan Schwartz
Devan Schwartz is an editor for NPR's Morning Edition. He is an experienced audio professional who, in addition to his work with NPR, has worked with such organizations as BBC, Slate, the New York Times, and various public radio stations.