Based on current trends and the innovations embraced by the industry in the past, the following is a preview of changes to come, the likely future of sports betting. Some of the features discussed below are in the earliest stages of development, others are logical distillations of features missing from existing applications.
As live-streaming options evolve from a buzzword into something of a mandatory feature, the likelihood of their existence and further development in the future is all but guaranteed. The expansion of live streaming is already underway and this expansion begins with increased availability. Existing services are limited to select leagues and games; the obvious improvement here is to add more and more games to live streaming schedules.
Currently Bet365 broadcast European soccer, NBA basetball, rugby Wimbledon tennis and more via their mobile app. SkyBet stream Spanish La Liga Football, while Ladbrokes customers can now watch ATP tennis and french soccer games from their iPhone or Android.
Future bettors will be able to stream any game they can wager on, with dense schedules of sports from around the world carried live by bookmaker apps and available in a mobile format. Also exciting, the increased in-play wagering options this will bring, not to mention the development of new ways to “watch” live. Imagine audio-only commentary and play-by-play coverage for bettors unable to stream games visually. The emergence of smaller displays and new wearable gadgets without traditional displays (the Apple Watch for example) will force apps to come up with new formats for live streams.
It is easy to imagine broadcasters cashing in on the burgeoning mobile betting industry and developing their own systems to combine wagering options with their existing sports Webcasts. The other side of that coin is the potential for bookmakers to create a sports streaming service that is superior to traditional sportscasts – could ESPN’s industry dominance be replaced by Ladbrokes or Bet365? Bookmakers will be forced to produce increasingly-sophisticated streaming services that could easily surpass old-fashioned modes of broadcasting. For more information, check out our guide to live sports streaming.
The (Slow) Death of Web-Based Betting
Eventually, the number of customers accessing bookmakers on mobile devices will eclipse the number that place wagers through a traditional website. As mobile device usage increases, dependence on laptop and desktop computers for all applications will decrease; at some point in the future, mobile gambling will be the norm. A major UK telecom consulting firm, Juniper Research, predicts an increase in worldwide mobile gambling by 100 million new customers over the next four years. It’s easy to imagine that figure swelling even larger if the number were projected over the next ten or twenty years.
Driving the transition to mobile gambling is simple convenience. Smartphones and tablets have a distinct advantage over websites and apps that require a desktop or laptop computer – they’re more portable. As the applications developed for these gadgets become easier to use, few people will want to revert back to a less convenient interface.
Place A Bet Using Fingerprint Authentication
How will bookmakers create a service that’s even easier to use? The expansion of iOS’s fingerprint identification system (TouchID) is an early example – as more functional thumb and fingerprint sensors are included in mobile devices, expect sports bettors in the future to have the ability to wager with a simple touch of a finger or thumb. Gone is the need for a traditional login and point-and-click interface. After logging in with a fingerprint scan, bettors will be able to search for and place wagers with their voice, after listening to tipping advice made available by the app based on past betting history and sport preferences. Look at the current trend in mobile racebooks, where native applications are including horse race tipping data in the information provided on their virtual race card.
The New Social Everything
The term “social” was little more than a curiosity as recently as 2005, in the early days of Myspace and Facebook. These days, the social Web drives everything, from ad sales to start-ups. Expect to see many new social platforms that involve betting, a trend which is already underway. The benefits of social gambling are many, including cutting the bookmaker out of the loop entirely and placing wagers between groups of friends rather than a centralized house. Another benefit to the customer is the increased level of customization available. Bettors can pick social gambling opportunities based on individual games, athletes, sports, or whatever they want, including wagers outside of the traditional sports world altogether.
How will the new trend toward social betting applications affect the traditional segment of the industry? Rather than lose customers, bookmakers will begin to incorporate social flavor into their existing services. Look at what Paddy Power is doing with Facebook in the UK, a system under which social media friends can participate in wagers together, track their activity and success, challenge friends to bet, mock one another for failures, etc. Projecting forward, it is easy to imagine big-name bookmakers hosting applications that allow league-based or group wagering, essentially providing social gambling templates without having any financial interest in the wagers themselves.
On the subject of social betting, it’s likely the industry will see increased use of geolocation. A bettor’s position in the real world will become increasingly important in the mobile betting market as customers demand location-specific services. Again, this is a trend that already exists in a very primitive version – the first bookmaker apps that use geolocation are already on the market. In future, bettors will have smart devices that can sense a game playing on a nearby television or live stream (or taking place live in front of a customer) and offer to automatically connect mobile customers to bets available on that game, as well as betting tips, live statistics, in-play options, etc. Think of this future application as a kind of Shazam for the sports betting industry.
Between the increased availability of Google Glass and the release of Apple’s Watch, we are likely at the dawn of wearable tech. Wearable Web-capable devices that run apps similar to those found on smartphones and tablets will soon become popular enough that bookmakers will release applications designed specifically for these devices.
Web-capable watches (which already integrate with smartphones, tablets, and even laptop computers via Bluetooth) are unique in that they tend to have very small or even non-existent displays. Compared to the “bigger and better” trend in smartphone displays, wearables are competing to be ever smaller and lighter. There is only so much that can be done, visually-speaking, on a smart watch. These devices will depend heavily on integration to display information to users. Sports bettors will be able to incorporate new wearable tech with existing apps and hardware to perfectly sync and complement each others functions.
Wearable devices like Google Glass and the Apple Watch will revolutionize how we gamble
Legalization and Regulation of the North American Market
In the early 21st century, gambling law in the US is a mess of municipal, county, state, and federal laws that serve more to confuse bettors than to outline a safe and legal system for placing wagers, online or otherwise. Eight American states are currently on the wrong side of history, outlawing all forms of Internet-based betting, even as other parts of North America open up for increased access to mobile and Web-based wagers. As young people totally comfortable with the idea of gambling on their iPhones grow up, they’ll likely demand increased access to things like mobile bookmakers and tablet-based casino gambling apps.
One domino that must fall in order for the North American market to develop is the 2006 Unlawful Internet Gambling Enforcement Act. The existing language is a single drop of poison in the proverbial well, a tiny collection of words that prevents the development of a legitimate North American mobile gambling industry. In order for Americans (and Canadians) to have the kind of mobile betting options available to gamblers in the rest of the world, they need easy access to multiple deposit and withdrawal methods. The UIGEA will fall by the wayside as American attitudes toward gambling change.
It seems unlikely that the tangled web of US gambling law will remain that way forever. State governments in the US will slowly open up regulated markets to their citizens, one at a time. Increased tax revenue is the perfect carrot for the legalized sports betting stick, and as states that allow mobile gambling demonstrate the financial benefit of decriminalization, it is likely that neighboring states will follow suit.