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The Spread of Sports Gambling: Examining Through the Lens of Science, Technology & Society (STS)
By Meiyin Ren '25
Photo by John Locher
Gambling, the action of wagering on an event with the intention of winning valuable assets, has existed for years. One of its most prevalent forms is sports betting, feeding upon the passions of sports fans. This form of gambling originally emerged with the intent of placing a bet on a match or game to prove the individual’s knowledge of the sport, or to demonstrate their loyalty to a particular team or player.
In recent years, as profits generated by the sports industry grew, the world also witnessed the explosion of the popularity of sports betting. In this passage, I will highlight some of the findings regarding the contributing aspects of technological advancements to the spread of sports gambling and its impact on the games as a whole.
Examining the Spread
Science, Technology, and Society (STS) examines how social, cultural, and political values influence and are influenced by scientific and technological developments. In this case, I aspire to discuss how technological developments lead to the growing culture of sports gambling.
The rising popularity of sports gambling is highly connected with the growing accessibility of the internet, as live broadcasts, and the integration of new media and sporting events, facilitates the maximum promotion and increase the influence of such events.
In the past, people could only bet at designated venues during specific business hours. With the growing prevalence of electronic communication devices, people can now participate in sports betting activities using mobile phones and the internet. Now, by using electronic devices, people are able to bet on online sites and break the boundaries of geographic location and time, making it possible for people to participate in betting activities anytime and anywhere. The popularity of sports betting in general also has a lot to do with television stations broadcasting sports programs from all over the world on a daily basis, and the reports on various sports, making betting enthusiasts interested in some of the more obscure betting events. In this way the internet and technology facilitated the spread of sports gambling, as a growing number of participants of a wide range of ages began to engage in this activity, increasing the revenue of the sports gambling industry.
Along with the growing accessibility of these events online, collaboration in the form of commercials between sporting events and online betting sites is also a key that prompted the spread of sports betting. When turning on any live sporting event, very often one would see an abundance of ads for online betting sites during commercial breaks. For example, the popular sports betting site DraftKings has prominent television ads that appear while watching any of the big four U.S. sports. Such collaboration between sporting events and online betting sites entices fans to bet on various aspects of the games that they are watching; it is the prevalence of these commercials that contribute to the spread of sports betting.
Impact on the Game
The sports betting industry brings in a substantial amount of revenue. The global legal sports betting turnover in 1998 was £163.3 billion and the number has increased to a shocking £331.5 billion by 2004. As all audiences have feared, the lucrative market of sports betting, especially the online sports betting business, has begun to draw the attention of criminals, resulting in unregulated sites, scams, and even corruption in the games.
Nowadays, sports-betting-related scams are generally related to scam websites. These websites tend to look enticing at first sight. You might be able to cash out and get your bonus back the first time, but once you place more bets with more money, the website would have numerous excuses to stop you from withdrawing the money. Moreover, personal information that has been entered on the fake website during the process could also be stolen.
As for the corruption in the games, they tend to involve bribing athletes for insider information or even for them to manipulate game scores. The Black Sox Scandal is one of the well-known examples of a betting conspiracy between players and gamblers, in which eight members of the Chicago White Sox were accused of being bribed in the 1919 World Series to intentionally lose games in exchange for money from a gambling syndicate.
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