Sports betting is booming across the United States, but it’s not without risks. Eric Lipton, an investigative reporter for The New York Times, is with us to talk about his recent series on the industry.
He was one of a team of reporters that looked at the impact sports betting has had on communities and also the industry itself. In particular, they looked at how sports betting apps use algorithms to promote wagers on games that might be less likely to win. The apps are able to do this because of the way that technology has transformed our phones. DAVIES: And that transformation has been really rapid. It’s similar to the way that Uber and Yelp have changed the way that we make decisions about where to go and what to do.
And what has been the response of state governments as this has happened?
Lipton: Well, in many cases, they’ve actually become kind of partners in the marketing of sports betting. They offer these, quote, “free bets,” that are often worth up to a thousand dollars in some states. And the idea is to get people started on betting and to make them aware that there’s an alternative to traditional gambling establishments.
But the other issue is that these free bets can actually increase a person’s betting habits. That’s because it can create a false sense of security about being able to make money. And it’s something that a lot of gamblers are vulnerable to, especially if they don’t understand how much variance there is in the odds.
And if you’re not careful, you can quickly lose your bankroll, which is why it’s so important to know how much money you have to spend before you place a bet. And a good rule of thumb is to stick with 1 and 5 percent of your total bankroll on each bet, depending on how confident you are in the play.
DAVIES: There are a lot of different ways to bet on sports, from moneylines and spreads to prop bets. Prop bets give you a vested interest in more specific outcomes, like how many points a player will score. They can be super lucrative, but they’re not for everyone.
But the bottom line is that most people who bet on sports lose. It’s not an easy business to be in, even if you have superior knowledge of players and teams, which many sports fans believe they have (often falsely). But if you’re smart about it and follow a few simple rules, you can keep your losses at a minimum and potentially come out ahead. We’ll tell you how in a moment. This is FRESH AIR, with Sam Sanders.