Walt Disney Company has raised more than a few eyebrows by stepping back from its fervently anti-gambling position in order to accept fat advertisement payments on ESPN from fantasy gambling companies. The Walt Disney Company’s posture on gambling is very well known and has previously even led the image conscious media giant to pull its money out of a huge investment in fantasy football gambling company, DraftKings. Viewership numbers have definitely had a big role to play in this decision of Disney’s since millions of sports fans also love to gamble on their favourite sports.
Disney’s attitude towards gambling is nothing new in the United States. This is, after all, the country that bans sports betting in almost every state, yet contributes massively to the large and growing illegal sports betting industry. In fact, millions of dollars are bet every week in America through illegal channels, money that could very well have been taxed so that it could contribute to the economy.
Strangely enough, Disney (and large numbers of American lawmakers) do not seem to have a problem with the immense fantasy football market that exists at the moment. Fantasy football is ostensibly a game of skill, in that, players have to make their own teams consisting of existing players. However, it is nothing, but a thinly veiled attempt at sports betting since the outcome depends on the performance of players. The sporting establishment in the United States gets a great deal of support from lawmakers in its opposition to the legalisation of betting on sports since both parties are concerned about the rise of corruption in sports.
Given the rapidly growing popularity of sports betting among its customer base, ESPN has made the very wise decision of getting involved with fantasy betting. In fact, this is one way that the company can continue to retain its relevance. Disney’s and ESPN’s timing could not have come at a better time. There is increasing understanding that America’s attitude towards gambling is highly hypocritical. Furthermore, the economy is losing a lot of money on account of illegal betting and this is getting to be a big problem.
There are growing calls for sports betting in the United States to be brought under a regulatory framework because the illegal business is just too big to be neglected. In other words, the federal government needs to pass laws that legalise what is a very popular pastime in the country. Regulation will also ensure that the rampant problems of sports fixing can be kept under control instead of simply sweeping the problem under the carpet.
The Americans definitely need to change their opinion about sports betting, considering that they already do activities that are very much like gambling, trading in the stock market, for instance. Poker is also extremely popular here, although this is definitely a game of skill and not only luck. Now that the Walt Disney Company has changed its position, it is only a question of time when other companies in the broadcast industry do the same.