Gambling on TV (with a Little Help From the Internet) – 1

Television and gambling have shared a long history, and now the two are making history together. Since the late 1930s, when television sets first became commercially available, and up until the 1950s, TV shows were basically modified versions of popular radio shows. During that period, the cooperation between TV and sports led to an increase in the popularity of both. Due to the new opportunities televised sports broadcasting presented sports fans, those fans could now place bets on their favorite games and watch live as the events unfolded.

The 1950s marked a new era in television. New genres were emerging, and these helped set television apart from its two older sisters – the radio and the big screen. The talk show, the sitcom and popular game shows would dominate and define television for decades to come. Nevertheless, TV also stuck by its devotion to sports. During the 60s and 70s, television helped boos the popularity of many major sports, turning such events as the Super Bowl, the Olympics and, most notably, the Football World Cup into worldwide celebrations. The increasing interest in sports naturally brought with it an increase in sports betting.

One crucial turning point in sports broadcasting was the 1958 NFL championship game, a game which has come to be known simply as ‘the greatest game ever played’. For the very first time, an American football championship game was to be televised across the nation by NBC. It turned out to be the first ever NFL game to go into sudden death overtime, in which the Baltimore Colts scored first to beat the New York Giants 23 to 17. This game is still cited as one of the main reasons for the NFL’s overwhelming surge in popularity, making it the league with the most lucrative and expensive television rights in the world.

The popularity of the NFL, which was made possible by the sheer power of televised broadcasting, later became a major force in sports betting. Though spread betting was introduced in the 1940s by Charles K. McNeil, an American mathematics teacher who eventually opened his own bookmaking operation, it wasn’t until 1969 that the idea actually caught on. Once again, the catalyst was an American Football championship game.

Super Bowl III came only three years after the long-established NFL was forced into a merger agreement by the newly formed AFL. The AFL representatives were easily defeated in the first two Super Bowls, and everyone was expecting NFL champion Baltimore Colts to crush the AFL champions New York Jets. This posed a serious problem for the bookmakers. Punters betting on the Jets to win were hard to come by, and using the traditional odds betting system resulted in very unbalanced books.

Las Vegas legend Bob ‘The Man’ Martin came up with a betting line that would go down in wagering history. Martin made the Jets 18-point underdogs, and the masses ran to place their bets. Thanks to Martin the books were once again balanced, and America learned to love the spread wager. The game also turned out to be one of the biggest upsets in sports history, and, subsequently, one of the greatest spread reversals ever. The heavy underdog AFL Jets beat the highly favored NFL Colts 16 to 7, and gave the AFL its first Super Bowl victory.

Both television and betting have been evolving in great leaps ever since. The biggest leap, no doubt, was the rise of the Internet and the World Wide Web. The world of gambling was greatly revolutionized by new online possibilities, as millions were granted access to various betting activities right from the comfort of their homes. Television was also changing rapidly in an attempt to keep up with the innovations made possible by the internet. The examples are numerous, and touch on every aspect of televised broadcasting.