Changes in the Sports Betting Industry Over the Last 20 Years

The sports betting industry has changed over the last 20 years.

Key Points

– The rise of the internet has really changed the sports betting industry over the last 20 years.

– It has become much easier for the bettor and the bookie over the last two decades.

Changes in the Sports Betting Industry Over the Last 20 Years

A lot has changed in the sports betting industry over the last 20 years. It’s almost as if a whole new industry exists. Much of what we see now in the industry wasn’t around in the late 1990s.

Many will point to the U.S. Supreme Court decision to overturn the Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act (PASPA) as a key event. It certainly was, but the sports betting industry was already in change mode. 

Here are a few of the biggest changes that the industry has seen over the past 20 years.

The Sports Betting Industry Has Better Lines

Opening lines for all of the main sports have improved over time at the sportsbooks. The public still has a significant influence on the final lines. Sportsbooks still adjust the lines when there is excessive action on one side of a game or the other. 

As a result, the final lines will not always be as exact as they need to be. But now, more than ever before, opening lines are more accurate than they were 20 years ago.

Sharps find it more difficult to locate profitable opening lines as a result. However, when the public places a large amount of wagers on one side of a game, it helps identify closing line opportunities.


Example of Better Lines

The betting public tends to favor betting favorites. When favorites play at home, this happens even more. Sportsbooks know this and will shade their lines accordingly. 

Take an NFL game featuring the Bills and the Jets. With Buffalo playing at home, sportsbooks figure the opening line to be the Bills -7. Knowing this, they intentionally inflate the line to -8 or even -9. The betting public will wager on the Bills anyway. 

As the public continues to hammer the Bills, sharp bettors are betting on the Jets. The sharps have found significant value on the Jets because of the inflated line. 

Regardless of this situation, sportsbooks do a much better job of accurately determining point spreads. Smart bettors have the opportunity to take advantage of these discrepancies if they know how to spot them. 

Information is Easier to Access

The internet has changed everything. In the sports betting industry, the average bettor can find out if a player is playing or not by doing a simple online search. He can access all sorts of information about any specific game on the sports calendar. 

Twenty years ago, the internet was relatively new and not everyone had access through a device that’s small enough to fit in their pocket. Bettors had to use newspapers, magazines, and listen to the radio or watch TV to get quality betting information. Many times though the information was outdated.

Baseball bettors, for example, would look at the previous few days’ worth of box scores to help handicap games. Today, a bettor can get all of that information and more plus the bettor can watch game highlights for virtually any game on the entire regular season schedule.

Sportsbooks have access to the same information, but the average bettor has way more information available than he did 20 years ago.

Sports Betting Industry Made Simple

If you live in one of the 30-plus U.S. states where sports betting is legal, you can take out your smartphone and bet. It’s that simple. You open your sports betting app and, within seconds, you can place a wager.

Two decades ago, you had to travel to Nevada to place a legal sports bet. Or, you placed an illegal bet through a local bookie or you bet at an offshore sportsbook. Bettors can still go to Nevada to place bets, but they don’t have to. Bettors can now bet online from almost anywhere in the world.

Huge Number of Betting Options

Remember when you had to wait for the Super Bowl to place bets on things like how long the national anthem would be? Now, bets like those – proposition bets – are taken for granted. 

Team and player prop bets are available with every game in all of the major sports. Bettors will also find action on games and teams they have never heard of. The most obscure college basketball team in America? FCS college football teams? Yes, bettors can find an almost unbelievable number of betting options these days.

Twenty years ago, it was moneyline, point spread, and game totals. Bettors were lucky to find any other bets offered. 

One might think that offering so many bets would leave a sportsbook open to error. Actually, sportsbooks typically charge a higher commission on prop bets and they reduce the maximum bets to protect themselves. In the end, sportsbooks do pretty well with prop bets on the board.

The More Things Change the More They Stay the Same

Most professional sports bettors focus on defeating the spread, the over/under, and/or the money line and specialize in one or two sports. This really hasn’t changed over the years. 

It’s a strategy worth noting for less experienced bettors. If sharps are concentrating on the same bets, it might make sense to do the same. 

What also has not changed in 20 years is that the sports books are the true profit-makers in the sports betting industry. That isn’t likely to change either. Otherwise, the industry would die. 

Bookies rarely go out of business unless they get into some legal troubles. What has really helped bookies is the rise of the sportsbook software industry. Virtually anyone can own their own sportsbook. Bookies can now automate everything and spend less time doing the administrative work involved with running a sportsbook.

The growth of this sportsbook software industry has revolutionized the sports betting industry and will continue to do so moving through the 21st century.