For almost as long as there have been sports, there has been sports betting. Legal betting, however, is a much more recent phenomenon. In Europe, sports betting has been legal in most countries, and in typical European fashion, it has been highly regulated. Due to physical closures of the pandemic, many European countries have seen remarkable growth in remote gambling, including France, Italy, United Kingdom, Spain, Netherlands, and Finland. In the United States, however, there had been a federal ban in place from 1992 to 2018, when the Supreme Court struck it down. Now that the floodgates are open, states are moving quickly to legalise sports betting. Part of that has to do with industry pressure, but the main motivation is to start capturing tax revenue that had previously been flowing to places like Las Vegas. The numbers are startling: in just three weeks after New York state legalised sports betting, residents of the state placed 1.6 billion USD in online bets. These numbers follow the massive media blitzes and app-based promotions that make gambling as easy, and as addictive, as downloading and playing their favourite mobile game. They allow bets on every aspect of the game, like which team win the opening coin toss or what color Gatorade the winning coach will be doused in.
From a pure business perspective, the legalisation of sports betting needs to be celebrated. Much like the legalisation of marijuana, states are moving towards the liberalisation and acceptance of certain “vices”, so long as they provide substantial tax revenue. How people choose to spend their time and hard-earned money is their business, but we cannot pretend that there will not be substantial social consequences. According to The Information, sports-betting companies spent 1.2 billion USD on advertising in 2021, and that amount is projected to double 2022, especially as more states legalise betting and it further integrates with live broadcasts and leagues themselves. Although leagues like the NFL has limited the number of sports-betting ads to six per game, the level of integration that betting has already been achieved will certainly affect how fans interact with every sport. I am not going to pretend that sports are pure and unmonetized, but nor will I pretend that the legalisation of sports-betting will not have negative effects on the fan experience.
Energy and Instability
Europeans have long paid high prices for energy, but recent rises in prices are stretching personal and governmental limits. The New York Times points to some examples: “a German retiree facing sky-high energy bills is turning to a wood-burning stove. The owner of a dry-cleaning business in Spain adjusted her employees’ work shifts to cut electric bills and installed solar panels. A mayor in France said he ordered a hiring freeze because rising electrical bills threaten a financial ‘catastrophe’”.
With Russia providing more than one-third of Europe’s natural gas, there will almost certainly be a further strain. Leaders and governments across Europe are already freezing prices, slashing taxes on energy, and issuing checks to households hardest hit by the price increases. But if these prices remain high, there are real concerns about how people, including small businesses, can pay their bills. With rapid inflation across the continent and supply chain issues causing increased prices for goods and services, people do not need price increases for their utilities. Two-thirds of 28,000 German companies surveyed rated energy prices as one of their biggest business risks. For those in the industrial sector, the figure was as high as 85 percent. After a brutal two years, the last thing Europe needs is energy price instability.