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The authors demonstrate that betting market outcomes are a statistically significant and economically relevant driver of local market television viewership in the National Basketball Association. Ratings are higher when the local market team covers the point spread and when point spread outcome uncertainty is increased. They further illustrate that point spread market outcomes have a larger relative impact on viewership in less-popular games and when the local market team is expected to perform poorly. This suggests wagering market access serves as insurance to the league and its franchises against reduced viewership in games that are less appealing to consumers. The results assess the degree to which wagering interest has driven past revenues as well as how the legalization of sports wagering may influence future revenues.
Salaga is with the University of Georgia, Athens, GA. Tainsky is with Wayne State University, Detroit, MI. Mondello is with the University of South Florida, Tampa, FL.