The time is coming when our country begins its return to normalcy and our society is afforded the opportunity to enjoy live sports once again. Perhaps we won't be inside stadiums or venues right away, but pro leagues are going to come back in some form and so will wagering on a wide range of sports.
Fans and bettors will be excited to learn that at some point in the not-so-distant future, there could even be a new sport to wager on: professional bowling.
Betting on bowling has been around in some form at land-based venues in Nevada in the past, but widespread legalized wagering hasn't existed to this point. Thanks to the Professional Bowlers Association, however, bowling could be next to join the flourishing sports betting industry.
The confluence of the sport's expanding popularity and the rapid ascendance of legal sports betting across the United States could mean the timing is perfect for bowling to get involved.
Since interest in most sports peak in the postseason and the PBA playoffs were originally scheduled to be going on right about now, perhaps there's no better time to discuss how the league can continue growing the game.
Is Pro Bowling Ready To Embrace Sports Betting?
Professional bowling fits the bill of a sport ready-made for legalized betting and its sanctioning body is taking notice, with its sights set on possibly becoming a sport in which the public can wager on.
"The PBA has been tracking the movement towards legalizing betting in America with great interest," PBA COO Lev Ekster said to BonusSeeker.com. "We have been speaking with experts on betting and educating our organization as to how to approach this coming opportunity effectively and responsibly."
There is no exact timetable for the addition of ten-pin bowling at online sportsbooks but if and when it does happen, it has the potential to provide a wide variety of options.
The nature of the game allows for easy betting on the winner and loser of a match, whether it be individuals or teams competing. There's also an ability to break things down into more specific markets thanks to the explosion of online betting and all the additional betting options that make it far superior to a land-based sportsbook.
The online component is responsible for the growing number of alternative betting options such as props. There are already over 20 states with active legislation built around legal sports betting and 11 of those have some form of mobile wagering, which opens up a Pandora's box of new markets.
Scores and results from individual games, the total number of strikes or spares thrown in a game or match, and the result of a single ball are just a few of the potential PBA bowling betting options that come to mind.
The PBA Is Already A Step Ahead
The visibility of the PBA due to its multi-year television deal with Fox Sports already puts it in a different stratosphere than most other 'niche' sports that bowling is often categorized with.
The sport already has an entrenched fanbase in the U.S. and is in the process of experiencing exponential growth in recent years as more people have access to live professional bowling events than at any point in recent history.
In March 2018, Fox Sports acquired the television rights of PBA Tour events from 2019 through 2022. According to the terms of the agreement, the PBA received 58 hours of programming and 29 events. This compares favorably to the league's previous partnership in 2017-18, which came with 17 competitions and 30 hours of coverage on ESPN and ESPN2.
The league is also featured as part of the bowing coverage on another major cable channel in CBS Sports Network, which carries select PWBA Tour events and is under contract to air the PBA Tour Finals through 2022.
PBA Bowling TV Ratings Spike
Bowling has a relevant and deep-rooted history in the world of pro sports, having been on television for well over 50 years. That popularity from decades past is something the PBA is hoping to recapture, and the league appears to be well on its way.
Even without the option of legalized betting on bowling events, the PBA has experienced a dramatic revitalization recently and an increase in viewership thanks to the TV deal.
According to figures from Nielsen, the 2019 PBA Tournament Of Champions (TOC) delivered 1,131,000 viewers on Sunday, February 10 while airing on FOX. The numbers represented a 75 percent increase over the previous year, but the PBA was just getting started.
The 2020 TOC saw PBA viewership increase yet again, this time to 1,464,000, ranking the event as the most-watched non-NFL adjacent bowling telecast since 2010.
Despite a halt in momentum with the start of 2020 PBA Playoffs being postponed due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the evidence has already shown that the sport's star is reascending in terms of popularity.
PBA Bowling Betting Could Add To Fan Experience
Consider the way fans of so many sports get to take in the action, easily accessing games on television with the option of opening a sportsbook app and wagering on what's going on right in front of them.
The addition of bowling to the betting board would allow this sizeable and growing group of hardcore fans to interact with the sport in a way they couldn't before, and it's something the PBA has already thought plenty about.
"We are looking forward to how, over time, this can add to our fans' engagement and enjoyment of this great sport," Ekster explained. "We think, if done properly and with an emphasis on assuring the integrity of the sport, it has the potential to add a lot of value for our fans."
It's not as if only the largest leagues that people can wager on, either. In today's age, we are seeing sports from around the world such as cycling, darts, table tennis, and cricket as viable betting options at sportsbooks in New Jersey, and other states such as Pennsylvania and Indiana.
Knowing this, one can't help but believe in the potential of a domestic sport with an easy-to-understand scoring system, a loyal fanbase, and a media deal that allows it to be seen by the masses.