The practice of sports betting, or gambling in general, is not something we typically associate with Apple. There has simply been no meaningful overlap between the two topics, save for a brief mention last fall that the Apple Card would not support gambling chips. Really, there was never any reason to consider that it would; gambling, particularly of a digital nature, just isn’t a big enough part of U.S. culture to be on Apple’s radar. However, this appears to be changing, and doing so rapidly enough that it’s suddenly worth considering if the world’s biggest tech company might get in on the action.
In 2018, the Supreme Court famously ruled to overturn what was effectively a nationwide ban on legal online betting practices. This ruling subsequently gave state governments every right to enable such practices, through the proper legislation and regulation efforts, and seemingly overnight New Jersey had high-volume betting businesses up and running. Now, given its history of casino practice, New Jersey may have been particularly well suited to support such businesses upon the adoption of new legislation, so in a sense this wasn’t surprising. What matters more is that the emerging betting economy in New Jersey has been enough of a success to inspire several other states to pursue similar developments.
At first it seemed as if those states would primarily be those clustered near New Jersey on the East Coast, and perhaps known to be more liberal. Delaware, Maryland, New York, and Connecticut quickly emerged as some states debating new gambling legislation, for instance, and Pennsylvania became one of the first early adopters following New Jersey. Since those early developments though, it’s become clear that this is not merely going to be a trend in East Coast states with progressive reputations.
Maybe the biggest signal of a more nationwide spread was the fairly recent introduction of online sports betting in Indiana – a Midwestern state with a somewhat more conservative reputation. As of this year, sports betting is now allowed in Indiana both at regulated in-person sporstbooks and via licensed online operators (including DraftKings Sportsbook, an evolution of the DraftKings daily fantasy service that’s already becoming a leading name in U.S. betting). Functionally, Indiana is just one more state on board. But betting’s progress in this state (as well as in Iowa) seems to be indicative that geography and political leanings might not matter in this conversation. Betting businesses appear to be bound for near-total access to the United States, perhaps within just a few more years.
Now, we mentioned the DraftKings Sportsbook specifically to point out that there are already popular services in the online betting arena. Undoubtedly, by the time a majority of Americans have access to legal betting, there will be some leading apps in the industry. The speculation here, however, is that an Apple option could conceivably be among them.
If that sounds like a reach, or a random assertion, think for a moment about big categories of mobile activity: access to music, access to e-books, calendars, note-taking, document management, digital spending…. Each category contains a multitude of options, but there’s also a default, in-house Apple option for each one. When a new mobile phenomenon comes around, too, Apple tends to be quick to adapt. Consider podcasting, for instance, which is no longer brand new, but which Apple effectively helped start. As one look at the best podcasting apps stated, the Apple Podcasts app is “historically important to the medium, because for most casual listeners with iPhones, it was likely their introduction to the wide universe of podcasts.” This is a perfectly valid statement – despite the fact that the app is not considered to be particularly good.
When you think of it this way, considering Apple’s clear tendency to present its own apps in association with major mobile trends or essential mobile functions, the idea of an Apple sports betting app begins to seem more likely. That doesn’t mean it will definitely happen, but don’t be surprised if something along the lines of “Apple Betting” or “Apple Bookie” emerges in the next few years.