Don Best Sports is one of the high profile gaming organisations appearing at this month’s GiGse, which is being held at the Marriot Marquis Marina, San Diego, 26th – 28th April. The company’s president, Benjie Cherniak, provides insight on the status of sports betting in the United States and the main obstacles it has to overcome.
What do you think is the biggest obstacle to overcome with progress on sports betting?
The biggest obstacles remain State and Federal legislative barriers. We also see continued resistance both politically and from some of the professional leagues themselves.
While the leagues do not buy into the legislative approach of the Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act of 1992 (PASPA), they and other vested entities are keen on looking to formulate a strategy that would afford them a piece of the revenue stream while offering integrity protections. We might then see doors opening sooner on a state by state, if not Federal basis. One may not anticipate such a move in the immediate future, mired as it is in (federal) restrictions currently and the fact that the new US government and Attorney General likely do not lean favourably towards a federal approach.
However, if and when the leagues mobilize, then their leverage may prove to be the breakthrough (as with DFS). Sports wagering is a multi-billion dollar industry in America today (and worth vastly more globally), but the leagues as well as state and local governments, by and large, do not benefit in any way from this reality.
How are you positioning yourselves in the Sports Betting mix?
Don Best Sports has always been the recognized 'go to' provider and pricing specialist for North American odds markets to operators. Because of the aforementioned barriers, our existing customer base largely resides outsides of the US.
Our expansion into proprietary pre-match and in-play managed pricing has been driven by increasing interest in US sports amongst European, Asian, and Latin American audiences and operators - with continuing growth year on year. In the UK people like to bet on the NFL and we see regional interest for NHL in the Scandics and Eastern Europe, while NBA popularity is peaking, not just across all of Europe, but all of Asia as well.
Expanded live TV coverage and video streams offered by operators have had a major impact on this success and generally the availability and timing of games is generally beneficial - coming often after football/soccer events in Europe, or in the afternoons in Australia for example. It is also important to highlight that US sports are considered premium events that are increasingly heavily marketed. It's more fun to bet on a big NBA or NFL game - or the recent NCAA March Madness tournament - than say, 2nd tier soccer events.
US sports revenues vary depending on operator and territory. In Australia, US sports like NBA and NFL are now the top performing sports turnover wise (after say, horseracing) for commercial and operational reasons (no product fees for example and good TV times). Globally, we see NBA as the second most popular sport in betting terms, highlighted by massive popularity across Asia and China in particular. We see operators quoting anywhere from 5% to 40% of turnover for US sports. During summer months without Olympics or World Cups for example, MLB might generate impressive turnover for operators who promote the sport, as punters find it to be immersive and friendly for in-play wagering.
What expertise can you offer to make progress with Sports Betting in the USA?
Don Best is able to support partners with strategic insights as to what a comprehensive sports betting environment in America might look like. We live and breathe US sports - the future driver of potential revenue growth in the US.
Through our operator partner network, we have cut our teeth in the highly regulated European space. The company can bring back that knowledge and apply it to any eventual opening up Stateside. Our experience on the Event Integrity side of things - and our wide reaching partnerships with technology platforms, professional sports leagues, and respected operators - ensure we can offer comfort and expertise as to 'best practice' strategies and solutions. This allows us to advise parties as to how to not only grow their businesses - but also protect them and the sports we love.
Critically, we are an outward-looking American company based in Las Vegas, yet at the heart of the global industry.
What do you think the timeline will be with regards to sports betting in the USA?
Well, this is the million dollar question isn't it?
One could argue that the legalization of DFS in many states has effectively kick-started a back-door move towards the regulation of what is arguably a 'soft' betting product, mixing skill and straight-up chance.
It remains difficult to estimate an accurate timeline, especially as sports betting would most likely be rolled out on a state-by-state basis. What is clear though is that after years in the dark ages, the tide is finally shifting. Media companies that used to shy away from betting related topics are now posting betting lines on their websites and speaking openly about points reads on their TV broadcasts.
Professional sports leagues such as the NBA and MLB are calling for legislation. And following on heels of the NHL, the NFL has voted to move an established franchise of theirs to Las Vegas, a development that would have been viewed as inconceivable as little as five years ago.
It will be interesting to assess these and other topics further at the GIGSE event with our specialist panel so as to garner a broader market and legislative view. See you there!
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