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The Party’s On!

Sports betting continues to spread across the U.S. as suppliers fight for market share

The Party’s On!

Pop the champagne. Disperse party hats. Sports betting resembles the gala effect of an endless New Year’s Eve marathon.

This one will extend beyond January 1, officially launching a new-age Roaring ’20s for a hot industry newcomer. Sports wagering has dwarfed expectations, gracing casino balance sheets and state government coffers with visions of upside.

And the gaming industry says pour another drink.

Fever-pitched enthusiasm greets historic milestones recently celebrated in New Jersey and Nevada. The states combined to handle more than $1 billion in wagers for the first month ever. Numbers may spike higher in the near term with pro football and basketball schedules as the sports-betting train finds more steam.


Foundation for Success

There are reasons American states trip over each other racing to enact sports-betting legalization. Revenues far exceed expectations because of product enhancements and human nature.

On the technology side, mobile capability has been an industry godsend, providing bettors with hand-held sportsbooks.

In the pragmatic realm, the rarely discussed element of trust plays a monumental role in the success of sports betting. Major gambling tickets spring from players once hindered by the PASPA era’s illegal operations. Players no longer worry about being stiffed by a bookie. They know they’ll be paid by legal operators. These factors have unleashed bets never seen during the PASPA age.

One FanDuel player hit a 15-team money-line parlay last month that returned more than $229,000 on a bet of $200. A bookie would not have been entrusted with that, and scores of wagers in this category weren’t even imagined by those pushing legal sports betting.

Companies that service this market observe an era they will relish for decades.


Kambi Clicking

Kambi is a provider of premium sports betting services to licensed B2C gaming operators. Its services encompass a broad offering from front-end user interface to odds compiling, customer intelligence and risk management, built on an in-house developed software platform. Its customers include Penn National Gaming, Rush Street Interactive, Kindred Group, 888, Paf, Televisa, LeoVegas, Mr Green and Napoleon Games.

In 2019, Kambi sizzled. The company was well-stocked from an infrastructure standpoint, ready to pounce on opportunities in the post-PASPA U.S. market. Its recollection of the year resembles a recap of a championship season.

“Our landmark early customer signings in the U.S. with operators including DraftKings, Rush Street and Parx gave us a great deal of momentum; 2019 was a story of keeping that momentum up and continuing to educate the market on how we’re the clear choice to springboard visionary sportsbooks,” says Max Meltzer, Kambi chief commercial officer.

“We signed a number of landmark deals while empowering our existing partners to differentiate—enabling them to do so in a manner where they can build their own IP on top of our powerful APIs and drive growth across multiple states,” he says. “We signed the largest deal of its kind in the U.S., becoming the sportsbook provider for Penn National, which operates land-based properties in 19 states. We also signed JACK Entertainment, one of the top casino operators in Ohio, which is a very exciting state for 2020.

“We’re also very proud of the way the tribal community has embraced Kambi and our integrity-first approach, signing two excellent partnerships with Mohegan Sun and Seneca Gaming Corp.”

Meltzer says the pace of regulation in the United States caught some operators and suppliers “a little on the back foot. They have therefore needed to channel much of their time and resources into simply getting their tech stack to a compliant place.” Once they have permission to operate, Kambi can get them in the game quickly, a major consideration if it occurs during the lucrative NFL season.

Meltzer says in-game wagering in the U.S. is picking up, especially via basketball and tennis. Football doesn’t have the same results because bettors have all week to place their wagers, he says. The myriad of NFL prop-betting options, roughly 200 per game, more than 2,000 in an NFL weekly slate of games, may be enough to satisfy bettors before the game.

Meltzer touts Bet Builder and Multi-Builder as vehicles to entice bettors.

“We developed our Bet Builder product to give players an even more engaging sports betting experience,” he says. “We’ve further iterated on this concept to launch the Kambi Multi-Builder. Developed to give players a unique level of control over their sports betting experience, the feature enables them to combine several in- event combinations across multiple events and sports into a single bet for the first time.

“This gives players a new level of freedom to build unique bets with unlimited possibilities, while also driving enhanced margins and retention for our partners.”

Throughout the industry, officials celebrate the emerging sports-betting world. It continues to surpass expectations and provide magical new wrinkles.


Top of their Game

IGT PlaySports marks the company’s position as a U.S. market leader for flexible B2B sports betting platform technology, high-performance hardware options and turnkey business solutions. The company has been providing sports betting solutions for more than 10 years in Europe, Latin America and Asia, and processed more than $12 billion in 2018 sports wagers.

It was quite ready to accommodate the United States market, a fact lauded by Charles Cohen, PlayDigital vice president, sports betting.

“IGT is well-positioned in the U.S. sports betting market,” Cohen says. “The PlaySports solution is powering some of the most successful, high-volume sports betting operations in the U.S. and we have the technology, expertise and relationships to continue expanding our footprint.

“IGT’s CrystalBetting Terminal is just now hitting casino floors, and it offers a VIP sports betting experience unlike anything previously seen in the U.S. The coming year will be exciting for IGT PlaySports, and we look forward to helping more of our customers get in the game and experience all the amazing benefits of adding sports betting to their current offerings.”

The sector has made a major leap within the IGT hierarchy.

Cohen says the company is as serious about sports betting in the United States as it is about lottery, gaming and systems. IGT has made significant investments and obtained complete commitment from within all levels of the company, Cohen adds. The company’s range includes state lottery to multi-state operators and most points in between.

Within the PlaySports umbrella, he touts the PlaySportsPod and PlaySports Bank Pod features, with three intuitive self-service betting kiosks topped with high-definition multimedia displays that can showcase a range of content including live sporting events, betting odds, line and game day feeds. The PlaySports Bank is designed to go against a wall, while the PlaySports Pod can be deployed in a stand-alone setting.

“The PlaySports Pod and PlaySports Bank are about choice—providing our customers with choice for how and where they offer sports betting to their patrons,” he indicates. “These two hardware configurations can be a property’s entire sportsbook, or they can augment an existing offering by simply extending sports betting to another part of a resort such as a casino, restaurant or lounge.

“I don’t view the various self-service options as competition to each other, just more choices and convenience for the player. A sports fan who places a wager on a smartphone often has different expectations of the experience than a player who wagers at a retail counter or via a PlaySports kiosk.”

These products are essentially “sportsbooks in a box,” offering all the functionality of a retail sportsbook lounge. The height of the product helps draw players to the hardware, and the displays clearly communicate that the devices are sports betting destinations.

“With convenience-driven consumers, the experience is critical,” Cohen says, “and we’re confident in the quality of the sports betting experiences all our technology delivers. The kiosks within these hardware configurations are the same kiosks being leveraged by some of the most successful sports betting operations in the U.S.”

“The PlaySports Pod and PlaySports Bank are both self-service sports betting peripherals, as is the PlaySports Pad,” Cohen adds. “They are ideal for different types of players in different scenarios. The same is true of the VIP CrystalBetting Terminal that we’ve developed. When an operator deploys a combination of these technologies, the PlaySports platform will enable a seamless player experience with real-time data updates across devices and channels.”

Cohen considers the PlaySports Bank and PlaySports Pod ideal for small- to mid-sized casinos eager to participate in the U.S. sports betting market but not in a position to make significant capital or floors pace investments.


Open Season

For Scientific Games, the hits keep on coming.

The company provides sports betting technology and services to global regulated markets through its Digital Sports Betting and Lottery groups. A global corporation with a rich history in betting, lottery, and responsible gaming initiatives, the company is uniquely positioned to provide operators with its world-class OpenSports solution. Scientific Games has provided sports betting solutions in countries around the world since 1998 both through its Lottery group and OpenBet, which Scientific Games acquired in 2018.

In 2019, the company launched OpenSports, a full suite of sports betting solutions that allow customers to mix and match technologies that suit their sportsbook needs. OpenSports is live with customers in six regulated states with more on the way.

In 2020, Scientific Games will continue to keenly focus on launching in new markets across the globe, including new U.S. states as they regulate sports betting, officials say.

Keith O’Loughlin, SVP sportsbook and platforms for Scientific Games, is bullish on the direction of the sector.

“It’s ever-changing, but in the best possible way,” he says. “Sports betting is on the rise, and the general dynamic is one of excitement and growth. In 2019, I think the launch of sportsbooks in multiple states was one of the most pivotal developments, which led—and continues to lead—to globalization of sports that were once more regional.

“American football, for example, is making waves globally in ways it’s never done before, reaching new international audiences. Tennis is growing in popularity, too. I expect that trend to continue in both ways, with sports making their way to new demographics, using betting as a vehicle to get there.”

Scientific Games plays multiple roles in this formation.

“We’re one of the world’s leading suppliers, so we’re powering a lot of sports betting growth through our customers,” he asserts. “We’re exceeding market needs by giving operators a full-stack solution that includes components and services they can take or leave as needed. So instead of our historical ‘one size fits all’ model, we’ve broken down our product into its components and are now offering those individually.

“In a market where regulations, operators and bettors differ greatly, this is the ideal approach because it empowers us to bring sports betting to any type of partner who wants to make a splash in the industry.”

O’Loughlin considers the company’s wide-ranging service menu a strong market presence.

“Under the OpenSports banner, we offer OpenEngage, our digital front-end solution designed to fit the needs of the U.S. market. It includes multiple features that allow bettors to take full advantage of the diverse betting options available.

“Match HQ is my personal favorite part of this product family. We launched it earlier this year and it’s been very successful, a line of scoreboards to give bettors real-time data that helps inform betting decisions. The data, displayed succinctly in a scoreboard widget, includes current score, play-by-play animations, commentary, and in-play team and player statistics.”

O’Loughlin says the Match HQ rollout has seen the company’s partners benefit from immediate uptake in betting volumes due to the enhanced betting experience. There was more than 25 percent increase on in-play NHL bets in Week 1 of product rollout, moving up to a 33 percent increase in Week 2, according to O’Loughlin. Across all sports, in-play betting rose by 15 percent by Week 2 of Match HQ being made available to players.

O’Loughlin says operators have several ways to utilize the product and technology.

“Match HQ is a front-end widget within our portfolio that enhances the user experience. The operator uses it as part of a sports betting integration and offers it to players on the front-end user interface. For operators, it’s a revenue driver because it gives players more reason to explore the app and place bets based on the information available to them.

“The gambler would use the Match HQ widget as a second screen during his viewing of any given game or match. It gives him access to granular real-time stats and play-by-play tracking.”

What’s the magic of Match HQ?

“It brings in-play betting to the forefront of the sports betting experience,” O’Loughlin maintains. “It amps up the excitement of any given game or match by giving bettors a prime selection of data on which they can make their betting decision. It’s a top-tier curated content portal that gives sports betting enthusiasts one-touch access to crucial information.”

Casino Connection Sports Editor Dave Bontempo is an award-winning sports writer and broadcaster who calls boxing matches all over the world. He has covered the Philadelphia Flyers in the playoffs, as well as numerous PGA, LPGA and Seniors Golf Tour events, and co-hosted the Casino Connection television program with Publisher Roger Gros.