SCOTUS repeal of PASPA federal laws has triggered a frenzy for European enterprises seeking to enter and develop initial services for the liberalised US sports betting market.
However, in its current context, US gambling remains a segregated and protectionist market for new incumbents.
Presenting the ‘US Opportunities Panel’ at the 2018 Betting on Sports Conference, moderator David Sargeant (iGaming Ideas) ponders “just how many players can get a slice of the US pie? Since let’s face it, it’s the reason why we are all here today!”.
Opening discussions, Sargeant asks the panel to outline what they believe are real hurdles which will have to be overcome in order for new incumbents to achieve ‘true market access’?
Keith O’Loughlin, SVP, Sportsbook Platforms at SG Digital details that whilst regulatory restrictions dominate current discussions, stakeholders should focus on developing real US sports propositions.
“Platform providers will overcome regulatory demands. However, more importantly, I think that for Europeans a re-engineering of their thinking is required at various levels. I would advise no-one to take a ‘copy & paste’ approach to servicing US sports consumers, that simply won’t stand a chance.”
“Nobody is going at it alone, as we see early partnerships develop. However, in my opinion, true market access will be granted to that company which overcomes US sports cultural differences. Let’s see who can deliver that entertainment factor US audiences always desire.”
Offering an on the ground perspective, Kresimir Spajic SVP of online gaming at Hard Rock International agrees with O’Loughlin, detailing that the ‘nature of US casino enterprises is wholly different’ to what has ever been serviced at a European retail level.
“For us at Hard Rock, we are first and foremost an entertainment and lifestyle company. We have a strong reputation for delivering unique customer experiences and engagements through our numerous verticals, hotel, restaurants and entertainment shows, we are not simply a bricks and mortar casino”.
“Europeans may have the technological advantage, but can they translate and package the true US entertainment experience, that the market and its consumers require. In this respect, the US betting market will test the omni-channel and seamless technology output of industry suppliers ”.
Detailing digital opportunities, Sargeant asks the panel whether current US betting restrictions limit the market to simply developing ‘skin propositions’ (white labels), “Can European incumbents be able to really showcase their digital strengthens?”
Observing US entry point engagements Michael Brady Co-Founder of Bede Gaming details concerns“Looking at New Jersey, I think that we might have a case of history repeating itself. You have European operators demonstrating operational excellence in their home markets.
However, these operators are being asked to operate ‘skins’ under established incumbents’ licences, which down the line can lead to an inherent conflict between the operator vs licensee, dragging partnerships down as we have seen in Europe.”
Drawing discussions towards an end, Sargeant asks the panel whether European-made betting products can engage with US Sports audiences or do they need to be ‘Americanised’?
Las Vegas betting veteran Benjie Cherniak, President & CEO, Don Best Sports gives a frank answer “Yes, and I can give you plenty of examples of how you don’t do it. I was in New Jersey, during a Monday Night Football game, and the betting app I had downloaded was pushing its customers towards European cycling!
Furthermore, I have seen betting apps that are stacked with European Soccer markets but feature almost no US sports inventory, so these products offer no customer engagement. I won’t judge the sportsbooks on their mobile products as its still early, but let just say there is a long road towards improving things”.