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Sportradar’s Neale Deeley: The quest for a legal, protected and competitive US market

Sportradar’s Neale Deeley spoke to SBC News about the potential of a legalised sports betting market in the US, which he says has been both “overestimated” in terms of how quickly it can all become real, and “underestimated” in relation to the size of each state.

For example, he notes that people know about California’s huge economy, but don’t realise that small states such as Mississippi have a $3 billion casino industry, which is sizable in world market terms.

Deeley, who predicted that “some will guess right, and some will guess wrong” on what it takes to be successful in the new US market, also spoke about the integrity fee, the future of grey market activity, the appetite for statistics-led markets and the expected development of the live betting scene.

SBC: What is your stance on the so-called integrity fee? What is the compromise which protects the value of the leagues but would enable operators to compete in offshore markets?

ND: It’s all about whether or not there is a competitive offer on the onshore market vs the offshore market. Everything has to be taken into context as a whole, not in isolation. For me, the idea that a single component is what pushes it over the edge is a bit of a fallacy.

From a punters’ point of view, they just see the odds, so if there is a big differential between the onshore and the offshore, largely because of costs imposed by the state, then the nature of the beast is that people will still gravitate towards the offshore.

Some of this will be dragged back by the fact the ‘onshores’ are legitimate and offer better protection to players, as well as better banking and marketing facilities – all of these things will help drag the players back onshore, but a big price differential will pull the opposite way.

Ultimately, the leagues are part of the ecosystem of sports in the US, and ultimately sports betting in the US. Therefore, they should get some form of compensation.

There are a number of ways the leagues can receive value from legalized betting – some direct, like the integrity fee, or some indirect, like sponsorship deals with betting operators. The leagues bring value to the table and they should be compensated. The mechanism is for legislators to work out.

SBC: Gazing into your crystal ball, how long do you think it will be before much of the illegal betting activity is eliminated?

ND: If there is a legal, protected and competitive offer, then a substantial portion of the grey market would dry up quickly, probably within a matter of months, because the incentive and motivation to go offshore wouldn’t be there. And the risks associated with going offshore would be removed.

Does everybody do this day one? Of course not, because people have habits and infrastructure already setup. It won’t eradicate it, nothing ever does – it certainly won’t be flicking a switch to see everything become legal on day one, but I can’t see it being a lengthy process.

SBC: US sports consumers are synonymous with a strong appetite for statistics; how important is it that sports betting products meet this demand?

ND: There’s two schools of thought on that. One is if you look at the offshore books, they don’t provide a huge amount of that information, however that’s against the backdrop that no one has specifically been developing a product for the US market. But yes, I do think that US sports lend themselves more to player props and betting on statistics-led markets.

Therefore, anyone that doesn’t offer a rounded product that includes the kind of information that consumers want is missing a trick. The sports are geared up for the stats, so player props markets are going to be more developed and have more of an impact than they do on European sports.

SBC: Do you think that the request a bet type product will ultimately be a better fit with the US?

ND: There’s certainly an appetite there for that kind of bet type. People do a lot more research and the games are more structured. US punters are going to bet on US sports, that’s sort of given, and the sports are more geared around that kind of analysis. So, it’s a simple conclusion to make that they will also be betting on that kind of analysis.

SBC: What do you expect the live betting scene to look like in the new US market?

ND: Most of the bills that are going through legislation in the US today allow live betting. We all know, from our experience around the world, the huge impact that live betting has had in terms of player and fan engagement. I can’t see the US being any different in that respect.

Live betting, for me, takes two different forms anyway. Those that wait to see if the team showed up or wait for a price movement and make their bet on the final outcome, and those that are looking to make multiple bets throughout a game to keep their interest piqued.

Either way, I expect it to be both vibrant, and as important as it is in any other established market.

Neale Deeley – Sportradar – VP Sales, Gaming, US