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The great PASPA repeal: America braces itself for the biggest Brit invasion since the 1960s

Richard Thorp, Business Development Director at FSB, unpacks how US operators can stave off the transatlantic assault of Britain’s best bookmakers if they choose their suppliers wisely for sports betting’s grandest repeal.

When Oscar Wilde wrote that Britain and the United States were two countries separated by a common language, he probably didn’t envisage sports betting getting in the way too. Yet with the likely repeal of PASPA by the Supreme Court in the coming weeks, America is bracing itself for the biggest Brit invasion since the 1960’s. Only this time, it’s the bookies, not the Beatles.

However, if the U.S. betting ban is seen as unconstitutional and overturned in the defining case of New Jersey versus PASPA, it won’t be as easy as some beefy British bullies turning up in a new playground to plunder the lunch money of various unsuspecting US companies. That said, the Beatles cracked America with the single “I Want to Hold Your Hand”, and it could be a similar strategy of companionship which leads to the expertise of various UK firms being recruited by stateside outfits.

The Stars Group, of course, has just bought Sky Bet for a jaw-dropping $4.7 billion, while SG Digital acquired leading sportsbook platform provider OpenBet last year. So, the hand-holding partnerships are as obvious as they are potentially diverse for both operators and suppliers.

Some UK operators already have their boots on the ground for Uncle Sam, though. Paddy Power Betfair (in 2009) and William Hill (in 2012) respectively used horse racing and sportsbook acquisition to sow the seeds to a solid base from Nevada to New Jersey. Racetracks (for example, Monmouth Park in New Jersey) could be quickly converted into sportsbook sites when reform comes, and the received wisdom is that Hills’ and PPB’s ascension to the throne will be facilitated as a result.

However, with so much state-by-state uncertainty remaining, the best their foundations and existing relationships afford them is a helpful head-start on the field. U.S. companies, however, could conceivably supersede and surpass those gains with their native infrastructures and business relationships, naturally allied to the right betting partner.

Essentially, the U.S. remains a greenfield land of opportunity where everyone will have to make it up as they go along to some significant degree. Giants such as Wynn Resorts and their Las Vegas titan-hood will demand their slice of the action and won’t take kindly to the advance of European cowboys, who must guard against complacency lest they be exposed as all product and no distribution.

After all, stateside self-interest and inevitable protectionism won’t happily hand over the keys to their untapped gambling kingdom, and legislators are always likely to favour domestic operators (via their recognised casino and racecourse gateways) over transatlantic marauders.

Which brings us back to that spirit of cooperation whereby protagonists like Wynn should seek to hire the expertise of established professionals, rather than waste valuable time fumbling around in the sports-betting darkness for their own solution.

In a market potentially valued in excess of $10 billion, and around 20 states already on the record for legalising gambling, it’s well worth asking for the dance. Arguably, this should actually favour an influx of suppliers over operators because the winners of this American talent pageant will be chosen for their brains, not their corporate aesthetics.

To which end, FSB’s leading sportsbook platform has already partnered with Sport Analytics and Data Corp to power FastPick.com, an easy-access take on Daily Fantasy Sports, across New Jersey. FastPick is a bespoke product for Resorts Digital Gaming, for whom FSB created the underlying sportsbook structure, making them the first U.S. casino to formally offer a fantasy sports-style game. And because casinos are likely the first port of call from which lawmakers will sanction sportsbook expansion, this association is key.

Indeed, when it comes to migrating a sophisticated casino clientele over to sports betting, FSB are well versed – having already rolled out a first EPOS system for Manila’s flagship Okada Casino Resort, featuring self-service betting terminals and hand-held devices. These land-based solutions now complement our existing online ones (with the likes of Genting Group) where FSB’s pioneering tech is ably backed up by Paddy Power Betfair’s trading team.

Designing the user experience to meet the rising demands of mobile and live betting, as well as aggregating the industry’s best data-feeds, will be central to any supplier remaining positively delineated from the crowd. U.S. operators hold the front-end and distribution model through the aforementioned casino, poker room and racetrack sites.

It’s up to suppliers to bring the most adaptable back-end engine to drive that front-end – and multiple white-label skins will be up for grabs if that flexibility of tech and smart APIs (i.e. tailoring the platform organically to the brand, not merely bolting on a cover) is there.

Consequently, chief amongst our concerns is ensuring that our next-generation architecture complies with the full suite of U.S. platform regulations, which will in turn allow us the steal a march on those lazily tying up with existing New Jersey platforms, whose infrastructures date by to the turn of the millennium. Right from the outset, FSB took the decision to only ever operate in regulated markets – leaving the black markets to our competitors.

However, we were safe in the knowledge that fostering a reputation as a trusted provider for our partners and regulators would ultimately afford us the opportunity to jump to the front of the queue whenever stringent compliance and integrity tests came knocking. And upcoming U.S. regulation, of course, will present the sternest test so far.

So, if U.S. operators want to beat back the Brits, it’s imperative that they move quickly and choose their suppliers wisely. The post-PASPA scene which US legislators set still has many unanswered questions – for one, will the advertising of gambling be permitted.

Therefore, in a landscape of irresistible forces and immovable objects, it could prove a stop-start process. Adaptability and patience should be your watchwords. When you want to work fast, think slow.