When it comes to sports betting, 2021 will be remembered as the year professional teams got licenses to operate sportsbooks and an industry panel said Wednesday they see that trend growing in the future.
The two-day SBC Digital North America kicked off with a discussion on the role professional sports organizations and leagues play in the betting ecosystem — an issue that gained national attention in May when the owner of the NBA’s Washington Wizards and NHL’s Washington Capitals, as well as the Capital One Arena in Washington, D.C., where they play, opened the nation’s first arena sportsbook operated by William Hill. The book doesn’t share betting revenues with the teams.
That came on the heels of NASCAR doing a soft launch in April as part of its deal with WynnBET, in which there will be betting lounges at Martinsville Speedway and Richmond Raceway, both in Virginia. The deal includes live data feeds that allow the sportsbook to post in-race odds.
The District of Columbia and Illinois were among the first jurisdictions to allow sportsbooks within sports facilities, according to Joseph Solosky, managing director of sports betting for NASCAR, speaking during the panel discussion. But Arizona is the first state that’s given teams and leagues direct licenses. The racing circuit will be partnering with an operator for a round-the-clock sportsbook at Phoenix International Raceway, in addition to a mobile license, Solosky said.
Deals have already been announced between Caesars Entertainment and Arizona Diamondbacks for mobile betting and both are opening a sportsbook adjacent to Chase Field. DraftKings is building a sportsbook at the TPC Scottsdale golf course as part of a deal with the PGA Tour.
“It’s really exciting for us and it’s a large revenue opportunity,” Solosky said of this and future opportunities across the country. “These licenses are really valuable to all operators, depending on the scarcity in the state. There’s a lot of discussion in Ohio about teams and leagues getting licenses there. The conversation is coming up in North Carolina as well. I think now that it’s becoming a trend. You’ll see more states and more teams and leagues lobby to be involved in the conversation when states are legislating.”
Kuljeet Sindhar, senior director for international fantasy and gaming for the NBA, said the league believes that as “creators of the competition,” it should be able to participate and profit from betting markets they help create. The NBA has pushed for an integrity fee that would give it a cut of the betting handle.
“We have lobbied in state legislatures and haven’t been successful in codifying that, but we have achieved that objective through our commercial agreements (with sports betting companies),” Sindhar said.
The NFL has taken a different stance on directly benefiting from betting, but Jeff Fernandez, vice president of business development and ventures with the New York Jets, said there’s always potential for that to change in the future.
The NFL currently permits deals between teams and operators in the betting space related to betting-account acquisitions and deposit programs, Fernandez said.
“That’s it. Neither clubs nor the NFL can benefit from a true affiliate perspective on bets wagered or percentage of net revenue,” Fernandez said. “You don’t want a Carolina Panthers fan feeling the club is profiting from a bet he made on the team and the team lost.”
Fernandez said if the strategy is done right with the right operators, there’s a “tremendous upside” for clubs and the NFL to benefit from an acceptable affiliate-marketing program. In April, the NFL struck a deal with Caesars, DraftKings, and FanDuel as part of its first wave of betting marketing partnerships.
Fernandez said fans should ultimately expect to see live streaming of games with live betting odds on the same platform. He also sees the potential of sports leagues and teams taking a more active role in the betting landscape “if it’s done in the right way. You can see the potential for more to be done, but it has to be done in the right way with the right partner, while retaining the integrity and brand reputation.”
Randy Haynes, a director and consultant with sports betting technology provider Miomni, warned teams and leagues, however, to be careful. He based his admonition on what’s happening in Europe, where there’s been blowback over the inundation of sports betting marketing and partnerships. He said it’s important to respect the audience.
Sindhar, who’s British, said they’ve been watching what’s happening in Europe and are sensitive to the issue.
“We take that very seriously and it’s a focal point for us to understand what’s happening in those specific markets and act accordingly,” Sindhar said. “One of the steps we have taken is we don’t do any deal or accept any partnership that is purely advertising. They are always holistic about the authentic NBA experience.”
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