Excitement of In-Game Wagering and Sports Betting Continues to Rise
In September of this year, I was invited to attend a 2-day intensive program covering the basics of sports betting from the UNLV International Center for Gaming Regulation in Las Vegas, Nevada. The program has been developed for legislators, policy makers, tribal and state government officials, and gaming regulators who need tactical learning to prepare for future opportunities in sports betting.
As a professional sports handicapper, bettor and media member, I was much more informed with an understanding of sports betting, but the program offered more insight into the history of sports wagering, federal sports wagering laws, sports integrity and compliance issues, and how Nevada does sports wagering. I'm familiar with the many types of sports wagers which was covered for the more than 50 people in attendance, along with account wagering, risk management and layoff wagering and the impact of off-shore sports wagering and technology. Daily fantasy sports (DFS) was also covered and the legal discussions were helpful in understanding and preparing for the legalized sports betting topics that were to be presented and discussed at the Global Gaming Expo which I attend annually in Las Vegas.
All of this was insightful and useful information leading into the Supreme Court hearing Dec. 4, Christie vs. NCAA, in which the state of New Jersey is attempting to overturn a lower court's ruling that blocked an attempt to legalize sports betting in the Garden State. The case to overturn the Professional Amateur Sports Protection Act, and show that PASPA is unconstitutional, went very well for New Jersey according to many legal experts, some of who were in attendance during the oral arguments to the Supreme Court Justices.
As the decisions are ruled upon by the Supreme Court in the first half of 2018, the impact on sports betting in America will be significant if PASPA is repealed to any extent, and no less than 20 states are ready with legislation to implement legalized sports betting.
While legalized sports betting may be ready to explode in the United States, there is another type of sports wagering or 'trading' that has already been growing in popularity. And it's not just mobile wagering that is offered to people within the state limits of Nevada. The popularity of in-game wagering (trading, in-play wagering, live betting) started nearly 20 years ago overseas and in Europe at offshore sports books. Trading refers to oddsmaking or linemaking.
In 2009, CG Technology (Cantor Gaming at the time) introduced in-game wagering at its sports book operations in Las Vegas. That's what got William Hill US into the market, as they rolled out in-game wagering in 2012. By 2014, in-game wagering and trading accounted for 10 percent of William Hill US business. It's grown significantly since, and once legalized sports betting is available nationwide, the in-game wagering and live betting market will explode further with fans and bettors able to follow the games and make in-game wagers from their tablets or mobile devices. For the younger generation and millennials who like fast-paced action at video game speed, the data-driven world of in-game wagering and live betting opportunities should provide the platform for future play.
Part of the sports betting program I attended at UNLV included a trip to the William Hill headquarters in Las Vegas. We were provided a tour of the facility and explained the business operations. I also met up with Nick Bogdanovich, director of trading for William Hill US, and his staff right in the trading offices that take all the in-game wagering bets. Full of TV screens showing the games, during September mostly football and baseball, and computer monitors to follow the changing lines and take wagers, traders were taking bets and getting authorization from Nick on some of the wagers. That included a $25,000 in-game baseball wager and another $750 bet on the Cleveland Browns to win the AFC North division at 75-1 odds. I believe that was after the Browns started 0-3. Maybe they were 0-2. Does it matter? I couldn't believe what I was hearing. It was a not a good bet! Whereas the Rams to win the NFC West from +280 after Week 4 or +350 or better after Week 3 and even longer at the start of the season was a wise and insightful wager. As was the over/under season wins wager against the Denver Broncos.
What I witnessed and already knew was that in-game wagering and trading is the solution to offer more wagering options, at a faster pace in a data-driven world. The initial online platform from the Internet, to online gaming and now mobile gaming has allowed for the substantial growth and popularity of in-game wagering. And, it's built a bigger handle and audience for the sports books. Customers are demanding more, and competition will drive product to include increased betting options. The idea of live betting and in-game wagering is to give the customer a great experience and regular interest. The ability to engage the customer is imperative, and with sports popularity dependent in large part on gaming, the customer can remain interested in a game even when the score is 7-1 in the 7th inning of a baseball game or 31-10 in the 4th quarter of a football game. For those wanting even faster action with split-second decisions and wagering, then in-game basketball betting if for you.
Today, nearly 50 percent of sports wagers at Nevada sports books come from mobile devices. That number continues to grow, and should legislation pass to allow legal sports betting in states other than Nevada, you can be sure that in-game wagering will be a most popular betting option once the new operators bring in-play and live betting product to the market.
While the leading off-shore sports books are ahead of the 'in-game' trading market, it may not be much longer before the explosion hits beyond Las Vegas and Nevada as sports betting becomes legal for many states in America. Millions of sports fans will become interested in betting on a game before it starts (traditional betting lines - against the spread or money-line wagers). As engagement and awareness increases, and fans learn more about in-game wagering and live betting, you'll see the volume of bets explode. Astute bettors and sharper minds will have an advantage, as betting in-game is more of a level playing field when it comes to bookmaker vs. customer. In that regard, you can expect to see in-game wagering overtake traditional pre-game bets within five years. You can bet on it.
FairwayJay is a leading national sports handicapper and is recognized as one of the sports industry's most insightful analysts. Read more great insights from Jay here and follow him on Twitter: @FairwayJay