With the expansion of legal US sports betting still in full flow, attention is already turning towards the start of the 2019 NFL season in September and how the changing face of the business might impact the way that operators approach what will be the 100th edition of the National Football League competition.
Addressing a dedicated NFL panel at this year’s inaugural SBC Betting on Sports America Conference in New Jersey earlier this year were Jay Kornegay, Vice President of Race & Sportsbook at Westgate Resorts, and Keith O’Loughlin, SVP Sportsbook for SG Digital. Both offered contrasting views, albeit with a shared leitmotif that technological advancement will ultimately improve the customer experience for NFL bettors.
According to Kornegay, the new technology entering the US market has introduced things that “…we haven’t seen before”. Taking the floor at the conference, he offered: “It’s just never reached our market, or reached Nevada, because there wasn’t really a market for this technology to come to Nevada, with the licensing and just a handful of operators some of the software that I’ve seen over the last few months, it’s incredible, and you’re (Europe) certainly miles ahead of what we’ve seen and what we’ve been working with over the last… it seems like a decade.”
He continued: “But there’s still an element there, which we’ve heard a lot during these panels over the last two days, about the American market versus the European market. They’re two different animals. The American market really is immature. And when you look at the European, it’s very mature.
“However, the operators here in the US understand it, understand the basics, understand the consumer here, and they know what they look for, what they need to make wagers at this time. So, with this clash between the Europeans that come over with this great technology and expertise, and we certainly applaud that, it still needs to be Americanized. It’s almost got to be dumbed down just a bit to really capture the consumer that we’re looking at now.”
Business will inevitably adapt
Kornegay believes, however, that the business will inevitably adapt. “As this market matures and gets used to some of the options that are available on the software that we see coming in, you know, it’s going to happen,” he advised. “I believe that the market here will educate itself by leaps and bounds over the next few years.
Offering an alternative view, one focused on automation, O’Loughlin noted: “It’s not about a European style and a US style. I think, firstly, it’s all about the customer. The more markets and sports that you’ve got, the more turnover you get and, naturally, operators are going to want to add more. And the only real way to do that at scale is through automation and through good technology.
“You literally can’t scale to the level of markets they think their customers will ultimately want here through manual trading. As an example, we measure typically on a Saturday afternoon, or a Sunday afternoon, and at busy times we’re doing 130,000 price changes per minute. The only way you can do that in any sense is through really smart automated technology; and that’s not about the European, or the US. It’s about what the customer wants, and then how you can deliver that.”
O’Loughlin added that technology will add a lot of product and create volume, but ultimately the business will be driven by consumer demand and simplicity. “The Vegas sportsbooks are amazing,” he told delegates. “You walk into a Vegas sportsbook but, at times, even for somebody who’s a European who’s used to betting, that can be quite intimidating when faced with US odds. So, it’s about making it easy for any consumer to be able to access.”
New era and a more collaborative approach
The new sports betting era has ushered in a more open and collaborative approach between the likes of the NFL, broadcast partners and operators, a point that isn’t lost on Kornegay who clearly recognizes the vital role media is increasingly playing. “I’m not sure if you guys are aware of this, but just a few years ago, the NFL wouldn’t even accept advertising from the city of Las Vegas,” he remarked.
“So, we’ve made tremendous strides over the last few years where we couldn’t even advertise for the city, even though we weren’t going to mention sports gaming. We couldn’t even advertise coming to Las Vegas for the Super Bowl.
“Now, that’s changed. Now, we have an NFL team in Last Vegas. And, you know, as part of this climate change you see all of these numbers, so many different media outlets, and reference is becoming more prominent in so many different levels. So, it has changed dramatically; it has changed fast, and I think we’re going to continue to see a lot more of these spreads and talk about sports gaming on these sports channels.”