(Exclusive interview).- Matt Stephenson, Global Partnerships Director at Betgenius talked with Focus Gaming New about sports betting and the gaming market.
After ICE North America and amid a major growth for the sports betting market worldwide, Focus Gaming News talked with Matt Stephenson, Global Partnerships Director at Betgenius and discussed the company’s take on the current situation of the industry.
It’s been just over one year since the PASPA repeal. What have you learned about the US market over the last 12 months?
Time really does fly! From a supplier’s perspective, I think the past 12 months have shown us the value of flexibility. In the US, sports betting is unique on a state-by-state basis, not only in terms of regulatory factors like whether betting is permitted state-wide or just on property but regional variables like favourite sports, sports teams and even time zone, too.
We’ve already seen big differences in handle, how bettors bet and what they bet on between states. And for an operator, this needs to be reflected in all areas of sportsbook management, from the games and bet-types offered to margin and the way liabilities are managed.
As sports betting in the US continues to develop and evolve, it’s very possible that we’re sat here this time next year discussing well over a dozen distinct markets within one country.
“Even before the Supreme Court decision we had a good grasp of the U.S. landscape.”
The legalization of sports betting in the US has opened the door for huge industry growth. Could you outline Betgenius’ presence in the US?
As part of the Genius Sports Group, we’ve had a strong presence in the United States for a number of years now. We worked alongside the American Gaming Association (AGA) and various sports governing bodies on the road to regulation, so even before the Supreme Court decision we had a good grasp of the U.S. landscape.
And now that legal sports betting is a reality in a number of states with more yet to follow, our U.S. expansion has only gone from strength-to-strength. Our official data partnerships with the NBA and NASCAR and first sportsbook partnership with the Mississippi Band of Choctaw Indians are just three landmark moments that spring to mind.
In terms of on the ground personnel, our US presence as a group now stands at more than 150 staff spread between LA, New York and Washington D.C. This allows us to provide our sports, betting and media partners, with the expertise and dedicated around-the-clock support that they expect.
“Our U.S. expansion has only gone from strength-to-strength.”
What are the biggest challenges that US operators face?
With every state that goes live with sports betting, new operators will enter the market and existing operators will extend their reach. This is going to create a highly competitive environment but I believe there is an audience for everyone – it’s about committing to a brand experience and a customer segment.
Finding new customers and then enticing them to bet with your brand is tricky enough for online sportsbooks, with players able to shift between multiple accounts in seconds, and it becomes all the more challenging when the goal is to drive people to physically attend your land-based property.
As the digital marketing partner to over 20 US gaming brands across retail and online, engaging sports fans and bettors through strategic digital marketing is a process we know better than anyone else.
Our specialist technology helps sportsbooks pinpoint relevant audiences – be that with their sporting preferences or physical locations – and inspire bet placement, all without hefty over-the-top advertising costs.
“In Latin America, the perception of sports betting is definitely changing, which is a trend we’re seeing more widely on a global scale, too.”
How do you assess the spread of sports betting regulation in Latin America? Buenos Aires recently legalized and Peru and Brazil could be next. What lessons can they learn from other mature markets?
We only work with licensed sportsbooks in regulated markets so it’s exciting for sure. In Latin America, the perception of sports betting is definitely changing, which is a trend we’re seeing more widely on a global scale, too.
Regulators and sports governing bodies now recognise the benefits that legal sports betting can offer commercially and in terms of fan engagement, but also the role it plays in protecting sporting integrity. Historically, sports betting has maybe been associated with criminal activity but the reality is quite the opposite.
A great lesson can be drawn from information sharing agreements deployed by leading sports bodies such as the English FA. Licensed sportsbooks disclose information on suspicious account openings and alarming stakes bet on susceptible outcomes as they happen, which plays a key role in safeguarding fair competition. In illicit markets on the other hand, offshore books provide zero visibility, key intel goes amiss and this leaves space for criminal organisations to profit by fixing matches.
On our side, we will continue to work with stakeholders on the journey to regulation to educate and share our knowledge so that the foundations are in place for legal sports betting to thrive.
What are Betgenius’ plans for the rest of the year globally?
The first part of 2019 has in part been characterised by our global expansion and Latin America and the U.S. sit at the heart of this, of course.
Earlier this year we opened a new office in Medellin, Colombia which plays home to 300 staff and as mentioned earlier, we’ve continued to expand our US hub too. With 1,200 staff now employed in 20 locations and a fully customisable product set, our sportsbook partners know that our relationship is localised, unique and tailor-made to match their circumstance.
This ethos sets us apart and as more and more territories introduce their own sports betting regulation; we believe it’s fundamental to maintaining our reputation as the go-to supplier for licensed operators all over the world.