However, domestic sports leagues are increasingly supporting the legalization of sports betting. So much so, that the inevitability of legalized sports betting seems, well, inevitable.
As previously discussed, betting on things makes it more fun. Las Vegas is in an immediate position to level up this with In-Stadia Betting.
What is In-Stadia Betting?
In short, In-Stadia is ultimately about increasing fan engagement with bets. An operator/team creates special social bets live at the event that you’re watching – that can be cashed out at the event – on stuff that may happen during the event. For football, the operator/venue may have a, “Will Derek Carr throw a touchdown pass in the red zone.” For soccer, “Will Carlos Alvarez receive a yellow card.”
The reality is the revenue may not equal the social and content marketing potential at first. However, as the sports viewing experience at home continues to improve, it’s becoming more critical to create unique experiences for fans at live events.
Golden Knights Fan Experience: Betting is Better
The expansion Las Vegas Golden Knights hockey team is making a name for itself both on the ice and in the arena. The team has been historically successful for an expansion team. And the fan experience is already noted to be among the best in the NHL.
Part of that reason seems to be that fans, both of the Golden Knights and of visiting teams, are betting on the games.
Hockey, like the NBA, has some progressive ownership with a more morally casual view of sports betting. Owners like the Washington Capitals’ Ted Leonsis own part of Sportradar. There’s a vested interest.
Las Vegas Lights FC Could Set In-Stadia Template
Las Vegas Lights FC is a new professional soccer league that began play at Cashman Field in February 2018. They’re a member of the United Soccer League, a second division league with 35 clubs in the U.S. and Canada. They claim Zappos as a sponsor and have what can best be described as the sport’s most interesting uniform choices.
The Golden Knights have demonstrated how the proximity of gambling can enhance the fan experience. European soccer certainly has provided a template for In-Stadia betting. Can the Lights integrate the two? Owner of the team, Brett Lashbrook, seems to think so.
“Without any doubt,” Lashbrook told TheLines. “Both myself and the entire Lights FC organization completely and fully believes that in-stadia betting enhances the overall fan experience. This is especially true now that the State of Nevada has approved mobile betting – it’s a true game changer. Every fan now can legally wager on the match without leaving their seat in the stadium.”
Issues Abound with In-Stadia
While the opportunity to create content and an enhanced fan experience are certainly drivers to launch In-Stadia betting, there are plenty of issues. A chronic problem all venues face is insufficient bandwidth. People be Snapchatting. Outside of South Korea (more on this in a minute), it’s a regular issue for operators.
Lashbrook thinks it’s not an insurmountable obstacle though. “I am confident that solutions can be found if all third-parties are equally incentivized. We are the greatest country in the world – do you really think we’re going to let a wi-fi issue at an outdoor venue stop us?”
Will the Leagues Work Together? Does it Matter?
Lashbrook said that while the Lights have sound relationships with the Golden Knights and Raiders, there haven’t been a concerted effort yet to band forces and work together for an In-Stadia solution.
However, one avenue that may make more sense is a Korean favorite: barbeque esports.
The Luxor Esports Arena opens on March 22. Caesars has plans to launch their own esports venture, potentially leveraging the in-house knowledge of their World Series of Poker as a model.
The infrastructure to support the activity and connectivity of a highly engaged and generally younger fan-base, like with esports, could prove a welcome model for the Lights (and eventually Golden Knights and Raiders).
Esports is open for action in Las Vegas. Live betting on esports has been a maturing market since iSeries Live first tried it back in 2012-13. In-Stadia is the next and most sensible evolutionary step.
The good news is professional sports league kumbaya-ing may not even matter. As Lashbrook noted, “The State and city [of Las Vegas] have been nothing but supportive of our efforts to increase in-stadia betting. It’s yet another unique point of difference between us and the rest of the country.”
When will it happen? As Asia would say…
West Virginia now has a sports betting law that will come into effect as soon as the US Supreme Court issues a ruling allowing states to regulate the industry. But the fight to get the law passed was bitter, pitting the sports leagues led by the MLB and NBA against the sports betting operators.
Now it’s time to bury the hatchet and join forces to ensure that legal regulated sports betting is as widely available as possible.
Unnecessary conflict will reduce spread of legal sports betting
One of the biggest problems is the issue of so-called “integrity fees” – payments to the sports leagues from sports betting revenues. The leagues want them, and the betting operators don’t want to pay them.
The West Virginia bill, S415, became law on March 10 without Governor Jim Justice’s signature. It includes no integrity fee provisions despite frenzied lobbying on the issue.
Connecticut, Mississippi, New Jersey, New York and Pennsylvania are all either ready to go with legal sports betting, or well on the way. That still leaves most of America out of the game, and even if other states introduce legislation, they will face the opposition of the sports leagues.
The inevitable outcome will be that fewer states will pass sports betting laws, meaning the US market will be smaller than its true potential.
Anyone with an ounce of understanding of game theory should be able to see that this is a sub-optimal outcome, but a win/win strategy is possible if both sides change their tactics.
There is so much nonsense spouted by political opponents of legal sports betting that we risk ignoring the few arguments that are valid. If operators accept the integrity fee argument they can increase support for gaming legislation and therefore increase access to safe, regulated sports betting.
Integrity fees have a logical basis
The sports leagues invest in making their sports popular and betting operators get the benefit from that investment in increased wagers. An integrity fee compensates the leagues by giving them a share of revenues that they are partly responsible for creating.
The leagues simply want to be compensated for the intellectual property rights they have in the game data that they have created.
The problem is a mindset where the sports fixtures on which people bet are being considered as a “common good” like the air we breathe, or the water in the oceans.
- In previous times, this made sense because poor technology made the concept of an integrity fee impractical; it simply couldn’t be calculated or if it could, it couldn’t be collected.
- Now that this is no longer true, all that remains is the outdated belief that the games themselves are a common good.
The sports leagues and teams have paid good money to create the asset on which sports betting operators base their businesses, and they believe they have a legitimate claim to share in any revenues other businesses make by exploiting that asset.
It’s time for betting operators to recognize the validity of this argument, and in doing so join forces with the sports leagues to spread legislation across as many states as possible. That would be a real win/win strategy, for leagues, operators, and the American people.
West Virginia Governor Jim Justice made the point when he announced the new law:
“After the U.S. Supreme Court issues its decision on sports wagering, to address any provisions of the legislation that might be in conflict, I will ask the Legislature to look at the advantages of partnering with the major sports leagues. This approach will allow us to develop a relationship with all the major sports leagues so that it is beneficial to everyone.”