Well, we’ve done it. We reached the end of 2020, and we’re into the New Year. Yes, I know we’re not free from the problems that 2020 brought us. However, we persisted and hopefully we learned some things along the way.
In a year of upheaval and the loss of many comforts, the gaming industry did fairly well. Those who invested in digital platforms benefited from folks being home with less entertainment options. Legal sports betting in the US has reached new heights. Online companies continue to smash their own records.
To the people behind the scenes setting prices, managing accounts, and coming up with new content, please take a bow. You shined in 2020 with your efforts and ingenuity. Why else would anyone take up sudden interest in overseas table tennis or Korean Baseball if not for your promotion?
For those who did so much for so many this year, I’d like to offer some encouragement and suggestions. There were some excellent sportsbook promotions and partnerships crafted in 2020 that have helped engage more players and improve the industry’s image to the general public. Here are some things done in 2020 we’d actually like to bring with us into 2021, as well as some ideas on how books could improve on their promos.
More free bets
Giving new players site credit on sign-up is a good idea. We’ve seen these offers cross borders as new states roll out sports betting. That’s good, keep it up.
What I’m focused on here is the option for established players to try new options, like BetMGM’s pre-built, same-game parlays – for example. They are available for every NFL game in New Jersey and will likely roll out elsewhere soon. I got a $5 credit to try it for the Giants vs. Eagles Thursday Night contest and almost hit (if only the Eagles could have avoided missing chip-shot field goals to cash an Over). Free samples are always nice.
I thought in Week 1 of the NFL season, FanDuel Sportsbook‘s strategy also worked great. Players got site credit and were able to try some different options. I spread my money around and went 1 of 5. That one I hit was a gimme.
We can debate all we want if sports betting should be pari-mutuel like horse racing or against the house like other forms of gaming. As of now, the latter is more profitable. However, when the books have players combine forces it has made for interesting content and opportunities.
FanDuel Sportsbook has scored some big hits with “Spread the Love” for NFL and NBA games this past year. Monday night saw the Bills +113 against New England after almost 300,000 fans moved the line. Of course, the new AFC East champs won outright and players got some money.
One of the best promotions DraftKings Sportsbook produced in 2020 was a growing free bet option with a Lakers vs. Nuggets game in the bubble. Every player who bet the game for $1 or more got a free bet based on how many players participated. The bet size grew $1 for every 1,000 participants. I didn’t cash on the game (Lakers won, Nuggets covered) but I got a $74 free bet I turned right into an NHL Stanley Cup futures wager (wish I bet my brain and not my heart. I took my beloved Flyers but had Tampa as a second choice at 7/1. Taking the Lightning would’ve won me over $500.)
More free-play away from books
The holidays have been an exciting time for players as major books have rolled out big promotions. DraftKings gave players who opted-in on a pre-Christmas promotion a chance to play free DFS earlier this week. Yep, no bet needed. Click a button, if something happens in a game get a ticket, maybe win some money (worked for me).
This could be a huge transitional point for the books that either have DFS ties or also run online casinos (or both). Much of what helped DK go public and what keeps them viable is their entry into online casino gaming. Most companies have this synergy working and will leverage this as the scene expands to other states.
BetMGM does a weekly promotion with the NFL action. Bet a certain amount on games and win free-play at any of their expansive menu of casino offerings. More players might get involved if offered similar opportunities.
More love for MLS
I like soccer. I like watching it in Europe, I like betting four-team promoted parlays on Europa League matchdays, but I LOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOVE Major League Soccer. I enjoyed making some money betting the Union this year as they FINALLY won something of value (the Supporters Shield for best regular season team).
Right now the league is in a financial bind, however. MLS leadership claimed losses nearing a billion dollars for the 2020 season and a similar year in 2021 would put the organization in great peril.
While sportsbooks have made partnership deals with teams from the Big 4 leagues, MLS franchises have been largely ignored. Many franchises play out in the suburbs, like the Union in Chester, Pennsylvania – which is also home to a Harrah’s casino.
MLS serves a significant role in the international soccer ecosystem. Franchises have developed players to compete for national teams and sold them to the bigwigs of Europe for millions that are reinvested in teams, academies, farm clubs, etc. For instance the Union just pocketed $13 million (with more possibly to come) for Americans Mark McKenzie and Brenden Aaronson who will play in Europe very soon. Vancouver sold Alphonso Davies to powerhouse Bayern Munich for a total of $22 million. Davies was honored as top Canadian male athlete of 2020 for his exploits with the Champions League and Bundesliga titleholders.
Right now, MLS franchises could use some cash infusions. Sportsbooks could use more customers, especially customers with the type of fanatical loyalty that is displayed in the stands at soccer matches. Promote more parlays and let’s make it happen.
Work with casino partners
Of the many partnerships we saw struck between books and sports franchises this year, the one that stands out to me is the 76ers deal with BetMGM. While most teams will add branded spaces to their stadiums and arenas, the Sixers will actually host fans in Atlantic City and the Borgata casino for away watch parties and special events.
The coronavirus shutdowns have decimated casinos across the country. Players have been able to gamble online but that’s not the same experience as being at the casinos, dining at the restaurants, or staying at the hotels. I’ve seen the struggles in Atlantic City firsthand, with thousands unemployed for months on end, and I know we’re not alone. One of our contacts in Las Vegas called the situation “heartbreaking.”
We know much of the action at sportsbooks comes from online players. However, now’s a time for the operators to help lift up their brick-and-mortar partners.
- Run some contests where players can win a weekend at the partner casino in the state, where applicable.
- Give people an opportunity to visit during non-peak seasons when things re-open.
- Create more incentives to go in and enjoy amenities, like cashing in earned rewards.
When things hopefully improve later this year, those casinos will really appreciate the influx of business.