It’s no secret within the sports betting industry that American consumers have lagged far behind their European peers in embracing in-game betting.
It’s also widely known, however, that live wagering has been increasing as states legalize online sports betting and it will only keep growing, as was emphasized during an SBC Digital North America web discussion of the topic Wednesday.
“When I came to the U.S. in 2019, in-play was around 35 percent of PointsBet’s handle,” said Jay Croucher, head of trading for the Australian-based bookmaker. “Now, two years later, it’s much closer to 50 percent. We fully expect in two years or so it’ll be north of 70 percent and catch up with more mature markets like in Europe. That’s what we’re planning for. …
“U.S. sports lend themselves so well to live betting. So many events within the game rapidly shift odds within seconds,” Croucher said. “Live betting still has a ways to go, but there’s a lot of innovation upcoming that will make it more enjoyable for customers.”
He and other industry representatives on a panel noted improvements such as speed of processing wagers and a simpler way of helping new customers understand their options will be crucial in assisting the trend. But they see the wagering done live, or in-game, or in-play (different operators use different terms for the same thing) as a natural evolution in catering to the interests of modern customers. Encouragement by the sports leagues and new broadcasts — or betcasts — with media emphasis on wagering options will also help.
Pre-game bets on winners, point spreads, and total scores may always be the most common individual wagers — just as was the case when using old-school bookies in the 20th century — but a myriad of other online opportunities will exist that were never available to prior generations of bettors.
“People don’t necessarily want to sit around and watch a four-hour college football game to get paid out on a bet they made before the game,” observed Scott San Emeterio, founder and CEO of Ball Street Trading.
Yes, this can transform your business
The panel’s title was “Attracting the Big Stakes — How In-Game Wagering Will Transform Your Business,” and the participants made many points about how the sports betting industry ought to learn from how the world of Wall Street trading has evolved.
Customer-oriented financial service companies like Robinhood have turned a complex business into something simpler and more accessible to everyday consumers, and panelists urged sportsbooks to think likewise. They also believe sportsbooks should think more along Wall Street lines in how they present numbers and odds to the public, instead of always relying on the traditional moneyline model.
“People understand how to buy something at a low price and sell it at a high price,” said Alex Kane, founder of Sportrade, which is involved in a new type of customer-to-customer sports betting exchange. “No one wakes up and says ‘I’m going to bet this thing at minus-132 and sell it at plus-190.’”
People more easily grasp that a team far ahead might have a 90% chance of winning, or a golfer might have a 50% chance of making a putt. Thinking in numbers along those lines, panelists agreed, would help engage younger adults who have become intrigued by the popularity of new wrinkles such as Robinhood and cryptocurrency and are stopped in their tracks when trying to carry that interest over to sports betting.
Further, Kane said, newcomers don’t like when trying to make a live bet they experience delays and odds changes after pushing a button to execute transactions. That’s not what they’re accustomed to if they’ve been doing day trading.
“How do we accelerate everything learned in the last 20 years in the capital markets … and remove all the friction that exists today” in sports betting, Kane mused. “If we do that, we will bring in many, many more sports bettors, because we’re delivering something they’re expecting, not something they have to learn how to use.”
More micro markets are coming
Much discussion also turned to future progress in providing live betting “micro markets,” with many more quick options on which to place wagers instead of just winners and point totals.
Emeterio said the opportunity exists to create all kinds of 20-minute windows of action that capture bettors’ attention: who will score the next touchdown, which basketball team will be first to 21 points, which baseball team will score next.
The best example of PointsBets’s plans for that in the upcoming NFL season, Croucher said, will be a lot more opportunity for wagering on outcomes of upcoming drives and to bet during the game on various player props. Such options are invaluable to sportsbooks in lopsided games that have been clearly won or lost for pre-game bettors.
“We want to find ways to keep bettors engaged, to make them feel the game is as live as it was the second before kickoff,” he said.
But participants acknowledged the time latency issue that has to be addressed with better data and technology, so that customers aren’t locked out when ready to jump in on a spontaneous bet they like.
“Latency is the big one, where the difference between a feed with a one-second latency and a six-second latency is the difference between a product that’s viable and one that’s not viable at all,” Croucher acknowledged.
He and others expect things to get better in that regard as technology evolves, and they agreed operators would do well to focus on both the speed issue and ensuring their platforms are easy to grasp for newcomers looking to take advantage of live betting.
And then, Croucher said, there may be a lot more people wagering on what will happen in the last 60 seconds of a close NBA contest or on the Green Bay Packers’ final drive into the red zone with the game’s outcome on the line.
“At the moment, the live betting experience for customers is not perfect,” he said. “We want clients to have the best experience — that’s the challenge and what we want to figure out.”
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