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Sports betting US: industry in perpetual motion

By - 30 May 2019

G3 interviews Steve Schrier, Chief Commercial Officer at SG Digital, about how Scientific Games is ramping up in the US market and how OpenBet will meet the needs of US customers. We discuss the reaction of players to sports betting, discuss emerging trends and the role of mobile gaming going forward.

The company is moving fast into the market. Could you give us an overall picture of your operations in the US sports betting space?

We’re really ramping up in the U.S. market. We’re live with Caesars in Mississippi, New Jersey, and Pennsylvania. As I’ll touch on later, we’ve partnered with the Oneida Indian Nation in New York, where we’ll provide full-stack solutions to their three properties in the state as soon as sports betting is authorised there.

Most recently, we’ve partnered with Wynn Resorts to offer sports betting and iGaming solutions to players in New Jersey. The industry is constantly in motion, as is our behind-the-scenes effort to partner with operators looking to bring their sportsbooks to the next level. As the U.S. market grows, we’re prepared to grow alongside it and work with partners who want to take the space by storm and build a top-notch sportsbook.

We’ve recently taken our customer- and player-centric approach to new heights with the launch of OpenSports, our end-to-end sports betting product, service, and technology portfolio. With OpenBet at its core as the sports betting engine, OpenSports gives partners the freedom to choose which services will best suit their needs and their players. It’s a fully modular, customisable approach that makes it easier than ever to launch a sportsbook backed by the power of Scientific Games.

We are in this for the long term. We want to enable stability and create an environment where operators can innovate their product offerings to win over time. And not a one-size-fits-all approach seen with pure Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) models. This is what we have done in Europe and why the customers who chose us over 10 years ago are with us now. Some of the first movers in the market are not necessarily the long-term winners, and innovation is everything. New features garner bigger audiences, and those are long-term plays.

Could you tell us more about the OpenSports platform and how it will meet the needs of U.S. customers?

OpenSports is the culmination of years-long determination to win big with our partners in the sports betting world, and that drive has been multiplied tenfold by the U.S. market opportunity.

In large part a response to needs voiced by our U.S. partners, OpenSports is malleable, allowing operators to choose the technology and services they need without unnecessary added tech footprint. We can offer the full-stack solution or we can fill in the blanks and bring an existing sportsbook to the next level. We want our product to work for any operator, no matter the size or geography, so we’ve redesigned it to address that goal.

OpenBet remains the core technology solution, the backbone on which a sportsbook can operate through our proprietary betting engines. It’s the same product that our partners have relied upon for years to deliver peak performance during global sporting events without any reported issues. Building on the core technology, OpenPlatform provides world-class player account and wallet services while OpenTrade offers 360-degree managed trading services. OpenEngage and OpenAccelerate round out the portfolio with intuitive user interfaces for mobile and retail and day-to-day operations, respectively.

Essentially, we’ve transformed OpenBet from a single robust solution to a sleek portfolio of highly specialised options from which partners can choose. We can power their growth with the solutions that are best fitted for their operations without overlap. By investing heavily in our product development over the past year—an approach we’ll continue to employ—we’re catering directly to the new market. We’re already seeing a shift in thinking surrounding the change—partners are recognising the benefit of a reliable solution that be customised to address the U.S. market needs.

In October 2018 Scientific Games announced that it had entered into an agreement to acquire Don Best Sports Corporation and DBS Canada. The deal will expand Scientific Games’ B2B sports betting offerings and add new capabilities to the company’s one-stop shop for sportsbook solutions. Could you tell us how it helps your customers in the US and how it expands your sports betting offer?

Our Don Best Sports group is a huge driver of success in the U.S. market. Don Best has a reputation of expertise in the North American market, and they have a really firm grasp on odds, pricing, and data.

Their expertise is a crucial piece of our larger sports betting organization because you simply can’t fake deep knowledge of a market, its bettors, or the popular sports. Don Best knows the market in and out—the group has their collective finger on the pulse of the sporting world, and it shows. Our partners trust them to provide top-notch trading services that fuel upward momentum for sportsbooks in the U.S.

Scientific Games has also announced that it has reached an agreement to support Oneida’s launch of its sportsbooks in New York as soon as sports betting is authorised in the state. Both Scientific Games and the Oneida Indian Nation anticipate that sports betting in New York will be authorised sometime this year. What does this mean for Scientific Games going forward in the state of New York?

We’re thrilled to work with the Oneida Nation once New York State launches sports betting. We submitted our partnership to the National Indian Gaming Commission for approval—we are one of the first to do so in the U.S. sports betting space, so it’s an exciting opportunity.

The American Gaming Association estimates that New York could sit among the top three U.S. jurisdictions in terms of sports betting revenue, so we’re naturally eager to work with Oneida and build a top-tier solution that will help them grow their audience as the industry opens up.

Could you discuss plans or any lessons learned for further sports betting expansion in the U.S. market?

Well, one lesson we learned early on—and I think most industry stakeholders would say the same—is that the U.S. is so unique that it necessitates wide scale innovation.

Established markets have been successful because operators, suppliers, and punters have sharply honed in on what makes those geographies tick. With the U.S., we’re making great strides in the same area, but there’s still a lot to learn. We want to market our product to bettors so they can become engaged, active participants in a burgeoning market.
The other lesson we’ve learned is that after the initial rush following the PASPA decision, the growth in the market became steadier. Still fast and furious, but more controlled. And that opens up new windows of opportunity to develop and transform products into the technology that will eventually become ubiquitous in the States.

Our U.S. plans reflect these learned lessons; as I’ve mentioned, OpenSports is a direct response to the voiced opinions of market leaders. Behind the scenes, we’re also constantly tracking upcoming regulation and legislation that will inform our product development and marketing decisions.

To put it simply, we want to be any U.S. sports betting operator’s number one choice as they begin to evaluate their options. We’re taking this approach across our business to shape OpenSports into a world-class product that makes the choice to work with us an easy one.

Are Americans really taking to sports betting and are we seeing any trends emerge around certain sports or player demographics?

We’ve seen positive player response in all of the open U.S. markets so far. Given the recent push to legalise and launch, it’s easy to overlook the past state or U.S. betting—grey market solutions were more prevalent, and Las Vegas was the main hub with others, like Delaware, offering a selection of betting options. So the U.S. population by and large is relatively informed. On top of that, stateside bettors are extraordinarily passionate about sports in general.

Energy permeates the industry, and fans are as excited about betting on games as they are about watching them. I think all of this is reflected in the current market—bettors are responding positively to a polished and intuitive sports betting option, and that attitude will hopefully spread as the market grows.

One noteworthy trend we’ve seen is that players tend to favour mobile when it’s available. This March, New Jersey reported that more than 70% of wagers are placed online, with the majority of those coming from mobile. Trends like this can help us develop products more suited to what the punters are telling us they want.

What about mobile gaming do you think that states will soon move to expand the online offer?

It’s hard to say, as online gaming is still very new to the states, with New Jersey leading the charge. But with the current momentum of sports betting, it’s certainly possible that the States will call for more betting options. In general, I think the possibility is always there, but sports will act as a proving ground before any major changes to online gaming start to roll out.

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