Although at the time of writing the US Supreme Court has yet to pass judgment on the state of New Jersey’s attempt to end the country’s near federal ban on sports betting, it’s practically impossible to talk to anyone in this industry without the topic of discussion quickly turning to a legal US sports betting market.
The size of the prize understandably has operators and suppliers from across Europe jockeying for position in anticipation of PASPA being ruled unconstitutional. However, as my conversations have illustrated, those looking to make hay in the US have yet to reach a consensus on what form a successful US sports betting product will take, with much of what I hear no more than educated guesswork.
In fact, if you were to ask five sports betting CEOs their view on what’s crucial for a US betting product, you’ll probably hear five different opinions – that’s how divided the market is. And with such a wide range of often conflicting advice available, it must be incredibly difficult for US companies currently scoping out their sportsbook options to make confident decisions.
In reality, no one can be sure of the winning formula in terms of product and UX state-to-state and you shouldn’t be told any different. The US is a vast country, and although there are many similarities between states, each one has its own fingerprint – its own set of unique characteristics. What works in New York may not work as well in California, for example. It’s a similar situation in neighbouring Mexico, where Kambi provides its multi-channel solution to Televisa’s PlayCity brand and its 18 casinos.
State-by-state regulation will also play a major role in the US. Will there be limitations placed on what markets types can be offered or which leagues bets can be accepted on? Will online and mobile be restricted in some states? Will any guise of turnover tax burden in-play? Comparing how a product stacks up against the offshore books is all well and good but it’s worth remembering they operate in an unrestricted and unregulated environment.
Bearing this in mind, operators wishing to offer a sportsbook must ensure they remain agile – so not only are they compliant with regulation but also have the ability to innovate, try new approaches and launch new product types. Despite all best efforts, there can be no guarantee initial product launches will work and it may well be a case of trial and error. As such, only those on a sportsbook platform which allows for this flexibility will succeed. Operators simply can’t afford to be boxed-in by a restrictive, one-size-fits-all platform.
The B2C operators or B2B providers placing their time and efforts on a fixed product and bet types as part of their roadmap, rather than focusing on the agility of their front-end and product, as well as their price differentiation capability are the ones that will truly struggle as and when the US inevitably opens up.
Providing the answers
In short, it’s not a case of trying to sell the ‘silver bullet’ product to the US market from day one, but rather ensuring operators have capacity and flexibility they require to develop the best product for their target audience. That’s what we are focused on here at Kambi, and we are confident that whatever US operators – indeed operators in any jurisdiction – require to gain market leadership, it can be found in the Kambi Sportsbook platform. It is for this reason I’m happy to write about our capability, whether or not operators choose to work with Kambi or go with their own proprietary technology.
For instance, look at our open APIs. Kambi is unique in empowering operators with the control to take these APIs and build differentiated betting experiences on top of the Kambi platform. One recent example of this is Mr Green, which leveraged our APIs and innovative instant betting tennis product to build a fast and exciting next point betting client. A heritage casino brand, Mr Green used the flexibility of the Kambi platform and strength of our sports product to create a quick-fire experience tailored specifically for its thrill-seeking audience.
This freedom to innovate, coupled with our depth and relevance of sports coverage, provides operators with a powerful opportunity. For example, much like the Mr Green example, through Kambi a US operator will have the ability to offer a dedicated in-play app just for NFL, or an MLB app focused on bet offers for the current innings. The flexibility to create a sports betting product that is as complex or simplified to appeal to a target market is the exactly kind capability operators need; not precise instructions on what a product or UI should look like just because it works in Nevada or for an offshore company.
Imagine a sportsbook or app that enables sports fans to bet on specials and prop bets as they unfold, such as being able to put your money on whether the Patriots will make first down when 3rd and 8, if the Astros’ George Springer will hit or walk when taking the plate, or how many points the Cavaliers’ LeBron James will score in the next quarter.
Not built in a day
These are just a few examples of the exciting and innovative markets Kambi offers today, not ones we’ll rush to develop as and when the US market opens up. They are the result of two decades’ worth of experience in trading US sports with highly skilled traders, refined risk management processes, sophisticated algorithms and our steadfast dedication to using only official data sources to ensure accuracy and optimise availability. It’s no coincidence we have the most comprehensive coverage of MLB in the market, for example, delivering steady margins, driving revenues and improving retention rates for Kambi and our operators.
And by coupling that trading expertise and unrivalled sports coverage with the flexibility to package and sell these unique betting opportunities in a myriad of ways, operators will have all the ingredients they’ll need to appeal to a range of audiences. Many of whom may never have placed a sports bet previously and are therefore unfamiliar with, or even daunted by, the standard long-form sportsbook experience.
So as the jockeying continues, we’ll leave the guesswork to others and avoid placing our chips on one number in the hope it comes up. With state regulations yet to be decided, different geographies and demographics likely to favour different products, and the US having a proud history of innovation, Kambi’s money is on offering a platform which can perform under all conditions and for all audiences, thereby springboarding our customers to success, whatever their requirements.
Another thing I’d put money on is that given the technological expertise in the US, coupled with its passion for sports and gambling, operators from those shores will in time develop some of the greatest innovations the sports betting industry has seen. Therefore, operating on a platform agile enough to be a catalyst and a foil for new ideas will be crucial for future market leaders.
First published in EGR Global on 25 May 2018