It’s half-time during the English Premier League’s grudge match of the season. Every soccer fan is watching as Manchester United trail two-nothing, a result which will see their arch rivals and today’s opponents, Manchester City, win the championship.
In terms of profile, it doesn’t get any bigger than this. The world’s top managers and players are on display as the entire soccer world tunes in.
But unlike the US equivalent, the Super Bowl, halftime isn’t characterized by glitzy, big-money commercials for the likes of Cola-Cola, Budweiser, and Chrysler. Instead, there is one main product being sold to consumers: in-game betting.
Almost every ad slot is taken by a sportsbook brand offering fans real-time odds on what will happen in the second half – not just the final result.
In-game, or “in play” betting as it’s known in the U.K., is sports wagering at its most dynamic and accounts for over 75% of many sportsbooks’ take. It has revolutionized the world of sports betting and fuelled the rapid growth of the online industry across Europe.
For sports fans across the world wanting to live and breathe the sports they love to watch, in-play wagering has been a hugely engaging addition to the viewing experience.
Don’t take your eyes off the action
For U.S. sports fans, Monday’s historic Supreme Court decision to repeal PASPA brings this trend into sharp focus. After years of existing within a burgeoning black market, wagering is coming out of the shadows. Each state is now permitted to legalize the activity and will be determined to create a competitive, thriving market within their borders. In-game betting will be at the heart of that and the sports world must keep up with the trend.
Walking into a brick and mortar sportsbook in Nevada (the only state where legal wagering currently exists on a large scale) the traditional U.S. sportsbook customer isn’t presented with ways to bet on live action, in real-time; for the most part they simply place their bets at the start of the game, and sit back and watch.
It is very much the way fans have experienced sports on television in the past; sitting back, vs. the way fans embrace today; leaning forward, engaged in conversations on multiple screens. Old school, though, is a changing.
But, while in-game betting is in its infancy in the U.S., it’s inevitable that it will enjoy similar explosive growth as in the U.K. It will eventually account for the majority of revenues in a legalized U.S. betting market which, according to research firm Eilers & Krejcik Gaming, could be worth over $6bn by 2023.
This expected growth presents some key challenges for all stakeholders, including sports leagues themselves. The major U.S. leagues have a crucial role to play in making “in-game” betting a safe and successful product and a key part of the fan experience—both for consumers and for their sport. And the answer in one of their most important assets: official, real-time data.
Just as sports fans rely on granular levels of statistics to pick their fantasy teams, or discuss player performances with their friends, betting lines are derived from thousands of real-time data points which dictate the probability of an outcome during a game.
When it comes to in-game betting, the speed and accuracy of this data are paramount. Probabilities on anything from the game-winner, to the next scorer or the total number of points fluctuate by the second, and when millions of dollars are being wagered, there is no margin for error.
What does this mean for U.S. sports?
With PASPA repealed, regulators in states that decide to legalize sports wagering have an obligation to ensure that legal sports wagering is safe, transparent and commercially viable. With in-game set to play a huge role in the market’s growth, not to mention fan engagement and TV viewing figures, using sports data authorized by the rights holders will ensure betting markets are powered by the fastest, most accurate and most reliable source of information available.
Many will win. Others will lose. Sponsors, advertisers, and media must think and build long-term.
For state lawmakers and regulators, official data provides an invaluable opportunity to help tackle the existing illegal market. Currently, at least $150bn is illegally bet throughout the U.S. every year, threatening the integrity of American sports and providing no financial benefit to society.
Finding a way to combat this vast illegal market and ensure betting customers place their bets exclusively with licensed bookmakers is a crucial responsibility for state lawmakers. This can be achieved by requiring that all licensed bookmakers must use the official, real-time data feed provided by the sports themselves, while also making this feed inaccessible to illegal operators.
Getting it right
Live, in-game betting will transform the U.S. wagering market beyond recognition over the next few years. By placing real-time data at the heart of it, U.S. sports will ensure they retain a level of control over betting on their events, while also giving fans the best possible product on any device they choose.
So up next for U.S. sports: all bets are on.
Chris Dougan is the Chief Communications Officer at Genius Sports, a global leader in sports data technology, integrity, distribution, and commercialization services. You can connect with Chris here.
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