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Betfred USA will launch its first official sports betting operation when its retail sportsbook opens at Iowa‘s Grand Falls Casino today.
Iowa is the first stop for the independent bookmaker. The company should be live in at least four states by the end of the year, including Pennsylvania and Colorado, and will attack other states as they go live after that, Betfred USA COO Bryan Bennett said.
Elite Casino‘s Grand Falls gives Betfred a unique opportunity to target three states when looking for sports betting customers. The casino sits right on the border of Iowa and South Dakota, with Minnesota‘s state line about three miles east. The casino gets the majority of its business from the Sioux Falls metro area, which has around 250,000 people.
Only the retail sportsbook opens today with a grand opening Thursday. Online sports betting will launch later in February.
Betfred will join the growing Pennsylvania market via Wind Creek Bethlehem. That’s owned and operated by the Poarch Band of Creek Indians, which also owns gaming establishments in Alabama and Florida.
Pennsylvania’s results could determine whether Betfred gets additional deals with Wind Creek Hospitality. For now, Bennett calls the Pennsylvania agreement a “street-cred building win.”
The second is with Saratoga Black Hawk in Colorado. Betfred will operate the retail sportsbook as well as an online sportsbook for Saratoga.
The Betfred online sportsbook will be live before March Madness, Bennett said. There is more work to do on the mobile side of things, but the team recognized the importance of getting its Vegas-style, 3,500-square-foot sportsbook open before the Super Bowl.
March Madness will be the first big push for Betfred to get customers signed up for a mobile account. Iowa requires in-person registration through the end of this year, but Bennett doesn’t see the benefits of doing paper sign-ups before the app is available.
In-person registration is likely one of the biggest reasons why mobile hasn’t taken off in the Hawkeye State. The growth of the overall sports betting handle is slower compared with other states with open mobile markets.
Iowa’s sports betting handle in December actually fell 0.1% to $59.3 million. Of the $212.2 million in handle wagered since August, just 55.8% came from online.
At the same time, in-person registration is probably a benefit for Betfred at this point, Bennet said. The sportsbook is entering the state a little late, but since casinos are left with the customers in their backyards, there should be less competition, he added.
While Betfred might not be a household name to many in the United States, it’s no slouch of a sportsbook.
Betfred, which calls itself the world’s largest independent bookmaker, has been around since 1967. It has more than 1,500 betting outlets throughout the UK.
The company handled £13.5 billion in bets through the 12 months, ending September 2018, according to the most recent figures available. That was up 6.4% over the prior year.
Hopefully, Bennett said, the company won’t need much introduction by this time next year.
“We’re going to be very aggressive when it comes to attacking different states and attracting partnerships,” he said. “We want everyone to know who Betfred is.”
Mobile marketing will also become a much bigger part of what Betfred does when it comes to open mobile states, like Pennsylvania or Colorado, he added.
“It obviously is much more expensive and you need to be more aggressive, but I think that’s one of the things Betfred brings to the party,” Bennett said. “… When [co-founder] Fred Done and the board decided to attack the US market, they did so knowing full well they’d have to commit the required resources to be competitive.
“Fred always said when he came into the market, he wanted to be successful and, if he’s going to do it, he wanted to do it the right way. As we enter those open-mobile states, we’re going to be competitive and we’re going to be aggressive to attract customers.”