Return Of Sports Could Start Second Land Grab For US Sportsbook Operators

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US sports betting

While table tennis and Belarussian soccer have been surprising saviors for stateside bookmakers during the coronavirus shutdown, the fallow period without US sports betting appears to be coming to a close.

The NBA approved a restart plan, as did the NHL. The PGA Tour returned last week, while European soccer leagues are coming online one by one. The Premier League is on track for a mid-June restart. 

Meanwhile, the NFL has given coaches the all-clear to return to training facilities . It all means the second half of the year could have nine months of sports betting crammed into six – a veritable golden era.

Opportunity for US sports betting customer acquisition

The restart also marks a major opportunity for operators to grab some share. Using the NJ sports betting market as an example, FanDuel and DraftKings control roughly 75% of the market in any given month.

As Kindred US marketing VP Arnas Janickas puts it, “Like a yellow flag in a race, the absence of sports has reduced the distance between the operators.”

Betting revenues have dropped by more than 80% in some states during the pandemic. That’s a huge number of lapsed customers who will have withdrawn funds and deleted apps. These customers now could be essentially up for grabs.

“I’d anticipate a big drive from operators,” said Harry Lang, a gambling marketing consultant. “That means special promos, bonuses, and competitions promoted via the usual channels and CRM.”

Strategic approach to sportsbook marketing

While that’s likely to be the case for the very biggest players in the market, it’s simply not economically sound for all operators to go all-out.

“We’re fully expecting aggressive positioning from our competition,” says Fox Bet president Matt Primeaux

However, Primeaux said Fox Bet would be taking a more strategic approach and trying to make the most of its unique assets. Those include the Fox Super 6 prediction game, and a boatload of new poker players acquired during the shutdown via PokerStars.

“We’d like to use the return of sports to remind players that Fox Bet is more than just a sportsbook,” Primeaux said.

The Fox Bet strategy is twofold:

  1. Build regular, recurring events around poker to keep it in the player’s mind as an entertainment and betting option.
  2. Use the poker and FOX Bet Super 6 acquisitions since shutdown as a springboard into the return of sports.

Let sports do heavy lifting in reactivation

It’s a similar story over at Kindred and its Unibet brand: the focus will be on cross-selling casino players acquired in recent months.

“Currently leading operators have the attention and significant media reach,” Arnas adds. “But creativity and relevance will ultimately be the defining factor.”

Indeed, while the biggest players in the market might go guns blazing on marketing, it’s not a luxury all operators can afford.

Several firms suggested they would be measured. There’s so much action to choose from it would be hard to spend efficiently.

“Obviously we’ll offer promotions but it won’t be our sole message,” PointsBet US CEO Johnny Aitken said. “The resumption of sports will do a lot of reactivation organically and the strength of our product will do the rest.”

Aitken said PointsBet spent the quiet period focusing on product improvements. That includes a better in-play offering, slicker customer experience, and new features like Parlay Booster.

Sportsbook product will speak for itself

It’s a similar strategy over at theScore, where the company sees the restart of the market as a potential opportunity to take share. But that doesn’t mean turning the marketing taps on full blast.

“The strategy is the same as it’s always been,” CEO John Levy said. “Make betting  as easy as possible for fans already using our app for scores and data.”

Levy sees the return of a sport as a natural nudge to fans. Like PointsBet, the company has been focusing on its core product and implementing the takeaways of its first two quarters of sports betting operations.

“As the only media company actually becoming an operator, we had a lot of learnings,” Levy said.

What theScore learned

That included figuring out what promotions worked best, and how to make the switch between the scores app and betting app as seamless as possible. Wallet functionality was also improved.

“Come July and August, people will be flocking back in huge numbers to the app and they’ll find the product is better, and the experience is better,” Levy said.

As US sports return, we might expect something of a golden era for bettors as well as operators. Bettors can expect to be courted with a flurry of reactivation offers and bonuses, as well as some fine-tuned products.

Perhaps the challenge will be figuring out what to watch.