Will New MLB Rules On Pitch Clocks Hurt Microbetting Markets?

Written By Mike Mazzeo on September 22, 2022
microbetting

On Tuesday, microbetting provider Simplebet announced a partnership with bet365.

The new agreement with bet365 is similar to its pre-existing partnership with DraftKings

With MLB, college football and NFL betting seasons occurring simultaneously, the B2B provider has facilitated sports betting operators offering pitch-level markets and drive/play-level markets. Those markets, combined with increased visibility in online sports betting apps, have led to increases in handle. 

More specific examples:

  • More than $1 million in handle for the ClemsonGeorgia Tech game. 
  • Nearly $1 million in handle for a recent A’sWhite Sox game. 
  • About $25 million in handle on a top operator over the last seven days during Week 1 of the NFL season, with over 100,00o unique users and over 10% hold margin. 

Will microbetting continue to increase in US?

It is very early in the in-play microbetting era, but the early numbers encouraging Simplebet. 

“I would say the data speaks for itself. It’s pretty damn hard to ignore that type of engagement and overall consumption,” Simplebet CEO Chris Bevilacqua told LSR last week in a wide-ranging interview. “I think we’re still at the beginning of the long game here, but the whole industry is moving toward a focus on in-play. And we believe our micros are going to be a dominant product across the landscape.” 

PointsBet US CEO Johnny Aitken said during the operator’s most recent earnings call that he expects in-play will represent 75% of all bets in the US within the next three years. 

In-play betting caters to 25-to 45-year-old men, along with casual fans overall, given its entertainment value and instantaneous results. 

MLB pitch clocks conceivably could hurt microbetting

It is at least somewhat surprising, then, that MLB, which is happy to take sportsbook partnership money like every other league, would elect to institute pitch clocks as part of its rule changes for next year. 

At first glance, shorter games are appealing to basically everyone except, conceivably, sports betting operators. The average time between pitches in 2022 is 23.1 seconds. Baseball’s new rules call for pitches to be thrown in 15 seconds with nobody on and 20 seconds with runners on base. 

Bevilacqua even said that two pitch level-markets make up over 50% of their baseball volume: 

  • Whether the next pitch is going to be a ball, strike or in-play 
  • What’s the speed of the next pitch, i.e. is it going to be faster than 94.5 mph

Simplebet CEO contends otherwise  

Yet Bevilacqua pushed back on the notion that less time between pitches would be detrimental to in-play microbetting. 

“We see it as a gigantic competitive advantage for our product and our technology,” Bevilacqua said. “You’re making the assumption that it’s going to hurt he in-play betting experience. I’m not sure I would agree with that. Let’s see what happens.” 

He cited that Simplebet’s scale allows pitch-level markets to stay open for 21 seconds of the 23-second average.

“It’ll be a smaller window, but it’s doable, and there’s no way to do it without this technology, that’s for sure,” Bevilacqua said. “… I’m not sure I would agree with the current thinking that says it’s going to ruin the experience.”

MA wants microbetting prohibited  

Not everyone is on-board with microbetting. 

A recent Responsible Gaming report presented to the Massachusetts Gaming Commission recommended an in-game wagering ban. 

In-game betting may be lucrative for operators, but it is dangerous for problem gamblers, the report says. One potential compromise was enabling customers to set limits on the amount they plan to wager in a single game. 

“It’s an important issue, and something we take very seriously,” Bevilacqua said. “(Massachusetts) isn’t the first state to talk about it. It’s something we have to be very mindful of.” 

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Mike Mazzeo

Mike Mazzeo is a reporter for Legal Sports Report, arriving after covering several of New York’s professional sports teams in a variety of roles for the past decade. Previously, he served as a beat writer and columnist covering the Brooklyn Nets (ESPN) and New York Yankees (New York Daily News). Mike also covered both the MLB and NBA nationally for Yahoo Sports. In addition, he served as a general assignment reporter for ESPNNewYork.com. He has also had bylines in the New York Times, New York Post, Newsday, Forbes and The Ringer.

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