Why The Sports Industry Needs U.S. Sports Betting Technology To Work
By Sports Innovation Lab Advisor, Dr. Laila Mintas
I’ve seen a lot in my career. I oversaw FIFA´s Sports Integrity efforts at an international level with 209 member countries and later I was appointed to be the first Director of Sports Integrity at CONCACAF which is the governing body in Soccer for North America, Central America and the Caribbean overseeing 41 member associations including the USA, Canada and Mexico. In both positions I was using data to prevent match manipulations in soccer. I spent years forging data business relationships with top global leagues and brands as Deputy President at Sportradar. I am currently an active advisor to sports betting and iGaming technology specialists Bet.Works.
One thing is clear to me. We are entering a new age of sport. I know this because I see U.S sports leagues, teams, properties, and brands who once looked at sports betting as a side industry in the USA now embracing it as the way they will save the sports industry:
The consumer behavior is changing tremendously. While the traditional fan used to watch the entire game, the new generation of fans has a smaller attention span consuming primarily highlights and summaries of the game. As a consequence, statistics are showing that the attendance in the stadiums as well as the tv ratings are declining. Sports betting is therefore providing the perfect opportunity for the sports industry. It helps to keep sports fans engaged into the sport.
Apart from the fan engagement aspect, sports betting also provides new additional revenue streams to sports due to sponsorship and marketing deals for players, teams, leagues, stadium owners and others. It is just a matter of time when we will also see logos of sports betting operators on player jerseys during the game as it is very common in other markets around the globe such as Europe or Australia.
I recently met with Angela Ruggiero, the CEO of the Sports Innovation Lab. Her company studies the technology disruption across sport, and the Sports Innovation Lab calls the new age of sport “the age of the Fluid Fan”. Fluid Fans are shaking sports industry leaders. These fans are open to change, empowered to choose, and continuously evolving. Sports industry leaders hope sports betting is one powerful tool to keep these future fans engaged.
So, are these leaders right to place their bets on legalized sports betting? I believe they are, but we have to take this opportunity seriously.
This is why I have joined the Sports Innovation Lab as an advisor. I’m thrilled to help shape their research in this area. I’ve already sat with their team to outline the core issues we need to be researching, and the technology we need to be evaluating.
It will take time for laws to pass and for fans to become more comfortable with new betting opportunities, but for the industry to thrive, sports betting technology must work.
Here’s how the Sports Innovation Lab and I have broken down the sports betting technology opportunity:
Integrity. Integrity is a term that’s used a lot by the industry to mean different things and assign fees for products and services, but it’s also an area where technology can help a lot. There are many new platforms in sports sponsorship, athlete training, and media that use computer vision and artificial intelligence to spot irregularities in advertising and player performance. We believe these same technologies will evolve to help regulators and fans be more comfortable with fair match play.
Transaction speed. The technology “stack” to make betting work quickly and securely is not trivial. I tested many systems at Sportradar and later as an investor. These systems operate like high frequency trading systems with the network speed and banking back ends to make sure funds are available and securely transferred.
Acquisition. Fantasy sports leaders in the U.S. spent millions acquiring their user bases with marketing. Acquiring the fluid fan will be even more elusive, because like March Madness, their interest in betting may be more social than financial or sport related. Finding these fluid fans and acquiring them at the right time will be both art and science.
Access. Finally, technology needs to make it easy to wager on sports. This means rights holders will need to loosen some traditional rules and regulations on digital overlays and digital rights. The best fan experiences will be driven by personalization and alerts that drive fluid fans into a viewing and betting experience at the right moment: a game going into extra innings, a shut out, and triple double. These events are exciting. If fans want to join, bet, socialize around these topics, they must not be blocked by paywalls, app downloads, sign ups and payment gateways.
There’s a lot to do as an industry to prepare for sports betting, and I’m eager to work with the Sports Innovation Lab and others to find those opportunities and help leaders make the best decisions. But to be clear, focusing on the technology to power these fans is a smart bet. When a few U.S. states show the true financial promise of mobile betting, the technology infrastructure needs to be ready to scale. Millions of fluid fans have other ways to spend their entertainment money. We need to earn it by being ready.
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