Since the repeal of PASPA, a number of European operators have identified the US market as a key opportunity for international expansion.
Bryan Bennett, Chief Operating Officer of Betfred US, explained why Iowa was earmarked as a key location for Betfred’s US launch, and how the US division will differ from Betfred’s UK operations.
SBCA: Debuting in Iowa, why has Betfred US identified the Hawkeye state for its launch? And how will Betfred expand its US presence?
Iowa was not specifically chosen as our first state for beginning US operations, but rather it is the first state in which we signed a partner in Elite Casino Resorts, that was ready to move forward quickly. We knew the first launch needed to be with a partner that we could work with, and Elite/Grand Falls has been exactly that.
The partnership has been fantastic through the build out and licensing process and we couldn’t be happier that Iowa is in fact our first foray into the US market. From here, we are targeting a variety of states with the announcement of at least two new deals in the coming days or weeks. We want to play a role in every state where sports betting is legal and are in various stages of discussions accordingly.
SBCA: How much of a barrier will it be for Iowans to have to register in person to set up an online account?
The in person signup process is only required until 2021, so any barriers will be short lived. That said, we are working hard to ensure that the process is streamlined and very easy once the patron is on site.
The in-person process is not ideal from a growth perspective, but as a new entrant into the market, it will probably help us in the beginning as Grand Falls Casino & Golf Resort has a great relationship with its patrons and we believe it’s location is a benefit to establishing a lasting connection with online bettors.
SBCA: How will the US offering differ from that in the UK?
For starters, the system will be completely customized for the US market as there are significant differences between US and UK markets and bettor needs. But while it’s a product designed for the US and focusing on US sports, it will also leverage the decades of experience Betfred has in bookmaking in general. We believe that marrying that experience with a US-centric product can give us a competitive advantage in the space.
SBCA: Since its regulated launch, there are 6 licensed sportsbooks servicing Iowa (population 3.1 million), how does Betfred plan to differentiate itself from other sportsbooks in the state?
Our initial focus is on delivering the best retail experience in the state and we believe we will do that with the Vegas quality sports book that we have built compared to the other retail locations in the state. Grand Falls actually draws a majority of its business from Sioux Falls, SD, a metropolitan service area of over 250,000 people.
One thing is for certain and that’s that the Betfred Sportsbook at Grand Falls will be the best sportsbook outside of Nevada or New Jersey, and we believe that the premium retail experience will translate to an engaged and dedicated online customer.
SBCA: What are the key regulatory challenges that Betfred US will face with its expansion into the post-PASPA market? And how do you plan to overcome these challenges?
Every US state has slightly different licensing requirements and regulations, and while that is always challenging, it’s really a matter of having the right people and focus to get it done right. Betfred is accustomed to doing business in regulated markets and we don’t see the US as being any different from a process perspective. However, we are a compliance-first company, and we will always go the extra mile to make sure strictly adhering to regulatory requirements.
SBCA: How will Betfred US engage in Iowa’s sports culture as a Midwest-state with no professional sports teams?
While Iowa does not have any major pro teams, it has a long sports tradition with multiple college teams with a dedicated fan base including the University of Iowa and Iowa State University. Additionally, Grand Falls Casino is only 230 miles from the Minneapolis-St. Paul, and a large number of area residents are massive fans of the teams that call the Twin Cities home.
So while there aren’t specifically pro teams in Iowa, similar to other Midwest states, the state is known as a bastion for sports fandom and you can see that in the strong early start sportsbooks have seen in the state to date.
SBCA: What can Betfred US offer to bettors to tempt them away from their regular, ‘illegal’ bookies to bet on March Madness?
First of all, I think the average sports bettor would prefer to play with a regulated operator. Additionally I think sports bettors and fans enjoy the Vegas sportsbook atmosphere, and that is exactly what we have launched at Grand Falls Casino.
The sportsbook has 80 screens and is designed for avid sports bettors to be able to place wagers and watch games in comfortable surroundings with other fans. We feel pretty strongly that we can leverage the relationship that Grand Falls has already built with its customers to get them into the sportsbook and wagering with Betfred.