The North American sports betting market has expanded rapidly over the past year, bolstered by the COVID-19 pandemic, and operators are increasingly looking to sharpen their M&A strategies to better compete in the sector.
Speaking on a Sportradar-sponsored panel at the SBC Digital North America event entitled ‘M&A is hot right now – are we witnessing the golden age of US sports betting?’, moderated by Anton Kaszubowski, Founder & Managing Director at SBC Advisory Partners, a group of experienced speakers shared their views on the burgeoning market.
Noting that in the emerging US sports betting market many of the leading operators overlap with one another – for example, DraftKings and Barstool Sports are both partners with leading supplier Kambi – Lloyd Danzig, Founder and Managing Partner of Sharp Alpha Advisors, highlighted the competitive nature of American business.
“It would be almost unheard of for other hot venture backed industries to have such a commoditized product landscape and reliance on so few and overlapping suppliers,” he began.
“I just don’t think that is likely to last, it’s almost not the American way if you will, growing and scaling companies and almost being in bed with your enemy and biggest competitor at the same time. “
Discussing both the potential and the challenges of the US sports betting and gaming market, Tekkorp Digital Acquisition Corp CEO, Matt Davey, stated: “The US market, while small at the moment, on a global scale is growing faster as a major market than pretty much any other market in the world.
“When it’s fully formed, it’s going to be a big market and probably the biggest in the world for a single jurisdiction. We have a large amount of demand for brands to capture some of that domestically, but also if you’re an international gaming or sports betting operator, you probably need to be in the US, one way or the other.
“We’ve got rapid expansion at the moment, but at some point it’s going to become too expensive to drive organic expansion, you go and have a look at whether it makes sense to tuck in one or two acquisitions to really get a foothold here.”
Danzig concluded: “I certainly think you’ll see a lot of M&A for the purpose of allowing companies to feel and sell investors and then eventually be vertically integrated, control the entirety or at least a greater portion of their tech stack, and in so doing allow themselves to become differentiated.”
Looking at the issue from the perspective of an international operator, Davey added: “If you are a large international company looking to come into the US, there will definitely be attention turned towards other ways to gain market share, and I think M&A is going to be a key component of that.”
Siding with Danzig on one key issue was Joe Asher, former CEO of William Hill US, who ‘fundamentally agreed’ with the former’s argument that the US sports betting industry was a ‘major beneficiary of COVID related restrictions and behavioural shifts’.
Asher noted: “COVID was an accelerant to the adoption of digital meaning in the US by consumers. Changing consumer habits are now pretty firmly established, the big opportunity now focused on is perhaps the ability to engage with customers not only in the retail or land-based sense, but in the digital sense where they go back home from their visit to a casino, be it Las Vegas or in the regional markets.
“Clearly now we’re in a phase of pent up demand and people are itching to get out and about in travel and see people and do things, and that’s no where more visible than in Las Vegas.
“The movement in digital around sports and online gaming continues for the foreseeable future. The cautionary aspect of course is the lessons from the UK of governmental pushback around things like responsible gaming and regulation.”
Finally, in addition to commenting on the significance of SPACs and the impact of the COVID-19 pandmeic, Wayne Kimmell, Managing Partner at SeventySix Capital, discussed the role start-up companies can play in the burgeoning US betting and gaming space.
“I think it cannot be overstated how good the golden startups are to the innovation, product differentiation and consolidation story, and to larger stakeholders’ M&A strategy,” he remarked.
He added: “It’s at the heart of the entrepreneur question: startups really will bring a lot of this next gen backend and front end technology, and more than anything this hopefully makes it the most fun time ever to be a sports fan, sports bettor or gamer.”
The Industry experts were speaking on the Leaders in Sports Betting Track sponsored by Sportradar at SBC Digital North America, which runs from June 9 to 10, 2021. Get your free ticket by registering at https://sbcevents.com/sbc-digital-north-america/