Harnessing your brand, or teaming up with another operator – which is the right sportsbook option for tribes?

In the latest edition of Kambi’s State of the Nation, Sarah Robertson, VP Sales, reflects on the different routes available to tribal gaming communities looking to deploy sports betting 

Since the repeal of PASPA in May 2018, sports betting regulations have swiftly rolled out at a pace across the US on a state-by-state basis. Today, sports betting is legal in 21 states and counting, with the market valued at up to $30bn in annual GGR by 2030, and legislation and regulations for many potentially big markets such as Florida, New York (online), and Washington are now on the horizon.

For tribal communities, they should hold the cards as to how sports wagering can expand through compact negotiations. A sports betting operation can help drive significant returns for tribal gaming communities, not just through the sportsbook itself, but across gaming and hospitality as a whole. We’ve seen first-hand how many tribal casinos, for example, have generated significantly more value from on-property customers who engage with both casino and sports betting than those who engage with casino only, while on-property sports betting has also led to an increase in revenue from table games. 

As a result, tribal operators across the US have been busy preparing for sports betting coming to their state, if it hasn’t already. The proliferation of sports betting, however, has left tribal operators with difficult choices as to how best to launch such a new product vertical, not least deciding which partner best suits their strategy. Indeed, finding the right partner is often the all-important first step in building a profitable sportsbook with a dedicated, and loyal, customer base. 

This, of course, begs the question as to which partner is the best option for them. In general, tribes have two options when it comes to finding the right partner: they can either launch sports betting under their brand by working with a dedicated sports betting provider, or they can work with another established B2C sports betting brand – handing over the sportsbook brand building opportunities and day-to-day running of the operation. At Kambi, we have supported tribes with both strategic routes and believe that neither option is the lesser of the two – it just comes down to what each tribal operator is looking to achieve. 

For tribes who believe in the strength of their brand and want to retain their customer base, the option of partnering with a B2B provider could be the right choice for them. Working with an end-to-end B2B sportsbook partner such as Kambi allows tribes to take advantage of a platform with proven excellence in online and on-property sportsbook provision, as well as a range of differentiation tools, risk management expertise and partner support. This leaves the operator with the freedom to focus on strategic planning and execution, as well as any crucial consumer-facing elements. 

Four Winds Casinos and Seneca Gaming Corporation have undertaken this strategy with Kambi, launching on-property sports betting just a couple of weeks after our partnerships were signed.

In this instance, it is a priority for the provider to ensure they are as consultative as possible, keeping an open dialogue with tribal operators and providing them a sports betting offering that suits the tribe’s established brand. 

Other tribal operators may find that a partnering with a B2C operator is the best bet for them. In this case, they would hand over any brand-building opportunities and have a shared database for joint growth, operating under their partner’s brand which, in many cases, may resonate stronger with customers and offer more national recognition. Gun Lake Tribe of Michigan, for example, have found success in this regard, partnering with Kambi-powered sportsbook operator Parx Casino to launch sports betting at Gun Lake Casino. 

It is an approach that was also taken by the Little River Band of Ottawa Indians, who have launched sports betting with Kambi partner Rush Street Interactive at the Little River Casino. In both cases, the tribes benefited not only from Kambi’s best-in-class sports wagering technology, but also the experienced sportsbook marketing and operational expertise of the operator.  

In summary, teaming up with a trusted sports betting partner – be that a technology and services provider, or a fellow operator – can put tribes in the best position to capitalize on the opportunities regulated sports betting presents, with a first-class product and deep offering. The only question is: which is the right option for you?