The biggest event in the US sports calendar presents huge opportunities for the legalized sports betting operators to attract new customers and achieve business growth. Since the Tampa Bay Buccaneers defeated the Kansas City Chiefs in last year’s game, the US betting landscape has evolved significantly with even more states open for business, most notably with New York the latest to embrace mobile sports betting legislation.
Ahead of Super Bowl LVI, SBC Americas caught up with Amelco’s Head of Trading Operations, Mark Hill, Betegy CEO Alex Kornilov, Checkd Group’s Head of Commercial Callum Broxton, Juice Reel CEO Ricky Gold, and SportCast Managing Director Ryan Coombs, to understand how they’ve approached this year’s game and the types of trends we can expect.
Given how the US sports betting space has advanced with more states opening up and a greater number of fans now placing bets, have you approached this year’s NFL Championship game differently from previous years?
Ryan Coombs (RC): From being the first provider to offer same-game parlays on the NFL back in 2019, it’s been incredible to see the levels of growth our range of products have experienced in the US market. In terms of approaching this year’s Big Game – it goes without saying that as the market-leading supplier of BetBuilder, we’ve been laser-focused on producing the widest range of markets for our partners with hundreds available for the big game. Further to this and in line with the increase in popularity of our products, we’ve had to prepare ourselves technically to ensure the best possible experience for fans. This includes benchmarking our platform to cater for thousands of bets to be requested per second.
Alex Kornilov (AK): It seems everybody in the sports space – sports television, sports streaming, and of course gaming and sports-betting – is approaching this year’s Super Bowl differently. And they’ll approach next year’s Super Bowl differently as well. The phenomenon of growing fan engagement — with betting as a key driver – will make the sport more dynamic every year, and the league and the networks will adapt to that to a greater extent. The NFL is arguably as competitive this season as it’s ever been – just look at the Playoffs – nearly every game has gone down to the final play. With this, fan excitement has surged. This is evident not just in viewing figures, but in betting markets and products such as DFS. Fans want stats, data, and insights. They want to be able to call the plays themselves. That makes data generation crucial.
As the teams, the league, and the networks generate more data for viewer consumption and engagement, the fans will devote more time to the games. That will be good for sponsorships, advertising, and ancillary revenue opportunities, as well as the NFL’s own ambitions for expanding its popularity overseas. You will hear long-time executives in the advertising business say that “Data is the new ‘creative.’” Data is used increasingly for decisions in advertising and television. And this is especially true of sports. To lure fans in and to get them involved, you need the data – and you need to package that data conveniently for their consumption.
Callum Broxton (CB): This is our first Super Bowl as an active player in the US market, so it’s essentially one big learning curve for us. But the size of the event is unparalleled across the rest of the sporting calendar, so it does present us with a huge opportunity to supercharge engagement and traffic levels by capitalizing on the sheer demand for anything and everything related to the Super Bowl. Education is a top priority throughout in terms of our approach and will run through everything we do. This is beyond obvious, but always something that has to be front of mind considering that tens of millions more people now have access to online sports betting compared to last year. A huge amount of those people will be placing their first bets and searching out guides, reviews, and expert picks to maximize their Super Bowl betting experience. A large part of our job is to cater for that segment of our audience.
Mark Hill (MH): Whilst the number of states with legalized sports wagering has grown dramatically since Super Bowl LV, Amelco has also seen significant growth across both our client base and in-house trading strategies and platforms. When the Bucs saw off the Chiefs in 2021, we were live in two States with online and retail offerings on behalf of two US-facing clients. We now move into this year’s showdown with a foothold in nine States across multiple operators and partners – that in itself sees the playbook from last year ripped up with a no ‘one size fits all’ approach for each of the clients we work with.
Trading-wise we have taken steps to have more control and influence on pricing without the need to have an over-reliance on third-party feed providers. Throughout the NFL season, we were able to book bets based on our own specialized US trading team’s numbers, and ultimately, we’ll be looking to put some of that into action again in the two weeks leading up to the final. Of course, given that it’s the Super Bowl, traders would do best to treat it as a totally separate betting entity. The market matures quickly in the first 48 hours, and after that, it’s all about getting our derivatives and prop markets priced correctly with our own shades in places and any specific individual client requests. It’s a challenging couple of weeks but operationally we’re looking forward to it.
Ricky Gold (RG): As a new company that allows users to connect all of their sportsbooks into one convenient app, we are approaching this year’s Super Bowl with the focus on giving bettors more content to sink their teeth into. At last year’s Super Bowl, Juice Reel users were able to automatically import all their bets into our app and see analytics on themselves, as well as monitor their overall betting performance.
This year, we’re enhancing our offering by providing Juice Reel users with access to our community of synced data to inform their bet-making decisions. Through the subscription service Crowdsourced Insights, consumers will soon see the bets that the top 10% performing users are placing, allowing them to reinforce their betting habits and potentially win more. We’ve also upped our analytics offerings. Juice Reel users can now watch the value of their Super Bowl bets fluctuate with every play, creating a stock portfolio-like feel during the live event.
During last year’s event, several operators reported downtime that resulted in customer unrest at not being able to place bets properly or collect winnings. Has the industry learned from its mistakes heading into this year’s big game?
AK: The industry has no choice but to learn from this. Sports-betting providers need to keep pace with the growing fan interest. But for now, I guess it’s fair to put it in the category of ‘growing pains’. Chalk it up to experience – and learn from it. Because sports betting, and the demand for data to make those decisions – will only grow, operators will need to adapt. These things do happen during immensely busy periods, but it’s about minimizing disruption for bettors.
CB: Over the past year it feels like everything has been geared towards avoiding a repeat of the relative catastrophe of the last Super Bowl. Huge investment has been made across the industry to ensure gamblers have the smoothest possible experience, a factor that is especially vital around an event like this where hundreds of thousands of people could well be placing their first-ever bet. Nobody wants it to be their last.
RG: The industry has of course learned from its mistakes, but crucially the technology and toolsets that support the industry have evolved too. While Juice Reel is a consumer product today, we are positioning ourselves to be a bet volume/player retention engine that delivers greater value for the entire industry chain.
In a similar way to Juice Reel, many companies are evolving to help sportsbooks maximize their performance in the market, such as supporting them in the retention and reactivation of bettors. The high quantity of talented teams that are focused on enhancing the industry gives me full confidence that sportsbooks are preparing to execute a flawless and successful Super Bowl experience this year.
RC: You would like to think so, but it takes hard work from a back-end perspective to ensure reliability and that’s something that OpenBet and SportCast never takes for granted. One thing that is for certain though is that records are going to be smashed again this year in terms of bets placed, especially with the addition of legalized states such as New York. Speaking from SportCast’s perspective, we achieved 100% uptime last year with zero degradation in services for every client. As you would expect, we’ve been working with the technical teams of all our partners to ensure that the best possible experience is delivered to end users once again. For example, stress testing the end-to-end throughput of processing more than 4,000 pricing requests per second.
What betting trends do you expect to emerge from this year’s Big Game? Increased parlay betting? Improved mobile play?
MH: Same game parlays and bet-builder tools are certainly generating an increased handle for us, with the latter seeing constant refinements as an ongoing process. This is both to increase the number of markets available to parlay together. but also improving our in-house pricing structures to keep the product competitive against the rest of the market.
Every operator wants to improve their market offerings for the Super Bowl and generally, increase limits across the board. Each year post-PASPA has seen an increasingly competitive space to be ‘first to market’ on Player Props and novelty props around the showcase final. As part of that, Vegas’s Westgate Props Sheet drives a lot of the overall market, but right up to kick-off there remains +EV bets out there for the savvy bettor to take advantage of. This is just as much as the casual recreational bettor who weighs in on ‘down the menu’ bets that deviates away from the usual Spread, Moneyline, Total action that are more familiar. At the end of the day, It’s ultimately one of the most exciting events to bet on during the calendar year and with accessibility through mobile apps and legalized books at an all-time high across the States, this year’s overall handle and market offerings should blow away anything we’ve seen before.
RC: The popularity of same-game parlays is ramped up to the next level during flagship, standalone events. We expect our product to continue with its upward trajectory in terms of percentage of total hold in the NFL Championship Game. Our player props offering is also likely to take center stage with bettors always looking for obscure markets to engage with, as typically 70% of NFL BetBuilder bets contain a player prop selection. However, we expect that number to grow for the big game. Already, we can see how dwell time has increased on our BetBuilder markets during the Play-Offs from the regular season.
RG: With the Juice Reel ecosystem syncing bets from over 250 of the biggest sportsbooks, we have a first-hand view of the emerging tendencies of bettors. One of the trends we’ve noticed is the increase in users taking more high-odds multi-leg parlays, particularly within regulated markets. We have also seen more players signing up and placing bets at multiple sportsbooks, driven by the vast bonuses and promotional odds boosts being directed to end users at present.
The Super Bowl always has a high amount of player prop offerings that bettors enjoy, and it’ll be interesting to see if this time the post-Super Bowl “prop fever” takes hold. Therefore, once the Super Bowl has come to an exciting finish, we will be analyzing the relative amount of money placed on props opposed compared against more classic bets on subsequent events.
AK: Mobile betting is clearly a trend, not just in the US, but worldwide. It is the pre-eminent way to bet nowadays, and the Super Bowl won’t change that. We also expect to see more and more micro-betting transactions. This is betting on what happens in the next minute, or play, or drive, etc. almost instant-gratification bets that allow players to be invested in the minutiae of the game. We’ll also see more and more player prop bets, especially with so much data prevalent, but micro-betting is something that is already a huge growth space, and the Super Bowl could be another exciting time for the betting space.
CB: Pre-game, I expect there will be enormous interest in the novelty markets. Will the national anthem be over or under 59.5 seconds, what color will the Gatorade shower be, and what will be the first song of the half-time show? These are hugely accessible markets with zero sports knowledge required to have an edge, so both operators and affiliates will be focusing on utilizing them to access an ultra-recreational audience.
For the more seasoned gambler, Same Game Parlays will be the go-to section within their sportsbook apps. The time and level of research required to find the perfect picks across a big board of games during the regular season or early in the play-offs can now be dedicated to one single game. The superstars for each team will take center stage, with the likes of Cooper Kupp receiving yards matched with Matthew Stafford passing yards, as bettors look to correlated markets to juice their odds.