Brandt Iden, Sportradar: US industry ‘a rocket ship that’s only going up’

Sportradar’s Head of Government Affairs Brandt Iden weighed in on the regulatory state-of-play in the sports betting industry in the US
Image: Shutterstock

Sports betting in California is looking increasingly unlikely as each day passes. The latest nail in the coffin of the doomed Prop 27 was the opposition announced by Governor Gavin Newsom, who labeled the proposition as ‘bad’ for the state

The electorate on Nov. 8 is extremely unlikely to support either Prop 26 or Prop 27, shelving plans for a highly anticipated launch and somewhat simmering down what has been a red-hot period for US sports betting. 

However, murmurs have been on the cards of another effort in time for the 2024 elections, and Sportradar’s Head of Government Affairs Brandt Iden weighed in on such possibilities in the next two years.

Sportradar’s Brandt Iden on California’s chances

“My prediction is everybody sort of goes back to their corner and takes a little time off, it’s been a heated election cycle,” he told SBC Americas at G2E. “I’m hopeful and optimistic that the commercials and the tribes will maybe sit down and try to figure it out that this can be done legislatively. 

“But it will take a compromise like we’ve seen in Michigan, Arizona, Connecticut, where tribes and commercials have been able to work together. It would be really disappointing to see us go back to the ballot and 2024 and spend another almost half a billion dollars, if not more, on another fight.”

The astronomical spending of the proponents and opponents of either propositions’ campaigns has been a big talking topic in recent months – especially considering that both are doomed to fail. 

It’s something that Iden has asserted is simply not sustainable for the industry, only amplifying the need for a compromise between all parties involved.

“I mean, there’s $650m+ has been spent on positive and negative campaigning for 26 and 27. And that’s the most expensive ballot initiative in the history of ballot initiatives. So not just in the state of California – ever. 

“It’s not something I think that we can continue to do over and over. I’m hopeful that the sides would be able to come together and have a good conversation and maybe find some resolution.”

‘A fantastic time for the company’

Away from the disappointment of California’s failure, it is clearly an exciting time to be in the sports betting industry in the US. This year has seen launches in New York, Louisiana and Kansas with several other states in the pipeline for upcoming launches. 

Maryland could be set to launch before the end of the year – just before Ohio does on Jan. 1 and Massachusetts in early 2023. 

For Sportradar, this means greater opportunities to supply its data services and marketing capabilities to more operators in more states, something that greatly excited Iden.

“Oh, it’s a fantastic time for the company. It’s a fantastic time for the industry. I like to tell people, we’re on a rocket ship that’s only going up, which is great. 

“The industry in the US is still very young. PASPA was overturned just a little over four years ago and we’ve got a lot of growth. But we have still got big states that haven’t opened Texas, for example, and we’re what we’re waiting to see what happens in Florida. You’ve got major markets that haven’t opened in this country yet. And that’s exciting.”

On the theme of Texas and Florida, Iden – with his position as Head of Government Affairs – offered some insight and analysis on the current state of play in both of those states, which could well be extremely large markets should they legalize sports betting.

“Florida will be resolved in the courts one way or the other. And, in my opinion, that probably ends up eventually at the United States Supreme Court, and then we’ll see what happens. It may have to go back to the voters at which point in time, there could be a ballot initiative in Florida, we’ll have to see. So that one is sort of kind of just wait and see.” 

Whilst the process is messy and potentially tricky in Florida, Iden was much more optimistic about Texas’s chances of developing legislation despite a short window of time left in the legislative session.

Iden explained: “Texas Legislature meets every other year for up to 140 days. So we’ve got a small window of time to get something done in Texas. 

“I think, given the conversations that have been ongoing in Texas for the past three years, we’ve got a really good chance and seen some major progress. I am not saying we’re gonna get it done. I’m just saying that we’re gonna see some committee hearings and there’s gonna be a lot of conversation, and the industry is going to be really focused on Texas.”

With Texas and Florida in conversations, Iden remains bullish on states such as Georgia and North Carolina getting over the line with sports betting in the months ahead. 

Building the Michigan legislation

As the industry begins to expand once more and the excitement that comes with it, Iden was reminded of his time shaping the sports betting and igaming laws in Michigan in his previous role during his time in the House of Representatives. 

Representing the 61st District, Iden played a major role in bringing the industry to the Great Lake state.

Remembering the process, Iden detailed: “I was the architect of that. We did a massive overhaul of gaming in Michigan. The Michigan legislation and casino legislation had not been dealt with in 23 years in Michigan. And then we came in, and I was able to overhaul that entire thing. 

“One of the pieces that then made that very successful is the integration of the tribes and the commercials working together within the market. It took massive compromise to get that done. In fact, it took me five and a half years in my six-year career and the first time it got vetoed by the governor. So it took me a long time to get that done. And it was a lot of hard work.” 

Rounding off, Iden was asked to pick his favorite out of all the potential states to legalize sports betting in 2023. 

Having mentioned Georgia, North Carolina, Texas, Florida and California, he had plenty of states to pick from.

However, it was two previously unmentioned states that Iden sided with.

Concluding his thoughts, he remarked: “If I had to handicap it, Minnesota or North Carolina. I’m gonna hedge my bets. Those are two states where I think we’re gonna have a lot of success early on in 2023.”