We’re coming up on less than 72 hours until Christmas and Hanukkah is already well underway. If you are like most Americans, you probably have some last-minute shopping to do.
If you have sports fans in your family and live in one of the states that offer regulated online sports betting, that perfect gift might be available in, of all places, your local grocery store.
Blackhawk Network is a name you might not recognize, but you’ve almost certainly purchased one of their products. The company works with vendors to offer gift cards for a range of things, including restaurants, online services and apps, and a range of retail stores. They also offer gift cards for sportsbooks, branded as Game On.
Once PASPA was repealed by the Supreme Court in 2018, the natural question at Blackhawk was how they could get involved in sports betting.
Getting involved in sports betting was nearly instantaneous for BlackHawk
I was running a new division for Black Hawk at the time in lottery. When PASPA was repealed, I remember my CEO walked by and said, Hey, how would you like to do sports betting, too? So I thought, yeah, sports betting seems super exciting. And I thought that I would have some time to sort of really craft a careful strategy,” recalled Richard Gottlieb, Head of Lottery and Gaming for BlackHawk Network. “Literally four days after that Tuesday, the head of prepaid from one of our biggest distribution partners called and asked me what my plans were for sports betting.”
Before the company pulled the trigger on anything, they commissioned a study to look at bettors’ behavior and see where Blackhawk Network might get involved.
“We learned a lot of interesting things. One of the biggest, and I think the most obvious was sports betting is not giftable, and it’s such an amazing thing to be able to share with friends and family who are avid sports fans,” he said. “So we thought we were onto something just by making a giftable.”
Game On cards address issues beyond finding presents for people
Beyond that though, the group learned some other lessons about bettors and how these gift cards could address issues beyond serving as a stocking stuffer.
We learned that a lot of people were also hesitant to link their banking information, whether it was a credit card or through ACH to what were, at the time, not well-known sports brands,” Gottlieb explained. Initially, as others have noted, the rejection rate on credit cards and even debit cards were pretty high when sports betting launched in the early states. So, in addition to solving the problem of consumer hesitancy, it also was a potential workaround for others who had trouble funding an account.
“There was a fair amount [of people] that were concerned about privacy and wanting to keep how much they invest or spend with sports betting private.”
That wasn’t the only non-gifting upside though. There was an unexpected responsible gambling component to this as well.
“People had said, if I link it to my credit card or my bank account, it might make it too easy for me to spend more than I had budgeted. So a lot of people use it as a budgeting tool,” Gottlieb added.
Game On cards can be the launchpad for those notionally interested in betting
While there are alternative uses for these cards, Gottlieb still thinks the bulk of interest is as a gift. For someone interested in betting, it is an accessible way to dip a toe in the water.
I think in large part, the people that buy sports betting gift cards like Game On or the other brands that we carry, and give it as a gift, are generally giving it to people who are probably big sports fans but haven’t maybe made the jump to being a sports bettor.”
The cards for sports betting can feature several different brands as options, so the person receiving the card can test the market with a range of options. Even though you do not have to provide a credit card number or bank account info, to use the card requires the same know your customer protocols to set up an account as any other payment method.
Obviously, just like lottery tickets, Game On is something that should be given responsibly and only to those over the age of 21. However, if you know someone with an interest in sports betting that hasn’t given it a shot yet, this could be the perfect gift for the holiday season.