SBC Rewind: NFL season produces big interest and new launches

SBC Rewind September October 2022
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With Labor Day officially turning summer into fall, it was football season. With the start of football season, there is always a slate of announcements and launches, and 2022 was no different. The pace of launches wasn’t quite the same as past years, but many operators and affiliates alike treated the start of Kansas sports betting with care and attention. The appetite for interest in NFL betting was stronger than ever, with GeoComply reporting over 100 million geolocations during NFL Week 1 action.

With that appetite, rumors swirled about ESPN getting in the action. The hunger for sports betting was not nationwide, however. While markets posted big numbers, the sports betting measures in California could hardly drum up any support at all.

NFL sets stage for Kansas launch, new sportsbooks, and partnerships

Kansas sports betting launched on Sept. 1 with the usual suspects of large US operators like BetMGM, who partnered with the Kansas City Chiefs. The first month generated over $1 million in revenue even after extensive promotional credit deductions.

Even though there was just one new state, September was crowded with big announcements about sportsbooks and their plans for the new NFL season. BetMGM teamed up with NBC Sports to offer NFL odds and content that many presumed PointsBet would provide. Thursday Night Football on Amazon Prime also signed a big betting deal with DraftKings. Not all big announcements were positive, though. In October, Fubo TV announced it was shuttering its sportsbook operations.

A new player with a different kind of sportsbook offering also emerged with the launch of Sporttrade. The exchange model app is seeking to be a challenger brand in the US market, and it used a challenger to the geolocation space, XPoint. The company is facing more than a market challenge though, as GeoComply filed suit against the company in October, alleging patent infringement. The suit will likely drag out into 2024 barring a settlement.

ESPN teases, then retracts the idea of a branded sportsbook

Before he was ousted and replaced by the previous CEO Bob Iger in November, Disney CEO Bob Chapek offered some cryptic comments about the Mouse getting more involved in sports betting than the company already was.

There was certainly an appetite for ESPN to get more involved, at least according to a survey by OddsAssist. Over 73% of respondents said they would place bets at an ESPN-branded sportsbook.

Speaking at the annual D23 expo, Chapek’s comments certainly sounded like the company was considering getting into the operator game.

“We’re working very hard on that,” Chapek said in response to pursuing the creation of an ESPN sportsbook. Days later, he very firmly walked back those comments.

“We’re never going to a be a book. That’s not in the cards for the Walt Disney Company.”

What Chapek might have been alluding to was a pending deal to expand its partnership with DraftKings. That hit the rumor mill in Ocotber, but the year ended without an announcement.

Prop 27’s chances go from bad to worse in California

In the final weeks leading up to Election Day, the dueling campaigns of Proposition 26 and Proposition 27 heated up even though the chances of either passing were cooling down. Talking with SportRadar’s Brandt Iden, who had not yet moved on to Fanatics, he likened the record spending to an arms race. Even though both props were heading for defeat, the spending continued just in case.

Roughly two months out, both 26 and 27 were polling at sub-35% approval. The numbers seemed bad at the time, but in the case of 27 especially, they would end up materially worse come November 8.

What really didn’t help Prop 27 was the bipartisan swell of support to defeat the measure. Many lawmakers were agnostic on Prop 26, but most everyone in positions of power spoke out loudly against 27, including Gov. Gavin Newsom. The general tone of the criticism was that, while much of the country was cuckoo for sports betting this fall, California lawmakers and residents were not hankering for another form of gambling in the state.