The new NFL season is looming and, in the US at least, the spectre of the big kick-off is one of the most eagerly anticipated moments in sport. But what about Europe? There are increasing instances of regular season games being played on the opposite side of the pond and interest is on the rise. But is this popularity reflected in the opportunities offered by European operators? What more can be done to service this potentially rich sector? And more importantly, who’s going to win the Superbowl? We pick the brains of Callum Broxton, Head of US Operations, Checkd Group, to find out.
American football is as popular now as it has ever been in Europe, but is this properly catered for by sportsbooks?
American Football is definitely starting to grow out of the ‘niche’ tag it was often labelled with and as a result, European sportsbooks have begun to buy into it much more. It’s obviously tough for operators who haven’t got at least some ties to the US markets because they have to justify investing in extra resources, be it traders, dev builds or data feeds without much evidence of potential returns. However, those who have made the leap have been rewarded already and now have a chance to become a home for what is a very loyal NFL fanbase in places like the UK and Germany.
What would you like to see that isn’t already available?
A wider spread of strong NFL products across different bookies would be the first thing. There are only a handful of European sportsbooks who have got behind NFL from a betting perspective, so there’s nowhere near as much competitiveness compared to soccer or horse racing and the punter is the winner when the bookies are trying to outdo each other. Some Free-to-Play games would also be interesting. They’d have to be fairly basic to get widespread uptake due to the knowledge gap that exists, but it’s also a great tool to educate potential users and get them bought into the sport.
Can we learn any lessons from the big US sportsbook brands?
It doesn’t come as much of a surprise when you look at the European books with the best NFL products and who has the heaviest US influences. Flutter Group’s Sky Bet, Paddy Power and Betfair have clearly benefited massively from borrowing bits of FanDuel’s tech, particularly Paddy Power whose NFL bet builder product is pretty much as strong as its soccer one. Bet365 has the market-leading soccer Bet Builder product and, thanks to its growing US presence, its NFL product is right on that level. What bet365 has done so well is incorporate a high level of user customisation. A great NFL offering has to go beyond offering the main markets and bet builders – things like allowing users to drop or increase player prop lines, and offering a full suite of markets which only a few bookies currently do.
Who’s winning the Super Bowl this year? Any players or even dark horses we should be watching out for?
It’s impossible to look past the Chiefs for me. Patrick Mahomes will probably go down as the best quarterback of all time, maybe not Tom Brady levels of legendary but he possesses a QB skillset nobody else has ever come close to. My dark horse is the Lions. It’s definitely heart over head for this one because it’d just be amazing seeing a team who were so bad only a couple seasons ago manage to go all the way. I don’t think they’ll do it, but it should be a fun season for them either way.