One of the key topics of discussion at Wednesday’s SBC Digital North America conference was the shift in attitudes among professional sports leagues toward legalising sports betting in the United States.
The Nuvei-sponsored panel, which was part of a track sponsored by Sportradar, discussed how sports organisations are figuring out their place in the betting ecosystem and the ramifications of participating in the new world order of sports betting.
Integrity remains most important
The volte face was explained by Kuljeet Sindhar, Senior Director of International Fantasy & Gaming at the National Basketball Association, who said: “From our perspective the integrity of the game remains and will always be the most important thing.
“And with the advent of the digital age we recognised that the perceived threats to our game through sports betting were taking place with or without legalised, regulated sports betting in the US.
“All that prohibition was doing was pushing that underground. Once we took that view we became early adopters as the first league to call for legalisation of regulated sports betting in the US as a way of protecting the integrity of sport and having a transparent betting market.”
NASCAR’s Managing Director of Sports Betting, Joseph Solosky, added: “It’s certainly been a maturation process. I think in 2018 we all knew that this was coming – we just didn’t know exactly when. It was really getting our ducks in a row, figuring out what stakeholders would need to get involved before we could actually get a product up and running.
“And for NASCAR, integrity was the number one priority and actually the first deal that we signed in the sports betting space in 2018-2019 was with Sportradar on the integrity side.”
Measured approach by design
Jeff Fernandez, the New York Jets’ Vice President of Business Development and Ventures, echoed those sentiments. “From an NFL perspective, clearly they’ve taken a measured approach by design, much like Joe and Kuljeet talked about starting with the integrity of the game – the brand and the reputation of the league and of the clubs – and then eventually the concept of commercialisation,” he said.
“So have we missed out on anything? Perhaps we’ve missed out a little on opportunities in the short-term, but this is a long game and I think the NFL took a thoughtful approach about how they were going to monitor consumer perception. They did a couple of deals with Caesars on the casino side and DraftKings on the fantasy side to really see what the reaction might be from their avid audience.
“They did focus group upon focus group and surveys and really just understood that not everybody views the industry in the same way and it was going to be an education process. So from the commercial side yes, I wish it was a little quicker like the NBA perhaps. But at the end what we are talking about is five, 10, 15 years from now and make sure that we don’t make some of the mistakes that we’ve seen happen in other parts of the world with sports betting.”
Randy Haynes, Director and Consultant at Miomni, and Mustafa Abdul-Hamid, CEO of Boost, joined Sindhar, Kolosky, and Fernandez on the panel. Robert Davidman, a partner of Slapshot Media, was in charge of moderating.
The industry specialists were speaking at SBC Digital North America’s Leaders in Sports Betting Track, which was sponsored by Sportradar.