With BetMGM opening the latest sports-venue-based retail betting operation last week at Nationals Park in Washington, D.C. on top of a steady stream of announcements of other planned venue-gaming partnerships, the growth opportunities for both sides are abundantly clear.
Venues and teams are adding a major enhancement to the fan experience, as Monumental Sports & Entertainment president of business operations and chief commercial officer Jim Van Stone said on the All Access Interview Series podcast after opening the Caesars sportsbook at Capital One Arena:
“Our buildings are interesting. Even with 230 events a year at Capital One Arena, we open our buildings up an hour before a game begins and close them right afterwards. Adding a fully operational 365-day sportsbook creates a destination opportunity for fans to engage beyond the events we have.
“Certainly from a venue operator standpoint, sports betting was a perfect addition. Our forecasts projected a sportsbook would drive one million additional visits to the arena per year. That creates an opportunity to generate more exposure for our partners, and to have ancillary entertainment experiences to drive people to buy more tickets.”
For BetMGM, Caesars, FanDuel, DraftKings and other operators, it’s an opportunity to offer in-person betting to the most highly targeted audience outside of casinos while also promoting their digital/mobile brands to players now that 80 percent of U.S. sports betting is done via phone or computer.
“People still want to wager in person,” Keith Wall, FanDuel's vice president of retail operations told the AP. “You have sports betting operating right where the fans are.”
In the same article, Matt Prevost, BetMGM's chief revenue officer, said, “Retail is a great opportunity to put a face to a brand. It's a big part of our strategy.”
But one of the most important synergies, especially for teams, may be yet to come.
First, despite beefing up their business intelligence teams and getting smarter about analytics, most sports properties are still not fully delivering on the potential of their fan and customer data to drive growth for themselves and their business partners.
The opposite is true of gaming companies. There may be no industry, with the exception of financial services, that does a better job of knowing who its customers are, their lifetime value and how to extract more value out of them, immediately and in the future.
As the ties become stronger between sports properties and their betting partners, teams and venue operators would be wise to consider how they can tap the analytical prowess of gaming operators, including sharing proprietary information that could be combined with betting data to create unprecedented insights into fan behavior.
The Vegas Golden Knights are pursuing this path, albeit in a different fashion than partnering with a gaming company. As president and chief operating officer Kerry Bubolz said in his All Access podcast interview:
“The sports industry in general is probably about 15-to-20 years behind the gaming industry and even the retail industry when it comes to data, analytics and loyalty and being able to connect those dots. It’s one thing to capture the data. But how are you using the data to drive revenue?
“We all talk about that 360-degree view of our consumer and our fan, but who’s actually able to deliver on communicating across all the different opportunities? We certainly aren’t there yet, but…we hired a gentleman by the name of Randy Morton, who spent 20 years as president and CEO of the Bellagio within the MGM family. We’re working collaboratively to connect those dots and utilize his expertise in loyalty programming.”
Whether through partnerships, targeted talent hires, or other relationships, gaming companies and sports properties have just started to scratch the surface in building their businesses hand-in-hand.