US sports betting: ‘fantasy sports opened a door, this is the next evolution’

7 September 2017

As part of an interview series featuring speakers from November’s inaugural Sports Betting USA conference, sports, entertainment & branding consultant Joe Favorito speaks to Clarion Gaming’s head of content Ewa Bakun about how the sports teams and leagues are preparing for the possibility of legalised sports wagering in the US from as early as next spring.

iGaming Business: You have been involved in the US sports sector for a long time, how have you seen attitudes towards sports betting changing over the years? Where is it on the priority agenda now?
Joe Favorito: I think the priorities have evolved, just as they have with other areas that were once taboo in the marketplace such as spirits advertising, lottery, casinos etc. Teams and leagues are very savvy and constantly take the temperature of the consumer. They see where and when an opportunity presents itself and then find ways to engage. It is the same thing we are seeing with gambling. Fantasy sports opened a door, this is the next evolution.

iGB: What is the appeal of sports betting for the US sports teams?
Joe Favorito: Two pieces - revenue and fan engagement. The appeal to keep fans engaged plays into betting. However the biggest appeal is simple - teams need to find new sources of revenue, and one with the most potential is the gaming and gambling space.

iGB: Sports integrity is one of the key concerns for stakeholders, which is very much related to the image of US sports among consumers/fans. How can the leagues/sports teams best manage their transition to legalised wagering while also safeguarding their image?
Joe Favorito: I cannot tell the leagues anything they don't already know and are thinking about. All have learned from mistakes in the long ago past in the US and from recent issues with match and game fixing in other parts of the world. There are companies that are the best in the world at protecting all forms of data, and that is where the first spend is and should go. If something is not genuine or there is a suspicion of impropriety, all the good will, all the money and all the time goes out the window.

iGB: What role can sports betting play in increasing fan engagement? How could teams/leagues leverage this?
Joe Favorito: The biggest area will be in the mobile space, and that goes not just for gambling but for all forms of gaming. Giving consumers the opportunity to participate in real-time in what is going on in the field from a predictive position will make even the longest games or matches more fun.

iGB: Are there any examples of US sports already using wagering-like mechanics to increase engagement?
Joe Favorito:
Again, I think predictive games in the mobile space that teams are starting to use is the first step. Right now, they are not for pay, they are for points and prizes, but using technology to give that added value is key, especially given the high price of admission for most pro sports games in the US.

iGB: What is the ideal commercial model for US sports to adopt in order to benefit from legalised sports betting?
Joe Favorito:
I think it’s too early to say what the best model would be. That will be spelled out by those in charge, both at the federal and the state level.

iGB: How do you see the sports betting debate developing over the next six-to-12 months?
Joe Favorito:
It will continue to evolve. You may see games played outside the US, where gambling is legal, and teams take on official betting partners. More importantly you will see teams continue to enhance the experience for fans through added data analytics and technology that will make the experience more fun and more engaging than ever before.

iGB: What are your expectations and objectives for the Sports Betting USA conference in New York at which you are speaking in November?
Joe Favorito:
It is important to do to things, to listen and learn and think about the future and how gaming will best impact the industry without compromising its core values. I think the hope is that events like this bring in some of the sceptics to better understand, and help grow the knowledge and networking base of those who are already intrigued.

Joe Favorito has over 32 years of strategic communications/marketing, business development and public relations expertise in sports, entertainment, brand building, media training, television, athletic administration and business. He managed the day-to-day strategic communications activities for two of the world’s hallmark sports and entertainment brands (the New York Knickerbockers and Philadelphia 76ers), the world’s largest professional sport for women (the WTA Tour), the world’s largest sports national governing body (the United States Tennis Association) and the world’s largest annual sporting event (the US Open).

Joe will be speaking on the panel ‘Using gaming and wagering-like mechanics to drive fan engagement and enhance sports viewership’ at the inaugural Sports Betting USA conference, taking place in NYC from 14-15 November.

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