Odds Are That Online Sportsbook Wins Big Post-COVID

It’s been said that “gamblers find things to gamble on.” Online sportsbooks have been beneficiaries of that dictum ever since COVID-19 eradicated most live sports, leaving millions of fans and a great many bettors potentially mired in boredom.

With casinos also partly or mostly out of the equation for now, online sportsbook firms like DraftKings and FanDuel are expanding their online sports betting options and partnerships to keep the action hot until the pandemic passes (and beyond).

For instance, DraftKings announced on Wednesday (Sept. 16) that it’s signed an exclusive multiyear arrangement with the New York Giants NFL team, making DraftKings the franchise’s “official sports betting, iGaming and daily fantasy operator.” It’s the latest in a series of such deals to make online fantasy-sportsbook in some ways as much fun (and as lucrative) as betting on real teams in more normal times.

“Our enhanced agreement with DraftKings provides innovative opportunities as we look to deliver a best-in-class fan experience,” Giants Chief Commercial Officer Pete Guelli said in a statement. “DraftKings is the preeminent leader in sports betting and daily fantasy sports, and we are excited to be the first NFL team to have an exclusive integrated deal in this category.”

DraftKings already has similar arrangements with three NBA franchises: the Boston Celtics, Indiana Pacers and Philadelphia 76ers. The Pacers and 76ers’ partnerships cover both fantasy sports and sports betting since both Indiana and Pennsylvania have legalized sports gambling, according to sportsbook publication Sporttechie. DraftKings signed a multiyear deal in 2019 to be an authorized NBA betting operator.

A ‘League’ Of Their Own

Online sportsbooks and esports wagering — either via apps or websites and even inside some casinos — is bucking the COVID-19 trend with impressive numbers even as real sports are, to a large degree, sidelined.

That’s caused the sector to balloon in 2020’s first half, and that growth is showing plenty of momentum. As Seth Schorr, chief executive of casino-management company Fifth Street Gaming and founder of the Nevada Esports Alliance, recently told The New York Times, “I expect that within the next five to 10 years in North America, eSports will be third after the NFL and the NBA in terms of total wagering.”

The hat trick right now is to keep fans engaged while the market normalizes. Since esports and fantasy leagues aren’t enough to make the numbers, online sportsbook operations have been taking bets on increasingly obscure “games” — from table tennis to Belarusian soccer (which is still playing live).

“This is never going to replace real sports, but it’s something we can do for now to give people their fix,” Ray Marino, head trader for live U.S. wagering at the sports betting site bookmaker.eu, recently told industry publication SI Gambling. “We’re talking about the strengths of virtual teams right now, but this is the current landscape.”

Betting On The Future Of Contextual Sports

Under its Giants deal, DraftKings will receive “premier brand integration across MetLife Stadium during Giants home games,” per the companies’ statement. “DraftKings will be recognized as a sponsor and exclusive category advertiser across all team-controlled media, including television (NBC, MSG Networks, MY9), radio (Entercom/WFAN), and digital and social (Giants.com and the official Giants mobile app), in addition to a number of experiential and hospitality benefits.”

Envisioning a near future of sports as an “everywhere” experience, DraftKings is also doubling down on efforts to expand and enhance contextual sportsbook options that promise to deepen engagement via personalization and improved experiences for COVID-era bettors.

“We have this concept that’s kind of a Holy Grail for us where it’s DraftKings everywhere,” Dan Hannigan-Daley, director of sportsbook product at DraftKings, recently told PYMNTS.

He said that would allow fans to “have the ability to have a touchpoint and engage with DraftKings whether it’s physical advertisements [in] Times Square, or the ability to place a wager on your app or … see an overlay of your fantasy lineup [on] a Hulu TV setup or other TV providers.”

How much potential does online gambling have? The PYMNTS Disbursements Tracker found that even as New Jersey’s in-person casino revenues nosedived nearly 62 percent in March compared the same month the year prior due to lockdowns, online-gaming revenues jumped 65.7 percent over the same period.

That’s the superpower of online gambling and gaming sites — markets that the PYMNTS’ Disbursements Tracker noted one study estimates would be worth $102.9 billion by 2025.

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