Keith O’Loughlin, Senior VP, Sportsbook at Scientific Games, believes that a wealth of player prop betting markets and bet builder options can satisfy the unprecedented hunger for entertainment around March Madness.
A year after the cancellation of the 2020 NCAA Tournament due to Coronavirus, March Madness is ready to make a comeback, and a slew of US bettors now have access to legal sports betting options.
Betting USA spoke with Keith O’Loughlin, the Senior VP of Sportsbook at Scientific Games, to get his thoughts on why this year’s tournament is so important.
On the Importance of the 2021 NCAA Tournament
Keith O’Loughlin: There has never been a period where people are crying out for entertainment as much as we are witnessing at this moment.
Many adults are stuck in a world which resembles Groundhog Day. There is little to differentiate the day-to-day, with repetitive and unchanging patterns of work, eating, sleeping, and the occasional social call with friends and relatives through a screen. Thankfully – and with the caveat that this remains a very challenging environment for everyone – the end of the pandemic and its associated restrictions appears to be in sight.
We all need a release from the mundane from time to time. This is what the sports betting industry does best, offering products that fulfill the need for a fun, safe, communal experience that generates conversation and opinion. Major sporting events help bring people together, even if they are still separated physically.
It has been a long time coming for sports fans in the United States, but finally, we have the thrills and spills of March Madness to look forward to. With last year’s event canceled as the pandemic took its first bite into the sporting schedules, anticipation for the hugely popular college basketball tournament is at an all-time high.
On the Growing Appetite for Prop Bets
Keith O’Loughlin: While the big game in football is an enormous one-off event, March Madness sustains excitement over an extended period. In the betting industry, this is where we come into our own: delivering the products that fans require to pick a side or a player in every contest, place a bet, and hopefully claim bragging rights over their friends.
We expect that this year, March Madness will create a bigger appetite for player prop bets than ever before. Basketball betting is not simply about money line wagering anymore. Within the NBA, players like LeBron James have become brands in themselves that transcend team sports. While not everyone will have skin in the game in terms of their favorite college team being in action at any given point during March Madness, they are still likely to have an affinity with certain personalities involved in the action.
Our operator partners are offering more player prop markets for the 2021 tournament than ever, in doing so creating a whole new way to consume a sporting event for an audience hungry for an out-of-the-ordinary experience.
On Bet Builder
Keith O’Loughlin: With the Bet Builder product, operators are able to increase the way in which they can engage with the casual sports fan. Odds on one of two teams winning a game would be relatively low and perhaps unenticing for the less serious bettor, and in previous years to bump up the price, customers would have to place accumulator bets on a string of games.
This year, though, there has been something of a revolution in terms of the products that customers in the US are able to interact with. Bet Builder allows them to place an accumulator based on events occurring within a single contest – one they might happen to be watching on television, perhaps along with friends. Fancy a player to hit the first three-pointer, another to see a dunk attempt blocked, and the star player hitting 25.5 points in the same game? A major part of the appeal of Bet Builder is the old-fashioned notion of beating the bookie, perhaps with a selection including five or more legs.
On Providing a Proven Solution
Keith O’Loughlin: As the industry prepares itself for a bumper month of college basketball, it is important not to lose sight of what matters most – a stable, reliable platform at the heart of your offering. OpenSports is present in every state where sports betting is permitted, and whatever the spike in betting activity, our operator partners have a platform that is proven to be bulletproof at scale.
While OpenSports has rightly earned a strong reputation for being robust, as was shown when others faltered at a crucial stage during the big game in February, nothing is ever taken for granted. We always methodically stress-test every single element, just as a flight crew inspects a plane before it sets off rather than attempting to perform running repairs at 35,000 feet.
For those who want to place bets during March Madness, on a platform that now has the lowest bet suspension time we have ever achieved, OpenSports will be ready once again to arm operator partners with the best technology in the business. We are expecting record numbers of bets to be placed in 2021, and it is vital that operators can meet that unprecedented level of demand unimpeded. In this year of all years, nobody deserves any more downtime.