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Quality is the key: the operator view

Keith O’Loughlin, senior vice-president of sportsbook and platforms at SG Digital, owner of the OpenBet sportsbook platform, on the potential of the US betting market. Read this alongside our in-depth review.

The potential size of the opportunity is a hot topic right now, with research firm Eilers & Krejcik Gaming estimating that a 50-state regulated landscape could be worth as much as $15.8bn (€12.8bn). Interest is certainly high, and those operators and suppliers with a rich sports-betting heritage will succeed, as they will have the flexibility and experience to deliver a proposition to the market quickly. 

We anticipate the focus will be on large-scale early customer acquisitions when the US does open up, meaning marketing campaigns will take priority over lengthy technology integrations. Operators will trade product options for speed to market.

At present, we can only speculate about state taxes and fees and the number of operators permitted in each state. We also expect that regulation will be different for each state and, in all likelihood, will require a different sportsbook setup in each state. This will lead to some complexity. 

In addition to this challenge, the thriving black market that currently exists means new entrants, particularly those from Europe, will have to think differently about the service they offer and innovate accordingly. 

Providing quality customer service will be key. The US public is used to, and demands, high-quality customer service, whether they’re purchasing goods online or eating out at a restaurant, and they will expect the same from their sports-betting experience. I expect that customers will accept price/product variations, but will expect a very good experience in login, registration, selecting a bet, placing a bet, as well as deposit/withdrawal – the full customer journey will need to be very slick.

In Europe, we’re accustomed to a vast volume of betting available at pre-match and in-play across a wide range of sports, but it’s unlikely we’ll see that in the early stages of regulated US sports betting. 

We anticipate the focus will be recreational at first, and there will be a need to educate the end-user, particularly as the experience will be relatively new to US consumers. I think that American football and basketball will be the big two, with baseball and ice hockey being the other sports that will be the core of the offering. Soccer will be important also, as it has worldwide appeal and coverage. 
 

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