Bally’s Chairman: Future of US Sports Betting More In-Play, Luck-Based

Written By Mike Mazzeo on October 12, 2021
This Oct. 1, 2020 photo shows the exterior of Bally's casino in Atlantic City, N.J. The new owners of Bally's Atlantic City are attempting to revive a comatose casino in perhaps the most cutthroat gambling market in America. Rhode Island-based Bally's Corporation is spending at least $90 million on the Boardwalk casino over the next five years, including hotel room makeovers, a renovation of the casino floor, new slot machines and restaurants, and more live entertainment. (AP Photo/Wayne Parry)

Kevin Durant has just made two consecutive 3-pointers in the fourth quarter, and a screen prompts a sports bettor watching the Brooklyn Nets game whether they would like to place an in-game wager on KD making three in a row.

This is the direction in which US sports betting is headed: more interactive, more in-play, more luck-based, and catering more to the masses than the die-hards and pros.

“The less skill there is, the more expansive the potential audience,” Bally’s chairman Soo Kim told PlayNY.

“We don’t want sports betting to go down the road of horse handicapping, where 2% of horse handicappers make money and 98% of people lose money. It doesn’t feel great for the 98% because you don’t only just have a luck problem, but you’re like, ‘Ah, I’m no good. I’d rather just play blackjack where everyone’s luck is equally bad.’

“And so I think that with sports betting naturally by gravity we’ll start to think about presenting more bets that are more luck-based than ‘Hey, you need deep knowledge of the team, injuries, current status, specific players, stats, all that stuff.’ I think if you make it too complex, only a small fraction of people want to do it.

“It has to be random enough where luck plays.”

Sports bettors, operators want differentiation

According to Kim, creative in-game options are one area in which NY sports betting operators will have an opportunity to set themselves apart from their competitors.

“Right now, everyone’s sort of essentially offering the same product,” he said. “And so you just compare your lines and decide which (operator) has the best lines.

“We think the next evolution of sports betting is people offering differentiating products that you can only get at one provider or another. And a lot of that has to do with in-play betting and tighter integrations of media. We have a firm belief that the current product is okay, but we think the future product will be much better.”

As an example, Kim mentioned same-game parlays at FanDuel Sportsbook.

“That’s a differentiated product that pays out more of a fun number relative to the wager,” Kim said. “It’s harder. There’s so many (games or moments) you have to get right in a parlay that it becomes less skill-based and more luck-based, and we actually think they’re onto something there.

“Those are the mechanisms that we need to keep in mind as we roll out our own differentiated products.”

Bally’s regional sports networks advantageous

There are some potential roadblocks in creating a robust live in-game betting experience from a monitor. The video feed needs have to line up perfectly so as to avoid delays. The rights also have to be negotiated or litigated.

With its new portfolio of regional sports networks (RSNs), Kim believes Bally’s is building solutions.

“I think that the challenges of combining gaming opportunities with the actual watching experience is a rights challenge much more than a technical challenge, but we think that can be solved,” he said. “That was one of the biggest reasons we chose to work with Sinclair in the first place.”

Late last year, Bally’s secured naming rights to 21 Fox RSNs as part of a broader content partnership with the Sinclair Broadcast Group.

“They have half of baseball, basketball, and hockey, and pretty much all of tennis in terms of the ability to deliver those games to people. So if we can integrate with that, we can essentially change the product and make it more engaging.

“We definitely believe in personalization, but also believe in creating more of an integrated experience.”

Lead image by Wayne Parry | AP

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Mike Mazzeo

Mike Mazzeo is a contributing writer for PlayNY, reporting on legal sports betting in New York while covering the potential legalization of NY online casinos and poker. He previously wrote for ESPN, the New York Daily News and The Ringer, among others.

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