As managing director of gaming for NASCAR, Scott Warfield is charged with devising ways to draft the stock car racing series out of the “other” category and into greater relevance as a sports betting market.
Warfield never expected it to happen this way: a global pandemic shutting down actual sports — and racing emerging as the best-equipped to fill the void with virtual contests featuring actual competitors.
After one week of eNASCAR being offered as a bettable market in Nevada and West Virginia, the returns have been modest, but not in line with the television audience the series has commanded. The benefit from this moment, Warfield hopes, could come when sports begin again post-COVID-19.
“Life’s funny, right? You go from having to scratch and claw your way on a lot of this stuff, the underdog a little bit,” Warfield pondered, “not as well-established handle and in my opinion, not a ton of creativity and innovation around the sport from a sports betting point of view, where it’s just basically been race winner and champion.
“And my argument all along has been it’s a chicken and egg and if there’s more creativity and more bet types and more innovation on that front, that the sport lends itself nicely. But between the state by state rollout and the opening of having to open new books and new states and all the other leagues, finding your spot is a challenge in this early inning of what I believe is going to be a long, a long game.
““Is it going to drive crazy handle? Probably not. But I think it’s helped with our relationship-build if nothing else.”
Momentum for eNASCAR
While the handle for the eNASCAR Pro Invitational Series race from Bristol Motor Speedway last week was sparse at William Hill in Nevada, director of trading Nick Bogdanovich called the performance for the first weekend “very successful.”
“We took around 500 bets on eNASCAR this weekend and we’re really happy with that number since some were from bettors who traditionally bet NASCAR,” he told PlayUSA. “Handle, of course, doesn’t compare to traditional NASCAR.”
Adding to the sense of legal-market momentum, on Wednesday, Sugarhouse announced that it planned to offer eNASCAR betting in New Jersey, signaling a change of regulation in that state. New Jersey had just once allowed wagering on eSports before.
In-race markets key to NASCAR plan
The game, Warfield said, should change in this moment, saying he “100 percent” believes this virtual realm represents a laboratory moment for operators to develop interesting betting markets when actual racing returns, perhaps as early as the end of May, according to a report in The Athletic.
Warfield particularly wants to see the expansion of in-race and driver-vs-driver markets. The Nevada Gaming Control Board does not currently allow in-race markets, but in-play has become the understood future of America’s nascent sports betting market.
“This is the product there hasn’t been enough of outside of the [Daytona] 500,” he said. Kyle Busch vs. Kevin Harvick … This is an engaged fanbase, but they’re smart and they want a product that is interesting. So yes, it can be a testing ground that would help us a year from now around the Cup series. That’s the win for me.”
Warfield said the series updated its rulebook last week to exclude competitors and series employees from wagering on eNASCAR as well as real competitions.
Penn National Gaming, NASCAR re-boot fantasy game
Last week, NASCAR also relaunched a series of new fantasy and prop betting markets for the eNASCAR iRacing.com Pro Invitational Series through Penn Interactive. The Penn National Gaming subsidiary had already launched a free-play mobile game called NASCAR Finish Line after announcing a multi-year partnership with the stock car series in February.
The eNASCAR Fine Line app will serve as the entitlement brand for the May 3 race from virtual Dover International Speedway. Personalities from Barstool Sports, which sold a 36-percent stake to PNG earlier this year, are expected to be integrated into the presentation but details have not been revealed.
Finish Line players can win a $5,000 jackpot “by accurately predicting the top two finishers and the highest finishers across six different groupings of four drivers,” according to a release.
“I think the thought on putting the NASCAR Finish Line as the race entitlement for the Dover race, given [Penn National Gaming’s] recent purchase into Barstool and our marketing partnership with Barstool is how could we lean into the Barstool relationship a little bit when just like everyone else, [founder] Dave [Portnoy] and the boys are thirsting for some sports betting, whether it’s free-to-play or daily fantasy,” Warfield said. “So, we took the concept to our friends at Penn, as they were in the process of rebuilding the app and got Dover involved in a lot of those details.
SugarHouse debuts enascar betting on April 19
New Jersey Division of Gaming Enforcement spokesperson Kerry Langan confirmed that the eNASCAR Pro Invitational Series had been added to the list of legal betting markets in that state as of Monday. The 2019 League of Legends World Championship Finals was the only other permissible eSports event as of Wednesday.
“We are happy to be able to offer such an exciting and competitive entertainment event,” Rush Street Interactive chief operating officer Mattias Stetz said in a release. “It’s also fun to see how these talented drivers will compare in the virtual world of competitive racing.”