5 Quick Takeaways from SBC Summit North America Sports Betting & iGaming Event

Written By Brant James on December 3, 2021

SECAUCUS, N.J. – Get enough captains of a particular industry in a very large room together and listen for the common phrases. Then you’ll know what they at least think is going to happen in the foreseeable future.

The industry, in this case, is gambling. The building in question was the Meadowlands Exposition Center a short, albeit expensive Uber ride from Manhattan at the SBC Summit North America gaming conference this week.

Here are some quick-hit thoughts said out loud by attendees and panelists.

Give me more

As noted by 2021 Sports Betting Hall of Fame inductee Joe Brennan, there’s a feeling that regulators and operators are trying to, or inadvertently in the process of, creating a “unique American business.” As usual, we’re complicated. With legal sports betting states filling in the national map, bettors’ habits are being parsed and prodded by sportsbooks trying to figure out what they like. And, increasingly, if they can be converted to the more lucrative online casino business. Operators very much want that.

The target is on casual bettors

“99% of sports bettors are casual,” said Caesars’ Head of Sportsbook Ken Fuchs, meaning the market will be dominated by dabblers looking for a little sweat while watching a game. Earlier in the week, DraftKings CEO Jason Robins was quoted as saying that’s the kind of customers his company wanted – not sharps – and Bally’s Chairman Soo Kim expressed a desire to “take the skill out of sports betting” with integrated games of chance that augment sports bets.

Ethics are crucial in mushrooming industry

Responsible gambling rightly continues to be a plank that the industry publicly addresses, and the issue has merged with the push to curb excessive television marketing, particularly some that could be deemed exploitative of the vulnerable and lead to government push-back.

“We’re always so excited about the innovation, and we want to scream from the rooftops about our industry and our wonderful products, but there’s a fine balance,” said Paul Leggett, chief strategy officer at Carousel Group, “especially on the marketing side. I think the operators in the US are great operators and everybody knows how to handle responsible gambling. And we’ve learned those lessons from Europe and elsewhere. I think the challenge for us is just, is on the marketing side. Responsible marketing. It’s always tempting to push same-game parlays because it’s a fun product to play around with. But there’s a fine line where you don’t want to tell somebody with $1 they can win $1,000 and use that as your marketing approach.”

This game is a clear favorite

Speaking of which, people love same-game parlays. Those three words in a row were everywhere, from discussions on how to diversify sports betting in the United States, to how to create new things for bettors to play with, to how daily fantasy players really like them. Those three words were often in close proximity to the words “sports betting is entertainment.” Tantalizing with high payoffs on low wager amounts, but devilishly difficult to win, SGPs became the MVP of the industry PDQ.

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Florida betting situation viewed as messy

Tribal stakeholders want nothing to do with the Florida sports betting quagmire. A panel dodged and weaved the question on Thursday. That included the National Indian Gaming Commission, created by the Indian Gaming Regulatory Act, which the Seminole Tribe of Florida is accused by a federal judge of violating by offering state-wide mobile sports betting. Even after being ordered to stop more than a week ago. NIGA chairman E. Sequoyah Simermeyer looked absolutely pained in declining multiple attempts by PlayUSA to gain comment on the case – he said he couldn’t discuss ongoing litigation – and its potential ripple effect on Indian gaming. The case was a newsy topic of interest throughout the hall.

Photo by Wayne Parry / Associated Press
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Brant James

Brant James is a veteran journalist who has twice been recognized in the Associated Press Sports Editors Awards, most recently in 2020. He's covered motorsports, the National Hockey League and Major League Baseball among a myriad of others beats and written enterprise and sports business for publications including USA TODAY, ESPN.com, SI.com.

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