ICE Sportsbetting USA – Recap

Walking past Macy’s & Bryant Park, peering up at the Empire State building, who would have thought a couple years ago I’d be on the way to a US Sports betting conference, with a strong focus on online and mobile channels? But thats exactly what happened last week. The show, expertly pulled together by Ewa Bakun at Clarion Gaming, had been sold out for months, reflecting the feverish levels of interest in the sector since PASPA was repealed by the Supreme Court in May this year.

And it didn’t disappoint. Attendees were C-Level, engaged, informed and curious. There was a little dose of self-congratulatory back-slapping to start with in recognition of how far things have already come, but thats understandable, and it was balanced pretty quickly by a sharp realization of challenges that lie ahead. The number of States regulating sports betting is still in single figures and there are doubts over the sustainability of the regulatory and tax frameworks in these States.

And what of the financial structure of deals that have been done – have they any chance of delivering success to all involved parties or are they land-grabs? Regulation, and taxation, is different from State to State making it incredibly difficult for businesses looking at a multi-State strategy – and doesn’t it have to be multi-State for any assault on the US market to be viable??

Uncertainties exist over the identity and “quality” of States to come on board next year – but there will be some, and some of note. Consolidation is inevitable, even at this early stage, unless deep pockets sustain the early players. Already we have to question whether first mover advantage will prevail or whether post-“dust-settling” is a wiser market-entry decision to see what remains after round 1 of deal making.

With all this said, given the sports loving nature of this great country, the relative wealth and advanced technology, the opportunity is clear. Good decision making, timing and strategic alliances will see many businesses position themselves appropriately for major success in the years to come. Just beware the knee-jerk deal for fear of missing out on the party. It will be a long night!

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