Analysis

Voters want legal, regulated sports betting, says BetMGM CEO

BetMGM CEO says sports betting is clearly popular with the voters, as shown by the clean sweep of sports betting referenda last week.

Adam Goldblatt, Chief Executive of the ROAR joint venture between MGM Resorts International and GVC, said it was clear after last week’s votes on sports betting that there was popular will on the industry’s side.

In Maryland, Louisiana and South Dakota referenda on sports betting were easily passed, with each gaining over 60% of voters in favor.

Though legislation in each will take some time to pass, it will see these states enhance their gaming-friendliness as measured by the Wedge Index.

Greenblatt said the industry should take these votes as a signal of the extent to which there was explicit popular support for legalized sports betting.

“Where you put it out to vote, the population is saying ‘we want this, it’s OK’,” Greenblatt told the audience during a panel discussion at the digital Sports Betting USA Investor Summit.

He added that this gave lawmakers the freedom to make the move on sports “because the people are speaking.”

Football’s embrace

Speaking on the same panel, Christopher Halpin, the NFL’s Chief Strategy and Growth Officer, said the league had embraced the opportunity that sports betting provides for greater fan engagement.

“We view the fan engagement opportunity as much larger than the direct revenue opportunity from sports betting,” he told the audience.

He cited metrics such as handle growth and the number of bets made on NFL as signs of an engaged audience.

NFL remains the number one sport in betting terms across all regulated states.

States looking at regulating will often time the market opening to the start of the NFL season.

“With the continued evolution of our data feed, of innovation on product, services, algorithms by operators, all that, we don’t think there’s a better sport to live bet on in a legal market than the NFL,” Halpin said.

A balanced conversation

John Levy, Chief Executive and Founder at theScore said it was just a relief to hear the sports discussing sports-betting in an adult fashion.

“The one overarching thing that’s amazing is that we’re sitting here talking with the NFL about sports betting,” he said. 

“It wasn’t so long ago that we couldn’t have these conversations, and now sports betting is part of the mainstream.” 

However, Halpin did caution against the sports betting side of the argument overwhelming the complaints from those who weren’t so keen on the activity.

He pointed out that research by the league found that around 17% of the NFL’s fanbase actively rejects sports betting and “views it as a sin, detest it”.

“So we have to make sure we don’t overwhelm their experience with sports betting,” he added.

“We have to all think in the long-term, responsible gaming programs, education, and avoid over-proliferation.” 

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Scott Longley

Scott Longley has been a journalist since the early noughties covering personal finance, sport and the gambling industry. He has worked for a number of publications including Investor's Week, Bloomberg Money, Football First, EGR and GamblingCompliance.com. He now writes for online and print titles across a wide range of sectors.

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