Commentary

Opening The Floodgates Of Legalized Sports Gambling

  • by , Columnist, June 12, 2018

In the middle of May, the U.S. Supreme Court struck down the 1992 federal law that effectively banned commercial sports betting in most states, opening the door to legalizing an estimated $150 billion in annual illegal wagering on professional and amateur sports. As states contemplate their go-to-market strategies, bettors will soon have myriad legal options, beyond Las Vegas casinos and offshore wagering operations, leaving lots of “footprints” along the way. 

Across the country, casinos are eager to offer sports betting as options for their customers and will need to prepare themselves to best exploit the new opportunities. But this “new day” will reap significant insights benefits for sports properties, as well. Our firm enjoys an intriguing vantage point in that we conduct research both across the sports world and in the gaming space. From our perspective, we anticipate a whole new set of ways to leverage and synergize fan and bettor insights.  

The sports world can learn a lot from their new bedfellows in the gaming industry. This begins with further acceleration of the application and integration of behavioral and attitudinal data. Of course, analytics have been embraced by sports franchises and leagues as a means to optimize team performance, but it is still in its relative infancy in application to the consumer marketing side of the house. Our gaming research is a relevant model for the integration of more robust and analytics driven behavioral data with traditional research driven windows into the mindset of players.  We’ve long advocated a similar approach with the sports fan market.  

As sports properties try to understand and leverage the new and more transparent opportunities brought about by widespread legalized gambling, it will be tantamount to deploy a rigorous and methodologically sound process to avoid drowning in data, while parsing out the most actionable and sound insights. We’ve seen true learning abound in the correlation of otherwise discrete behaviors, and have then mapped those profiles or archetypes onto a variety of appropriate communications and engagement strategies.

A simple but relevant real-life example from our previous work is when our research with a gaming property linked certain elite player segments with affinities for specific local teams.  A further deep dive into the data yielded food and beverage and amenity preferences as well as the most resonant messaging triggers for these customers. Voila! This analysis brought out all the ingredients for a value-added and synergistic partnership between the gaming property and the team, that yielded significantly higher customer satisfaction and loyalty to both organizations. 

But beyond the logical expansion of gaming and sports property partnerships themselves, this new transparency can yield opportunities across licensed products, F&B and merchandising that can be identified through the modeling of fan/bettor behaviors against other survey driven attitude and usage data. Stepping further into the world of casino marketing, as more teams and leagues deploy geo-fencing-enabled smart cards or apps as a means to track on-property fan behavior, these franchises will now be able to enjoy real-time push strategies to offer incentives and/or push subsequent data collection efforts that can strengthen understanding of these fans’ motivations, thus further informing marketing and communications strategies.

We presently operate a robust guest satisfaction research program for a large casino property, wherein each visitor receives a short satisfaction survey within 72 hours of their visit. The survey is conditionally adapted to actual guest behavior captured on their player card, thus streamlining the survey to only relevant aspects of the respondents’ onsite experience. This yields greater respondent cooperation and, ultimately, greater loyalty in that the guests recognize that their opinions matter. It also enables us and our client to understand and identify operational strengths and deficiencies across numerous variables and even evaluate customer-facing staff without having to directly ask uncomfortable questions.

The application to the sports fan experience should be obvious: If we know that fans who patronized a particular merchandise location at a specific time, received poor service, corrective action can be taken, and the property might even consider an informed dialogue with the dissatisfied guest.

Beyond these insight opportunities, the opening door between established gaming and sports properties will also provide a clearer view into interactive elements that can be a welcomed part of the fan experience. While I don’t foresee pari-mutuel windows at the ballpark in the immediate future, the related concepts, behaviors and technologies behind them can easily be transferrable to more family friendly, onsite activations.

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