Sportsbooks Link Office Pools to Post-PASPA Tourney

Sportsbooks Link Office Pools to Post-PASPA Tourney

Tens of millons of Americans are expected to scrawl through NCAA Tournament brackets or click through online drop menus in the next week, continuing an annual office or dorm floor tradition that has made all of them sports bettors, unwittingly or not.

The proliferation of legal sports betting to eight states, with several more in some stage of legalization or implementation, raises the question of whether the those wrinkled old sheets will become quaint souvenirs of squandered office productivity.

They may eventually.

But sportsbooks in New Jersey, as foreshadowed by Department of Gaming Enforcement director David Rebuck to Gambling.com in January, were planning to their familiarity to indoctrinate a wave of potential new bettors for what is already the most popular sports wagering event in the United States.

Ten days before the 68-field team begins play, the rollout has begun.

US Bookies Using Brackets to Bring in New Bettors

On Monday, 888sport announced a “March Madness Brackets” predictive game where players’ grids, as described by a company release, are "placeholders for teams that players bet on.” Meaning players are rewarded for correctly picking games like in a traditional bracket, with money, not pool points, the reward.

On Tuesday, DraftKings announced its version.

888sport subscribers will be awarded bet tokens for predicting a pre-determined numbers of winners in each round of the tournament: $5 for 6-11; $10 for 12–17; $15 for 18–25 and $50 for more than 25 in the first round. Increments increase through each round.

According to an 888 press release, to win additional free bets “participation requires the placement of a $50 bet per round, with cumulative odds of at least -200 to qualify.” All players who fulfill betting requirements will be given a $5 token after the first round. All subscribers earn a $5 token for entering.

DraftKings will also launch a bracket game before the tournament, the first instance in which players can use the company’s sportsbook app to win money for correctly predicting games in the event. FanDuel also launched a free-play bracket contest.

Customers, according to a DraftKings release, may enter public or private interactive leagues at the beginning of the tourney, or at the start of the second round or Sweet 16.

Beginning Tuesday, DraftKings customers will be offered two contests, a free bracket challenge worth $64,000 in prizes available nationally and a $100,000 bracket only for customers in New Jersey. Entry fee is $20.

Players will be able to “reserve a seat” in various games until the bracket field is selected on March 17.

“As American sports fans during March Madness, we are all playing bracket contests with our friends, family and co-workers,” Matt Kalish, DraftKings chief revenue officer and co-founder said in a release.

“By launching ‘Brackets’ on DraftKings Sportsbook, we are bringing the number one-way fans engage with March Madness to the biggest stage—DraftKings’ industry-leading fantasy sports and sportsbook apps.”

NCAA Tournament Largest Betting Bonanza of Year

The American Gaming Association predicted last March that more than $10 billion would be wagered on the 2018 NCAA tournament, 97 percent illegally.

With sports betting legal and underway in Delaware, Mississippi, Nevada, New Jersey, New Mexico, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island and West Virginia, offshore books would figure to lose market share, although that was anedcotally not the case during the second-biggest wagering market of the year, the Super Bowl.

According to a 2018 study commissioned by the AGA and conducted by The Mellman Group, “approximately 24 million people filled out nearly 60 million pool entries and spent over $2.6 billion on entry fees for [NCAA] pools.”

The question remains whether once-a-year dabblers will remain faithful to their brackets tacked to office cubicles or become semi-regular sports bettors thumbing through prop bets on their phones at lunch hour.

The AGA estimated nearly 23 million would bet almost $6 billion on the Super Bowl this February.

Max Bichsel, director for Kambi in the United States, told Gambling.com that he again this season expects that “the frequency and the volume, the handle, will be much higher than what you'd see in the NFL playoffs.”

And he expected New Jersey sportsbooks to attempt to use NCAA Tournament games to appeal to mainstream sports fans who have not yet become customers.

“I think you'll see some innovation, specifically in types of tournaments like that, whether it's the NBA Finals or NCAA Tournament or even some other collegiate sports as well as the professional teams,” he said.

“It lets people wager on something that's not just an individual instance. It's not a future [bet] where they're spending on who's going to win the national championship. They’re able to wager on a number of different things."

“So I definitely think some of these operators that are innovative will continue to innovate and come up with some pretty cool things for the customers that they haven't seen before, whether with offshore bookmakers, from local bookmakers in the regional market. And that's the exciting part, is these operators have the bandwidth, the expertise and the knowledge to do things that are very innovative. And in that respect, it makes us as a supplier, makes us excited as well because we try to work with the operators that want to do stuff like that, because Kambi enables them to being much more innovative than they alternatively would be.”

New Jersey Becomes Sports Betting Laboratory Again

And in that regard, New Jersey could be at the forefront of another developmental moment in the history of post-Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act sports-betting America.

Moderating a panel last week during the MIT Sloan Sports Analytics Conference, Duetto senior vice president, Product and Analytics Jeff Ma hammered the point that oddsmakers will not pry business from illegal offshore bookmakers without new, captivating offerings.

“There’s some that I know are trying to do some different things, but generally I don’t think the current players are,” Ma told Gambling.com.

“They're just focused on, like, other things and they’re not focused on real innovation yet. I think maybe [FanDuel president and chief operating officer] Kip [Levin] said they’re trying to do some stuff. I haven’t followed it. But right now it’s not relevant in terms of their ability to innovate.”

Rebuck was already anticipating innovation from his state’s licensees in January, however, while attending the National Council of Legislators from Gaming States conference.

Rebuck said he expected compelling offerings from providers in New Jersey, especially considering the competition for business in a market that generated $385,279,662 in January handle.

“The operators are already starting to plan games, the in-play and being very, very innovative with the type of bets they’re going to offer for March Madness,” he said at the time. “Some of the companies like DraftKings, Fan Duel of the world there, they are out there right now. I think they will push the market. We'll see.”

Rebuck doesn't believe that sports betting will hasten the demise of the office pool.

“More people will play it,” he said. “And you’re going to have it offered, not to the office pool, but anybody in the state of New Jersey.”

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