Q&A With PointsBet’s Ron Shell, VP Of Customer & Insights

Q&A With PointsBet’s Ron Shell, VP Of Customer & Insights

PointsBet, a company founded in Australia but building a U.S. headquarters in Colorado, has announced a flurry of partnerships with pro sports teams over the last couple of months.

The company is live, mainly with online wagering, in Iowa, New Jersey and Indiana. Soon, it will set up shop with an online and retail presence in Colorado, Illinois and Michigan. PointsBet partners include MLB’s Detroit Tigers, the NBA’s Indiana Pacers and Denver Nuggets, the NHL’s Colorado Avalanche and the National Lacrosse League’s Colorado Mammoth.

In Illinois, PointsBet partners with Hawthorne Race Course. In July it partnered with BetMakers Technology Group to offer fixed-odds horse racing betting on races at New Jersey’s Monmouth Park track. Gambling.com talked with PointsBet Vice President of Customer & Insights Ron Shell about the company’s recent expansion and its unique wagering opportunity called Points Betting.

GDC: It's been quite a run for PointsBet the last month or so with deals with the Denver teams and the Indiana Pacers, plus in New Jersey with Bally’s casino and with the Detroit Tigers. Is this the result of a strategic long-planned U.S. blitz, or just happenstance?

Ron Shell: Definitely the first one. It has been a very strategic blitz to become a major player in the U.S. We have huge aspirations. We did an amazing job in New Jersey coming out of the gate with no brand awareness … unlike our competitors (there) who have casino (gambling) and daily fantasy sports.

In all the states we have access to, we want to become big players. One thing we want to do is form the right partnerships with the right teams that gives us the right level of distribution and awareness. The Tigers deal was the first sportsbook to partner with an MLB team and Michigan is a huge focus moving toward the end of the year.

With the deal with Kroenke Sports & Entertainment (in Colorado) with an exclusive partnership both retail and online, we want to be Colorado’s hometown sportsbook and have that huge distribution across the Nuggets, Avalanche and Mammoth, all very popular teams. We have a big Midwest presence with being in Indiana and we’re about to launch in Illinois in the coming weeks and together with Michigan and Iowa —so really a huge Midwestern presence. We don’t want every deal, we want the best deals. So, definitely a blitz to be a national company.

GDC: You are live in three jurisdictions — Iowa, New Jersey and Indiana. What is the sequential timeline for the other jurisdictions that are on the horizon — Colorado, Illinois and Michigan?

RS: We plan to launch in Illinois shortly and that will be both online and retail that will be at the Hawthorne Race Track and (several) OTBs. Colorado will follow. And then Michigan. That will be the first launch of our online casino as well as the sports book. The online casino will be the traditional games (slots and tables) and that will be a cross-sell opportunity for our sports book, which will be our major platform we’ll be pushing.

GDC: How is construction going at the Double Eagle Casino in Cripple Creek, Colorado, and when do you plan to open the sportsbook there?

RS: It’s a tough one to answer with everything going on with COVID-19. We’re working around their timeline now and it’s difficult to proceed with any construction-related items. From their perspective they’re very excited about it but they’re also just as excited about our mobile app. As a partner of ours, they obviously benefit from the mobile app launch and of course, they know we want to cross-sell to get people to come (into the casino) as retail customers. So, maybe over the next six months — but we’re waiting for them in terms of heath and safety.

GDC: So you have deals that include NBA, NHL, MLB and lacrosse teams. When might there be an agreement with an NFL team?

RS: The way I frame that question is that we’re always open to any discussion. We’ll have discussions with the NFL, we’ll have discussions with NFL teams. But we won’t do a deal just to do a deal. We’ll do it where it makes sense. The benefits to an NFL partnership is getting access to the official data, obviously some logo (branding). We definitely want to be part of all the major organizations so that’s something that’s in progress. In terms of NFL teams, we’ll look to the states where we’re entering where it makes sense to get that exposure. But definitely, the NFL is next on the radar.

GDC: PointsBet has a special way of placing wagers called Points Betting. Please explain.

RS: Something our customers can get with us that they can’t get anywhere else is Points Betting. It’s a really engaging way of betting because you have to watch to the end to know your result. You don’t know your result (the eventual amount won or lost) when you place the bet, you just know your stake. (Editor’s note: the stake is a starting point of the wager).

You are rewarded for each point you’re correct (or penalized) for each point you’re wrong. A wager a lot of our customers enjoy is the total points scored by an NBA player. Let’s say the total (for a given player) is 20 points and you put $10 a point on that. If the player scores 25, you’ve covered that line by five points and you multiply the number of points over by the $10 stake and you win $50. If he scores 30 points, you win $100. If he scores 18 points, you lose $20. It keeps you in the game. You can set your risk limit, say with 10 times your risk exposure either way. The minimum wager is 50 cents; we don’t want to eliminate anyone.

So you have some people betting 50 cents and then we had someone bet $30,000 a point on the Baltimore Ravens against the Miami Dolphins (in Weeks 1 of the 2019 season when Baltimore won, 59-10, crushing a minus-6 point spread). Ravens quarterback Lamar Jackson turned into Michael Vick. We got cleaned out on that one. (Actually, it could have been an even bigger loss for PointsBet; the bettor had set a cap of 20 times and collected “just” $600,000).

GDC: What are the next markets you want to explore?

RS: We look at every market. We look to find the right partners. We look for favorable tax rates because not every legislation (allowing for sports betting), not every market is set up to be financially favorable. We’ve put ourselves at the table with everything that’s going to come live over the next two years and we look at proximity to getting sports betting actually live. There are some big states out there — California, Texas, Florida —but they could be a while away. We continue to consider those but we’re really looking at states that are looking to launch in 2021, 2022 to ensure PointsBet is at the starting line.

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