October 16th, 2017
It was always going to be a big night for the bookies – the build-up to the match of the year (if not the decade) was an exercise in how to achieve maximum publicity. Both McGregor and Mayweather and their teams carefully ramped up the hype.
This was despite the fact they're already the two biggest names in their respective sports, which in itself was sure to guarantee huge betting turnouts; boxing and MMA bouts are also among the most wagered events.
Nevada was set to do especially well, given it's a top spot for gambling and casinos in general. However, even the most optimistic of experts might not have predicted the huge 1,651% increase in sportsbook revenue as a result of the fight!
There's no denying the fight was a major earner for everyone involved. Conor McGregor still hasn't revealed exactly how much he made from the event, but has hinted that it's close to the $100 million mark.
The MMA superstar had guaranteed earnings of $30 million in the bank from the fight, but sponsorships, a cut of the pay per view sales, ticket revenue and merchandise are certain to have increased that figure dramatically.
Mayweather has since announced his retirement from boxing, leaving behind him an unblemished record. His guaranteed minimum earnings from the fight were $100 million, which, after taking into account the extras, could have risen to $200+ million.
While the fight was certainly set up to be a money spinner, no one can blame Mayweather or McGregor for jumping at the opportunity. As Mayweather said after the bout:
"We do foolish things sometimes, but I’m not a damn fool. If I see an opportunity to make $300m in 36 minutes, why not? I had to do it. But this is the last one, you guys have my word. I had a great career. I can’t complain about anything."
The casinos and bookmakers also earned a sizable slice of the money pie. As mentioned, the massive increase in revenue for Nevada's sportsbooks led to a betting handle in the region of $60 to $70 million.
Given the popularity of UFC and MMA, along with the fact that Mayweather's last big fight in 2015 against Manny Pacquiao generated around $50 million in wagers, this was without doubt a match made in heaven for the boxing sportsbook.
While the big fight was responsible for an increase in takings in Nevada, the industry is going from strength to strength in general. Slot revenue were up in August by 5%, and table games also increased – especially blackjack and baccarat.
The only slight downturn came from three-card poker, which dropped by 5%. Still, none of these areas came close to the sportsbook rise of 11%. While it's impossible to ignore the impact of the Mayweather/McGregor fight, the books have performed well in general recently.
Both American football and baseball saw decent rises. And one thing is certain – given the huge success of the fight and the massive gains made by the industry, it's unlikely to be the last event of its kind.
The figures as a result of the big fight are impressive, as was the hype and marketing that helped to generate that revenue. While big-name bouts of this kind are nothing new, we could start to see more of these set-up, slow-burning events in the future.
Digital gambling is on the rise and that, coupled with the instant and far-reaching impact of social media, makes generating interest (and bets) easier for bookmakers than ever before – especially when the marketing machines of big-name athletes get involved.
We're already starting to see something similar happen. The 'Defender to Contender' project by Betfair is one example. Footballer Rio Ferdinand has agreed to train as a professional boxer with a view at a title fight – all backed and set up by Betfair.
When looked at from a business angle, it's a win-win for all involved. The nature of the project means Betfair is certain to take a huge amount of wagers when the main event arrives, and marketing will be ongoing in the form of the TV show itself.
There are negative aspects to these methods, though. Some have argued, such as in the case of McGregor's recent fight with Mayweather, that athletes switching between disciplines can have a negative impact on their original sport.
It could be argued that McGregor's titles in UFC are now meaningless, given that he and many other champion fighters quickly diversify after winning their title fights. Either way, the top MMA and boxing bouts are sure to keep drawing attention from punters, and Betfair will have them covered!