Even If You’re The Only Game In Town – Stay In Front of Your Customers

Author: Mike Adorno, VP of Communications

At the beginning of January, New York Governor Andrew Cuomo made an announcement that he was interested in legalizing mobile sports betting (and cannabis) in 2021 in an attempt to bolster state coffers depleted by the COVID-19 pandemic. New York State stands to become the largest sports betting market in the country once it reaches maturity. To put this into perspective, New Jersey, currently the largest sports betting market in the US, posted a state handle of more than $966 million in December 2020 alone. It would only be a matter of time before a well-functioning New York market exceeds that.

Unfortunately, that’s not what Gov. Cuomo is proposing. Instead of opening up the market to multiple operators –  a staple of thriving online markets such as New Jersey, Pennsylvania and Colorado, among others – Cuomo stated that his intention is for New York to be run by a single operator overseen by the New York State Gaming Commission. In this scenario, with a single operator, New York State would keep the majority of generated tax revenue. 

In theory, this sounds great: New York gives consumers a service that they’ve been clamoring for and the state can begin earning on a new and viable stream of revenue. Since an estimated 20% of New Jersey’s record-setting state handle month-over-month comes from jilted New Yorkers looking for action, this is especially promising.

But in a monopolistic system, how can one operator stay relevant? Industry experts and our own HPLDS data shows that the “if you build it and they will come” model simply isn’t good enough. Users are looking for an elevated experience from a marketing, technology and content standpoint. Competition drives innovation. We’re beginning to see it evolve with FanDuel creating new funny commercials, and by extension a brand voice, which is distancing them from the other sportsbooks whose external messages are still stuck in generic promotions and free money call-to-actions.

The simple answer for New York State may be that they need to stay in front of their customers. I spoke with Dustin Gouker, head of content and sports betting expert at Legal Sports Report. Beyond Dustin’s expertise, he’s also a resident of Oregon – a state with a single operator system for mobile sports betting. “I’m the key audience for sports betting in Oregon but I don’t get any information regarding bonus plays, favorable odds or just about anything.” Gouker mentioned that there is a lot of strategy from the State of Oregon regarding awareness of mobile sports betting in the state, but nothing that keeps people coming back for more. It’s troublesome when the person who should be the number one target for messaging on sports betting is being overlooked.

In New York State’s case, awareness won’t be hard; there is only one book.  However, if New York is serious about backfilling its tax revenue, then the strategy should move beyond a straightforward awareness message (deposit $50 and get $50 type promotions) to a strategy that continuously engages their user base. This may include tactics such as push notifications or emails with the lines or odds on popular upcoming games, personalized offers based on a customer’s betting history, messaging regarding how the tax revenue is being put to work across the state, or engaging user content (video, infographics, etc.) which consumers can use to help them make stronger bets.

Being the only game in town sounds ideal on paper, but in the long run, states will need to work harder to ensure that their product stays relevant.

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