With more states legalizing gambling on sports, Super Bowl LVII will probably be the biggest event for the industry ever. The American Gaming Association is predicting that more than 50 million people will bet about $16 billion on the National Football League championship game between the Kansas City Chiefs and Philadelphia Eagles.
But how will casino and online/mobile sports betting companies stand out in an increasingly crowded field?
Gambling leaders such as DraftKings, FanDuel owner Flutter Entertainment (PDYPF), MGM, Caesars and Wynn (WYNN), are all in a land grab for customers.
The high stakes competition is having an impact on the stocks of the sports betting giants. They have all surged so far this year as the broader market has rebounded. But many of these stocks are merely recovering from prior steep losses.
DraftKings is down about 30% in the past 12 months and nearly 75% over the past two years. Caesars (CZR) and Penn Entertainment (PENN), which has a stake in Barstool Sports, have both plummeted 40% in the previous year. Rush Street Interactive, the parent company of BetRivers, has slid nearly 65% during the same time frame.
Each of these companies spend a healthy amount on splashy advertising campaigns. It’s impossible to miss Jamie Foxx in MGM ads, Kevin Hart pitching DraftKings and JB Smoove and the Manning family touting Caesars during commercial breaks of NFL games. The companies are also doling out big bucks on promotional efforts such as “free bets”.
Chasing customers while also trying to keep Wall Street happy
Sports betting companies are going to have to pull out all the stops to both gain new customers and restore some confidence among investors.
MGM might have a leg up on the competition. The company’s BetMGM unit, a 50-50 joint venture between the Las Vegas casino giant and Entain, a UK-based gaming company, has the only physical sportsbook at the Super Bowl. It opened last September in Phoenix and is just outside State Farm Stadium where the game is being played Sunday.
Of course, many gamblers will be busy placing bets on their phones. But Adam Greenblatt, CEO of BetMGM, told CNN that business at the sportsbook before and during the game should be brisk.
“We have prepared for this Super Bowl like never before,” Greenblatt said. “We are staffing up for a lot of demand.”
Greenblatt said the 17,000-square-foot sportsbook near State Farm has a giant video wall as well as 38 HD TVs so bettors can watch the Super Bowl. There are also 25 betting kiosks. The goal, after all, is to get people to wager on the game.
Given the competition with DraftKings and FanDuel, as well as other casino companies, Greenblatt said that having a physical location at the Super Bowl should be a great marketing opportunity. A big goal for Sunday is to also convince people making bets at the sportsbook to download the BetMGM app so they can set up accounts.
Marketing is important, Greenblatt added, because MGM can remind gamblers that is a legacy casino brand, and not an upstart like DraftKings, FanDuel or Barstool.
“We’re fun and sophisticated. Ocean’s Eleven. That was an MGM experience,” he said, referring to the fact that the MGM Grand on the Las Vegas Strip was featured prominently in the 2001 remake of the 1960 heist film. “We want to be both aspirational but also accessible.”
DraftKings and FanDuel vs. the big Vegas casino companies
The industry upstarts aren’t too concerned about the casino operators though.
FanDuel CEO Amy Howe said in an interview with CNN that there is plenty of room for more growth, especially after Ohio, Maryland and Kansas all legalized sports betting last year.
“This should be the single biggest day in FanDuel’s history,” Howe said, adding that the company is expecting around 17 million bets on the game. That’s more than double the number of wagers on last year’s Super Bowl.
Howe said FanDuel is also forecasting that it could wind up with about a half a million new customers that place bets on the game, including more women.
Still, DraftKings CEO Jason Robins told CNN that he thinks sports betting firms realize that they can’t go overboard with costly promotions anymore.
“If anything, the competition now is less intense than last year,” Robins said. “Last year was the peak. It was somewhat irrational.”
It’s just no longer smart to go for market share at all costs…and Wall Street has already punished the companies that have done so in the past, including DraftKings.
“Investor tolerance for the types of undisciplined spending during the NFL season last year has waned,” Robins said. “Investors want to see a path to profitability. That’s different from 2021 when customer growth was being rewarded.”
That being said, both DraftKings and FanDuel still plan to advertise during this year’s Super Bowl. DraftKings will have another ad with Hart while FanDuel has recruited former NFL great Rob Gronkowski, who was not a kicker, to try and make a field goal “kick of destiny” on live TV. Howe said the spot will air during the third quarter.