weather icon Mostly Cloudy

CES sports betting panel debates future of in-play wagering

In-play wagering, which allows gamblers to place bets during a game, is wildly popular overseas, where it accounts for roughly 80 percent of the action at sportsbooks.

The fast-paced betting option is growing in popularity in the U.S., where it accounts for approximately 20 percent of the action. Pro sports leagues are banking on it to catch fire so they can sell their data to create more in-play options. But it still hasn’t been fully embraced by the American betting public.

Jeff Ma, a consultant who on Wednesday moderated “The Future of Sports Betting” panel at CES, said that’s due to several factors, including bettors not being able to place many of their in-play wagers.

“There’s many layers as to why in-play wagering is not as big as it should be in the U.S. right now,” said Ma, a member of the MIT MIT Blackjack Team and the basis for the main charactger in the book “Bringing Down the House” and the movie “21.” “Some are technical but some are also risk management.”

Ma put the onus on the panel, which consisted of Matt King, the CEO of FanDuel; Scott Butera, president of interactive gaming for MGM Resorts; Mike Primeaux, senior vice president of strategy for Fox Bet and Fox Sports Super 6; and Sara Slane, former senior vice president of public affairs for the American Gaming Association.

“You guys are not comfortable taking in-play wagers and put delays in specifically for risk management and create somewhat of an unfair game for the sports fan,” he said. “Millennials don’t want to go in and make a bet and wait four or five hours to settle it. That’s not the experience millennials want.

“What are the the innovations that will happen in this space?”

King replied that, “That’s not the experience that we’re giving millennials today.

“I have Cash Out (options) available. I have in-play. In the average football game, we have over 100 in-play markets running.”

Ma then asked, “How many percent of my in-play bets will get rejected?”

King: “Very few.”

After a pause, Ma replied, “OK, I’ll go use your product.”

As the room burst into laughter, Ma asked in earnest, “Will you let me actually bet?”

King: “I will let you bet. Open to one and all.”

Later in the discussion, Ma clarified that he wasn’t singling out FanDuel but the industry in general.

“In this industry, for so long, the customer experience has been largely ignored,” Ma said. “My point on in-play wagering is not that I’ve gotten bets rejected. But the general experience of in-play wagering, because of the built-in delays and intentional rejections, sometimes creates an experience where a high percentage of bets that you put in don’t go through.

“Imagine creating a product where you knew 50 percent of the time, it’s going to get rejected. That’s not a great customer experience. When we talk about the future of sports betting, it will be interesting to see how much operators evolve.”

One of the technical issues affecting in-play wagering is that there is a delay between the time a play actually happens and the time a sportsbook operator and bettors see it on their respective broadcast feeds.

“In-play betting will put pressure on lower latency video,” King said. “Part of the reason for bet delays is watching one broadcast, there might be an eight-second delay, while another broadcast there might be a 10-second delay.”

Said Slane: “There are a lot of grand dreams right now with in-play prop betting on baseball, hockey and basketball. But there is a lot of work that has to happen for that to be successful.

“The ultimate dream is to have an in-play product where people are sitting at home watching the game and able to bet on every single play. From a consumer standpoint, it’s such new territory. It will take a lot of work to come to fruition.”

Contact reporter Todd Dewey at tdewey@reviewjournal.com. Follow @tdewey33 on Twitter.

Don't miss the big stories. Like us on Facebook.