Ask any hardened in-game bettor to compile a list of grievances on vexations they must deal with while placing an in-play sports wager, and there is a strong likelihood that the dreaded “spinny wheel” will land near the top of the list.
Take, for instance, last weekend’s dramatic comeback by the New York Jets over the Cleveland Browns. Trailing by six with roughly a minute left, the Jets’ chances to pull off the upset increased exponentially after recovering an onside kick on their own 47. You raced to place an in-game wager on your mobile betting app, only to be greeted with an obdurate wheel that continued to spin interminably as a trading desk determined whether to accept the bet.
Among major mobile sportsbook operators, the industry standard for rendering a decision on bet acceptance is around seven seconds after a wager is physically placed. PointsBet, which offers an expansive menu for in-game betting, aims to complete the transaction with considerably more expediency. As the Australian-headquartered company enters the busiest portion of the annual sports calendar, it is targeting a delay of less than a second for all in-game wagers, PointsBet U.S. CEO Johnny Aitken noted at the 2022 Susquehanna (SIG) Gambling & Technology Ecosystem Forum this month.
Solid peak into the future of sports betting as this trend will only continue as more LIVE in-game props become available 🚀💰 https://t.co/QOFWr345yr
— Jason Stein (@JStein209) August 10, 2022
Throughout the NFL season, a critical area to monitor centers around the “uptime” that sportsbooks maintain for in-game betting, according to Aitken. Although most books seek to attain an uptime as close to 100% as possible, few come close to that lofty standard.
A sportsbook that imposes frequent suspensions during the bet acceptance process will have a comparatively lower uptime than its rivals. PointsBet is striving for longer uptime, coupled with near-instantaneous acceptance of wagers, to optimize the in-game wagering experience for customers.
“If we can win that battle being up the longest and the fastest to accept, we’ll pair that with the breadth and depth of our offerings,” Aitken said during a SIG fireside chat. “We’re heading into the NFL season with what I think is the most comprehensive NFL in-play product in the market.”
Aitken was joined on the fireside chat by PointsBet Group COO Mark Hughes, as well as two executives from Susquehanna International Group, a prominent trading firm. PointsBet made waves in late June when it secured an A$94 million ($65.3 million USD) investment from SIG Sports Investments Corp. The investment is one of the largest from a financial trading firm in a sports betting-focused company since the U.S. Supreme Court’s historic PASPA decision in 2018.
Hughes, who formerly served as CEO of Ireland-based Banach Technology, inherited the role when PointsBet acquired the betting software startup in March 2021. Hughes likened a sportsbook that does not have 100% uptime to a bar that remains closed periodically during a busy night. If someone is looking to buy a drink, but there aren’t any bartenders to serve him 20% of the time, the customer will become frustrated. The same dynamic exists on in-game markets when an operator suspends the line with regularity.
It is important to note that Aitken did not offer much specificity on the level of in-game wagers that will be accepted this season within a second. PointsBet initially rolled out a near-zero latency trial in last January’s AFC wild card game between the Bengals and the Raiders. The trial went “extremely well,” a PointsBet executive told Sports Handle earlier this year, as bettors received the chance to place in-game spread and moneyline wagers without any suspensions. While PointsBet plans to offer additional markets that are comparable to the Bengals-Raiders offering, Aitken did not expound on the quantity of markets or the timing of full-scale implementation.
Losing the SNF pre-game sponsorship
Over the weekend, Sports Business Journal reported that NBC Sports had reached a deal with BetMGM to replace PointsBet as the sports betting sponsor for Football Night In America, the network’s pre-game show on Sunday nights.
PointsBet initially landed the sponsorship after signing a five-year deal with NBCUniversal in August 2020 to become the official sports betting partner of NBC Sports. PointsBet will reportedly shift its sponsorship strategy from a national concentration to a more regionalized focus.
BREAKING NEWS: @NBCSports has signed @BetMGM to replace @PointsBetUSA as sportsbook sponsor on Sunday Night Football pre-game show for remainder of the season. PB dropped @NFL deal to shift $ to local/regional buys. MGM Integrations, including odds segment, to debut tonight. pic.twitter.com/sHF5e4XLSg
— Bill King (@Bill_KingSBJ) September 18, 2022
When PointsBet made its U.S. debut four years ago, in-play betting represented about 20% of its handle nationwide, Aitken said. The figure jumped to around 50% last year, while increasing to approximately 60% in the company’s most recent quarter. By comparison, in-game betting represents more than 70% of the handle in Europe, he noted, primarily due to the popularity of sports such as soccer that cater to in-play wagering.