With the Las Vegas Raiders — a team I used to cover when they were based in Oakland — playing the Kansas City Chiefs, I was glued to an app. First I “bet” the Raiders, and the over, and then I “bet” the Chiefs, and in the end, I’d won 864.36 make-believe dollars and had the time of my life.
This all went down (and up) on Sporttrade, the wagering exchange that’s currently only available in New Jersey. Developed by an enthusiastic 28-year-old who lives in rural Pennsylvania with his folks and his dog, the exchange, which essentially works like day trading in the stock market, allows bettors to cut their losses — or pocket their gains — and play both sides in a way that traditional sports betting does not.
Earlier in the day, I had met with Alex Kane, Russ Rubino, and Chloe Gonzalez, who were set up in a Starbucks inside the Venetian Hotel during the G2E conference. Sporttrade is Kane’s idea, Rubio is the chief marketing officer, and Gonzalez is the executive assistant for one of the newest apps in the world of wagering.
As soon as they started talking, I knew that Sporttrade was for me … but too bad I live in California, where sports betting isn’t legal. I did get a peek at how much fun it could be when Kane offered up a beta version of the app that I could use in Nevada. He staked my account with $1,000, and the understanding that it wasn’t real money.
Playing both sides of the field
The gist is this: Customers can essentially buy stock in a team and the over or under. And you can sell at any time during the game. Sporttrade takes a 2% commission on customers’ winnings and nothing on their losses.
So, the more you win, the more money Sporttrade makes. It’s kind of like using a self-trading platform like Charles Schwab or Fidelity in the stock market (although those charge a commission on every trade). In fact, the technology is the same technology used by the NASDAQ, and there is no latency, which is a chronic issue in the world of traditional wagering.
The idea of a wagering exchange isn’t new. Smarkets and Betfair are among the companies that offered exchanges in the United Kingdom while Prophet Exchange also got the go-ahead to launch in New Jersey earlier this year. There’s also Mojo, which the NFLPA is invested in, that offers the opportunity to buy shares in career statistical performances of NFL players. And in daily fantasy, there are multiple companies that offer the opportunity to “buy stock” in players’ performances.
To bet on Sporttrade, customers buy a contract (think share). I started with eight contracts on the Raiders at $25 each for a $200 stake. I then bought 10 contracts on the over (51.5) for $51 each for a $510 stake. I was excited to play — having covered the AFC West for five years, I knew that even though the Raiders went into the game with only one win and the Chiefs led the division, it is the equivalent of baseball’s AL East. Records don’t matter … rivalries do.
That Monday Night Football game on Oct. 10 was tailor-made for using Sporttrade — the underdog went ahead early, the favorite made a run, and there was plenty of scoring. My $200 “bet” on the Raiders went up as Las Vegas neared the goal line in the first quarter and continued to rise after the first and second touchdowns. With the Raiders ahead, 14-0, my co-workers, with whom I was watching the game, encouraged me to sell, which I did in the middle of the second quarter. At that point, I was up nearly $150 ($148.96 to me and $3.04 to Sporttrade). I hung on to my over bet and watched as the prices of both the Raiders and Chiefs fluctuated in concert with what was happening on the field.
As Kansas City worked its way down the field in the second quarter, I scooped up four contracts on the Chiefs at $28.50 each, for an investment of $114. I hung onto those contracts until the fourth quarter, at which point I sold each contract for $84.50. At that point, I’d made $56 per contract. My profit was $219.52, while Sporttrade’s commission was $4.48.
I sat on my over bet for the entire game, and since the teams combined to score 59 points, I won. Each contract settled at $100, less $19.80 in total commission, so I won $480.20 on my over bet.
Get out whenever you want
Throughout the process, I was engaged in the game and conscious of the rhythm on the field. While I covered the Raiders for many years as a sports reporter, I am not emotionally involved in the team the way I would be if I were a hometown fan. I don’t bet on games involving the Red Sox, because they are the team of my youth and I ALWAYS think they’ll come back. (The heartbreak was excruciating until 2004.) The idea of staying away from a team you love is probably good advice in any kind of wagering.
— Adam Small (@AdamLoebSmall) July 21, 2022
What attracted me to Sporttrade is the ability to get out of a bet — for better or worse. Instead of sweating it out until the end of the game, I was able to capitalize first on the Raiders’ momentum, and then the Chiefs’. And had the Chiefs come out hot, I could have chosen to sell my Raiders contracts at a loss — but that loss would not have been everything I had wagered.
A more responsible kind of wagering?
So, what’s the downside? All sports bettors won’t embrace the concept, Sporttrade is currently only available in New Jersey, and there are limited wagering options. The company introduced futures wagers last week, and other than that, customers can bet only on the game outcome or the over/under, though the company says player props are in the works. It’s unlikely that Sporttrade will offer in-play options anytime soon.
From a responsible gaming perspective, there is a lot to like about Sporttrade. Consumers can put stop-loss orders on contracts, just like they would in the stock market, so losses can be mitigated. The app also flashes an “outcome volatile” warning on some bets and prevents the bettor from actually placing a “bad” wager until the market is a bit safer. During the Raiders-Chiefs game, I saw some of these warnings, but the “buy” went through when things settled down.
— Nasdaq Exchange (@NasdaqExchange) October 3, 2022
And because Sporttrade makes its money when you make a “winning” trade, you’re not playing against the house. So winning and losing doesn’t matter as much to the company as the idea that players are making trades.
Beyond that, Sporttrade doesn’t offer iCasino, so it’s one less way to entice gamblers to keep gambling once a game has ended. From the monitoring side, Sporttrade has integrated NASDAQ Surveillance Technology into its platform, which allows it to “set automated flags and alerts to try and identify irresponsible or nefarious behavior in real time,” according to the company.
It’s not for everyone
But Sporttrade doesn’t appeal to everyone. Some of my co-workers, many of whom are tried and true traditional sports bettors, fumbled over the idea of getting out of a bet in the middle of the game. But for me, it was about riding the wave and following hunches without being locked into the entire game.
From my colleague Chris Altruda, who covers legislation, regulation, and is our resident revenue guru:
What is interesting is that, like Jill, most of my experience prior to Sports Handle was “pure” sportswriting. I am still relatively new in the wagering space, and yes, I cannot fully wrap around the concept of the end of the wagering transaction not correlating with the end outcome of the game.
The buying and selling of picks feels like a different version of the “cash out” traditional operators offer, with the biggest difference being someone willing to pick up your broken dream and make it theirs. You need a different mindset to both participate and enjoy this style of wagering.
There’s almost a need for the lack of remorse and pride to be a good bettor on the Sporttrade platform, to instead be ruthlessly efficient. Jill talks about the allure of getting out of a bet without calling it a “bad” bet. For those like myself who have never day traded but are competitive about their picks, getting to that place — while acknowledging I do not fit the target demographic age-wise — is challenging.
From my colleague Brett Smiley, an avid, longtime sports bettor, who oversees our editorial team:
I guess I’m not the target demographic, either. I like the notion of being able to buy/sell and not be bound to a pre-game determination, but I guess I’ve been betting long enough I may be pretty set in my ways. Being in New Jersey, I’m going to make a traditional real-money pre-game wager and download Sporttrade to make a matching play over there, and watch and see where I land on that one. Maybe that roller-coaster will prove revelatory.
Customers might be older
I might not be exactly who Kane thought his audience would be. Kane, who went to Drexel University, said he was targeting guys like himself who tinkered with Robinhood in their late teens, CoinBase in their early 20s, and, he hopes, Sporttrade in their mid-20s and beyond.
His vision is “customers who are 21 and they never know what American odds are.”
I also think Kane is going to capture a lot of, ahem, older people, who have at least dabbled in the stock market, day trading, or options markets. In fact, in describing Sporttrade to some in my circle of friends — all of whom are interested in sports but only bet very casually — the response was one of overwhelming interest.
Sporttrade eliminates the need to learn the language of sports betting. There are no odds, boosts, bad beats, run lines, puck lines, or parlays. There is a “buy” price, and, if you choose to do so, a “sell” price. End of story. And that’s why I think Kane’s other audience will skew older, to people who have traditionally tinkered in the stock market and maybe even day trading.
“It’s just a different way of thinking about” sports betting, Kane said while downloading the app onto my phone. (Really, for me that would be the hardest part.)
But seriously, my brain might just be wired differently than my colleagues, and that’s exactly what Kane et al will be counting on with many others going forward.