With the start of its “soft launch” testing phase last Thursday, bet365 became the 16th online/mobile sports betting site open for wagering in the New Jersey market.
Among such a robust selection of competitors, it can be hard for an operator to stand out. But bet365 is receiving more hype within the industry than any of the others that have launched in 2019.
That’s not to say that other sites haven’t generated their own buzz. theScore, which went live almost simultaneously to bet365, has garnered attention for being the first sportsbook in the States born out of a media company. Borgata’s local brand strength helped turn some heads. In 2018, PointsBet’s unique approach got it noticed, and William Hill, Caesars, and playMGM all brought plenty of name recognition to the table.
But thus far, none of them have done much to bite into the sizeable lead held in the state by the two companies that came in with outsize daily fantasy sports credentials and player databases: DraftKings, which launched first on Aug. 6, 2018, and FanDuel, which surged into first place as the new year began and hasn’t looked back.
There’s a sense, though, that bet365 might be different.
Why? Well, it starts with the words you see on your screen when you go to download the app: “The World’s Favorite Sportsbook.”
It sounds like one of those marketing boasts a company will use without needing to back it up.
But in this case, it’s true. bet365 is the biggest sportsbook globally. Now it has touched down in the U.S., looking for another market to conquer.
24/7, 365, for the last 19 years
Measured by either handle or revenue, bet365 has long been the leading sports betting operator in Europe. The company has been No. 1 on eGaming Review’s top-50 power rankings for the last nine years. Despite lacking a presence in some regulated markets, such as France and Portugal, bet365’s status as a top gaming company in the UK, Italy, Spain, and numerous other countries has ensured its overall pole position.
“In general, they are the one firm everyone fears,” said Alun Bowden, a senior consultant focusing on European markets for research firm Eilers & Krejcik Gaming. “They’ve been the industry leader in sports betting for around a decade now.”
The England-based company was founded in 2000 by Denise Coates, who still runs the business alongside her younger brother John. bet365 does everything in-house, from technology to trading, and their product is widely viewed as one of the best around, with more betting options than anyone else.
“The relentless focus on sports means they were an early mover on in-play betting, live streaming, and mobile betting and still arguably contain the leading offering for all of these,” Bowden added. “They are also renowned for their trading, and their willingness to be very aggressive on pricing. For example, in Italy their hold margin is generally around half the market norm.”
Of course, past success in some parts of the globe doesn’t guarantee future success in another.
But it does offer direct benefits. Their “large rest-of-the-world business,” Bowden noted, “gives them huge scale and a marketing budget few can compete with should they wish to turn up the dial to ten.”
Playing catch-up in New Jersey
The exact figures for FanDuel and DraftKings in New Jersey are difficult to pinpoint because, in the monthly revenue reports issued by the Division of Gaming Enforcement, each is lumped in with other brands that share their land-based partners.
Still, FanDuel Sportsbook is believed to be responsible for the great majority of the $52.4 mm in revenue generated through July by the New Meadowlands Racetrack online license in 2019. Same for DraftKings Sportsbook and the $33.2 mm so far this year chalked up by Resorts Digital Gaming.
Together, the two sites represent a majority of the $127.5 mm in sports betting revenue generated so far in 2019 by all of the sites and the 10 land-based books combined.
As a result, nobody expects bet365, which is partnered with the Hard Rock casino in Atlantic City, to show up and just immediately move to the head of the class.
“It will take time,” opined Better Collective VP of Business Development & Sales Marc Pederson. “They are far behind [in New Jersey]in terms of the brand.”
But Pederson predicts that, long term, bet365 will challenge FD and DK for the top spot.
Even though they’ve launched a year after the current leaders in the state, some industry insiders see that as a positive, not a negative. It indicates that bet365 was taking its time to make sure it got everything right before unveiling its U.S.-based offering (while still making sure to launch before the first regular-season NFL games of 2019).
“The dynamics of the U.S. market are so nascent that it’s impossible to predict what happens next with any degree of accuracy, but if other markets are a guide then bet365 is a tough business to have as a competitor,” said Bowden. “First-mover advantage tends to be overrated in gambling, especially online, where product and marketing quality tends to win out in the end. I need more than one hand to count the number of unstoppable dominant leaders I’ve seen come and go in the European market.”
But bet365 clearly isn’t the “come and go” type. The evidence suggests this is one dominant leader with staying power.
It is expected that later this week, BetStars will officially rebrand in New Jersey as FoxBet, bringing the full marketing power of the Fox networks to the legal sports betting game.
Conventional wisdom suggests that bet365 and FoxBet are the two operators most likely to challenge the DFS giants in NJ.
The latter of those is a favorite based on speculation and potential, on what we think it might do.
The former is a favorite based on proven facts, on what we know it has already done.
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