Professional Gamblers Talk Sports Betting Growth, Online Poker Problems At G2E

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Steve Fezzik is a professional sports bettor who, not surprisingly, loves the action. On Monday in Las Vegas at a Global Gaming Expo panel called “Players Panel: Let’s Hear From Our Customers,” an audience member asked Fezzik about his use of sports betting apps, and the two-time Las Vegas Supercontest winner said, “Every place that lets me bet, I’ve got their app.”

But when it comes to “in-game betting” — a burgeoning segment of the industry at legal U.S. sports betting sites — Fezzik gave a surprisingly conservative response.

“There are some pitfalls,” Fezzik said, “so I think the right way to do live wagering is just offer your customers lines during TV timeouts. That gives you a two-minute window to put up the line, take the action, and approve any big bets.”

That sort of approach might have prevented the recent controversy at the FanDuel Sportsbook at the Meadowlands Racetrack, when they posted an obviously erroneous line in the closing moments of a Broncos-Raiders game and ultimately made the PR-conscious decision to pay out winning bets.

Still, Fezzik said that in-game betting is “the number-one growth potential in the sports betting industry — in particular, [with a]stand-alone game like Monday Night Football.”

On online poker and HUDs

The players panel was moderated by Brett Smiley of SportsHandle.com, and also featured pro poker player Liz Huey, who weighed in on HUDs (Heads-Up Displays) in online poker, which show opponents’ playing histories and tendencies.

G2E-professional-gamblers-panel
(L to R) Brett Smiley moderated a G2E panel featuring Steve Fezzik and Liz Huey

“I’m not a fan of HUDs,” Huey said. “I feel like it’s not really cheating, but it gives one player an advantage and on the other hand gives another player a disadvantage.” Huey added that sometimes the amateur player can’t afford a HUD, further exacerbating the advantage.

Fezzik didn’t say specifically that he is anti HUD, but he agreed that the pros gain a sharper edge even when each side gets more information.

“In terms of having a ‘good game,’ the last thing you want to do in poker is to give the pros an even greater advantage versus the recreational player,” added Fezzik. “That’s why poker is in trouble now — because the recreational player, when he goes and plays, he doesn’t win enough because the pros have gotten too good.”

New Jersey has no official stance on HUDs, but Nevada explicitly prohibits them. When NJ linked online poker player pools with NV and Delaware in May, WSOP.com/888 Poker networked sites opted to ban HUDs entirely, to the consternation of many NJ poker pros.

The price has to be right

Fezzik offered an interesting take on an adjustment to sports betting that he thinks would benefit both the public and the books in the long run.

“I’m a mercenary,” said Fezzik, who has a controversial reputation in the Las Vegas gambling community as a “tout” who sells his picks. “I want the best odds, even if I get terrible casino service. Price is king for me.”

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Fezzik added that he is “shocked” that so many amateurs do not seem very price sensitive — often accepting worse than -110 odds on their bets ($110 to win $100). Fezzik said — granted, perhaps self-servingly — that he believes that if a Vegas sportsbook offered -108 or -109, they would get so many more customers that they might quadruple their volume, even if the profits would go down per player.

One audience member sought some practical advice on how to get “comps” as a sports bettor. He said that he might spend 20 hours a weekend betting football, but gets no offers from his casino host.

“Don’t rely on your casino host,” Huey advised. “You should do your homework yourself. You go in and ask for [the comp].”

Another issue lamented by an audience member regarding recurring hiccups in making online gambling deposits, when horse racing — more than a decade into its online simulcasting experience — has figured it out.

Fezzik brought up a separate issue with online efficiency, noting that the plethora of in-game betting options can make it difficult to find games that haven’t started yet. He suggested color-coded betting visuals for sports betting sites.

Finally, Huey lamented the early results from that online poker compact between Nevada, New Jersey, and Delaware.

“They thought here when they merged New Jersey in, it would lead to a whole lot more players,” Huey said. “It did produce a lot more revenue and more people, but we still need more states. We need Pennsylvania. We need New York. We need Michigan.”

Online gambling – estimating the coming domination

There was another panel on Monday called, “Sports Betting: A Way Forward in the U.S. and How iGaming Fits In?”

But with U.S.-based gambling analyst Steve Ruddock under the weather and three of the other four panelists bringing a focus on foreign gaming, the title theme didn’t get addressed very often.

H2 Gambling Capital Director David Henwood did, however, kick things off with some interesting projections, such as sports betting making up just 15 percent of all global gambling worldwide in 2017 — but accounting for 50 percent of online gambling and 68 percent of mobile gambling. That’s where we are headed. But states like Delaware and Mississippi are not yet offering online sports betting, despite both states having legalized brick-and-mortar betting. Online revenue, worldwide, is growing at 10 times the rate of land-based, Henwood added.

Some industry experts are skeptical that illegal sports betting in the U.S. is quite at the level of the American Gaming Association’s estimates of $150 billion in handle. But Henwood said his team’s analysis left them with a $196 billion estimate for 2017 — even higher than the AGA’s.

What’s next? Henwood said they project legalization by 20 states by 2023, allowing the U.S. to pass the gambling-loving United Kingdom with $4.9 billion in gross gaming revenue that year. But it must be noted that Henwood has New York, New Jersey, and California accounting for half of that projected U.S. market. As online gambling analyst @gamblinglamb replied on Twitter, “Can I get a price on over 2023 on California?”

One more projection offered: Five more states will come aboard by 2030 to make it 25 states and $7.6B in GGR. Longtime industry expert Randy Haynes of Miomni called those numbers “pretty conservative,” for what it’s worth.

A majority of the panel agreed that while online sports betting will continue to grow significantly every year, it’s going to take a bit longer than some are expecting.

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John Brennan

John Brennan has covered NJ and NY sports business and gaming since 2002 and was a Pulitzer Prize Finalist in 2008, while reporting for The Bergen County Record.

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