The Olympic Gamble Arrives…
by Joe Favorito @JoeFav
The past few weeks have been another whirlwind of activity around the fantasy sports and gaming space. There was the news that European soccer clubs like FC Barcelona were embracing pay fantasy sports more and more, a host of pieces on FanDuel and Draft Kings reporting record quarters for engagement amidst massive marketing, the Fantasy Sports Trade Association held its annual winter meetings, New Jersey politicians continued their amplified fight to bring sports wagering to the Garden State and other places still on the outs with Federal Law, and oh yeah, the State of Nevada finished the process to allow sports wagering on the Olympic Games.
While most of the news was part of the escalating dialogue in the value of fantasy sports as a revenue driver and engagement barometer for casual fans, the Olympic push was a relatively new salvo fired into the sports and gaming world. While it is somewhat ironic that Nevada, the state where lobbyists spend big bucks to keep Federal laws blocking other states to engage in sports wagering, is looking to increase the opportunities on global sport, would look to add international and potentially obscure sports to its wagering platform, the reality is that the petition shows just how much global fantasy and gaming is gaining steam, and consumers are getting more used to gaming as a regular part of their engagement experience.
The Olympic question is interesting for many reasons. The statue right now does not allow wagering on the Games because of “amateurism” and the use of judges who could influence votes, yet there are as many as seven countries in Europe where Olympic wagering is allowed, with no discernable issues. There is also the growing blurring of what is considered amateur in a world where the Olympics have become much more high tech, much more expensive, and much more subsidized by brands and events where athletes get paid…and rightfully so. The amount of security spent on The Games these days’ accounts for all kinds of monitoring in the digital space, so the thought of even more corruption being brought into The Games because of wagering seems to be becoming more and more of a non-issue.
The real intriguing aspect for Olympic gaming is on the fan engagement and revenue side. The IOC is constantly looking to engage a younger audience, one which is digitally savvy and is accustomed to finding new ways to be involved with whatever event they are watching or experiencing, whether that is in entertainment or sport. The gamification of The Games, one where you can, either for dollars or points, better follow athletes and the goings on in sports big and small from hundreds of countries, raises the value and the consciousness of The Games beyond what is done today. On the revenue side, the IOC, always looking for new streams of revenue, can reap huge licensing fees for data to companies who would engage in Olympic gaming and fantasy, an area which professional sports from the Premier League to the NBA and the NHL, are realizing today.
Like with all fantasy and sports wagering issues going on today, for Nevada this will be less about a brick and mortar engagement (although it wouldn’t hurt to have more consumers in a sports book during the dog days of August watching the Rio Games) as it is a play to grab more of the fast-growing global digital space.
The digital gaming space, as the NBA and NHL have now acknowledged with their team and league deals with Fan Duel and Draft Kings, is where the real dollars will be made going forward, and the ability to have that space as an offering to casual Olympic fans makes great sense. Rest assured the major leagues in North America will continue to watch the developments with Nevada and the Olympics, as gaming and gambling continue to be a lucrative, enticing and still controversial engagement point for all.