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Reflections, data and royalties on first day of ICE Vox North America


The first day of ICE Vox North America took place exactly one year after the Supreme Court struck down the Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act.

As such it was fitting that one of the event’s first panels saw representatives of one of the most successful betting operators and the governing body of one of the most popular US sports reflected on the past year. 

DraftKings chief executive Jason Robins admitted that DraftKings had made a big bet on a positive outcome in the run-up to the ruling, with significant resources being invested in developing a sportsbook product. 

Chris Halpin, the National Football League’s chief strategy and growth officer, said the organization had been preparing for a number of different possible outcomes to the Supreme Court case. This, he said, meant that the NFL had a clear and defined plan of action as soon as the decision was announced. 

Both panellists agreed that the clarity of the decision, which left no room for ambiguity in declaring PASPA void, was particularly helpful. 

Looking ahead, they touched upon themes that would reappear later in the day’s sessions, namely that of official data usage. While Halpin noted that the NFL had never lobbied for integrity or royalty fees from operators, he argued that high quality betting products could only be developed using the official league datasets. 

Robins added that use of official league data was an important part of eradicating the huge US black market, estimated to generate around $196.2bn in handle. 

“If you have better data, you can produce something better that can’t be produced by the black market,” he said. 

Key to achieving this will be allowing operators to launch mobile offerings and keeping tax rates reasonable, Halpin added. 

“Without online and with high taxes, you are not going to see the market convert,” he explained. “That has been the lesson from the states that have legalised so far.”

The debate over the use of official data was picked up later in the day, expanding into the contentious issue of integrity, or royalty, fees. 

Ohio Senator Bill Coley argued that there was no reason why leagues should expect a fee for betting on their games: “Commodities traders aren’t cutting checks for soy bean farmers so why should operators for the leagues?”

However lawyer Daniel Wallach countered by arguing mandated use of official data (and accompanying fees) would boost consumer confidence and preserve the integrity of the game. He  also pointed out that data pricing would not be unilaterally decided by the leagues. Gaming regulators, the industry, leagues and league data partners would all have a say.

Sarah Slane of the American Gaming Association said the industry body’s members were “the good guys”, and still wanted good, reliable data. They just didn’t want to be told where to get it. 

An entertaining break in the education in VOX was provided by the appearance of boxing great Sugar Ray Leonard in the expo hall, where the throwing of some signed boxing gloves into the crowd by Clarion Gaming MD Kate Chambers following his keynote address prompted scrambles between the assembled gaming industry execs. The great man also stuck around to honour every single photo request from the audience, and spoke exclusively to iGB North America about his career post-boxing, his charitable foundation and his continuing friendship with the three boxers with whom he lit up world boxing in the 80s – Tommy Hearns, Marvin Hagler and Roberto Duran.

Later in the day, suppliers debated whether European suppliers were doing enough to repurpose their product offerings for the US market. This ultimately shifted to discuss what suppliers could do if they felt a change of provider was necessary. SBTech’s Ian Bradley argued that most operators would be likely to stay with one provider, due to the cost of changing and potential impact on a business. 

Bradley said that provided suppliers did a good enough job they would be expected to keep the contact for five to seven years, with a change after that point generally because an operator was looking to add a new product vertical to their offering. 

SG Digital’s Jordan Levin noted that a change could have a transformative effect on a business. He pointed out that Golden Nugget’s decision to leave the Bally platform kick-started its business in New Jersey, allowing to to grow into the igaming market leader in the state.

He added, however, that this comes at a cost. Not only are the costs high, but it can also lead to 25-30% of player accounts being lost through a platform migration.

Ice Vox North America continues tomorrow.