Las Vegas is still, Bryan Bennett noted, and Betfred USA Sports finally took the ribbon for its sportsbook in the City.
The Chief Operating Officer of SBC Media highlighted key differences between the US and the UK-founded brand. He also explained how the bookmaker dealt with them.
Nevada – ‘a massive win’
Bennett stated that there are several major US gaming hotspots, Las Vegas being one of them. However, New Jersey has been a significant target market for European actors.
Betfred, on the other hand, has chosen an ‘opportunistic approach’, which is in line with the surge of legislation for sports betting that has hit the country. In fact, 37 states have legalized some form regulated gaming.
Betfred’s first day was Iowa. Bennett explained that it was Iowa where Betfred launched its operations in 2020, just before the Super Bowl. At the time, it was difficult to get our name out there because not many people know Betfred.
“The first step was to get someone to take a chance with us. Elite Casino Resorts of Iowa was the first to do this. Iowa was just legalizing gambling, and they needed someone to work at their casino in the northwest corner of the state.
Betfred’s US brand is based out of its Iowa beachhead. It has gained market access in Colorado and Ohio, Virginia, and Nevada. Given Nevada’s status, which is one of the nation’s igaming capitals the COO anticipates no less than success.
Bennett said, “From that point on, we followed the wave in legalizations. We never went back and tried New Jersey,” he continued.
“It has never been our intention to enter states that are already legal. We want to stay current with the new legislation, and let that be our guide.
Bennett acknowledged that it was not an easy process. However, Bennett said that the regulatory environment in the UK is more complex and difficult for UK-based companies to adapt to.
Betfred took Nevada nearly two years to launch the Nevada market. Bennett complained that Betfred was a bit ‘naive’ in its approach to the state’s Gambling Commission.
He said that the Betfred’s Vegas casino sportsbook opened this month, but it was a’massive victory’. He explained: “We’re only European sportsbook to have done that. William Hill were here, but they got in through an acquisition, while we went through the traditional way of going before licensing boards.”
“It opens up opportunities for us to do many other things here, and we haven’t gone through all the process just to open one sportbook here. Now we have the opportunity to do more business.”
Get street cred as a highstreet bookie
Betfred had to overcome other challenges in the US, including regulation.
Bennett observed that the US and UK have significant differences in terms of marketing. FanDuel, DraftKings and DraftKings were able to get a strong start in fantasy sports, which allowed them to build a large customer base and brand.
“It’s very difficult here, we’re dominated by very large companies who don’t mind losing millions to land grabs. You must be strong in the US to compete with established brands with large marketing budgets.
Betfred is a household brand in the UK, but Fred Doneis an eminent business figure. The 1,400 high-street shops of the group are well-known in Britain. However, in its early days in the USA this was far from true.
This was possible by establishing brand recognition through local partnerships and marketing. The firm’s UK experience was very helpful in this mission.
Bennett said, “Betfred has a long history in the UK doing sports sponsorships as well as team sponsorships.” The Denver Broncos was the first thing we did upon arriving in Colorado. Because you can’t build a brand overnight, we knew that we needed street cred.
“We made a quick deal with the Broncos as well as the Rockies to establish credibility with Coloradoans and to gain street cred and recognition. This was also done with minor league teams from Iowa.
Betfred’s history of sponsorships in the UK, such as sponsoring rugby Super League, has set the stage for such partnerships, Bennett said.
Betfred’s US journey was dominated by the creation of an American voice for one of Britain’s legacy bookmakers. The partnership between Betfred and the Cincinnati Bengals is especially significant because of a similar business history.
Bennett said: “With Bengals, our story helps because they’re one of few teams that are still owned their original family, The Brown family.
“They are also one among the few billionaires due to their team, and this can be compared with Betfred as a family-owned business with a track record of success.”
The realistic approach to US retail
Betfred, as mentioned, is well-known in the UK for its range of betting shops. In the USA, however, retail operations make it a standout in a market dominated online by many firms.
Bennett discussed the rollout retail in the US. He noted geographical obstacles in Colorado, but noted positive experiences in Iowa. He also highlighted the marketing benefits that come with running a high street operation.
Betfred launched its Las Vegas sportsbook shortly before the Super Bowl. It expects to “hit the ground running” and keep Nevada’s retail heavy Nevada at a minimum.
He said that while many online retailers do not want to do business when it is necessary, they do so because they are more visible in the metros.
We aren’t naive, but the industry is highly web-driven. Although retail is not going to be the market leader in this area, it will play an important role in our marketing, advertising rollout, and development strategy.
Bennett also noted that Betfred’s US adaptation was largely based on a staffing approach that he feels has gone against the grain.
He stressed the importance of confronting the US with realistic expectations about what can be achieved, especially in terms of licensing and regulatory conditions.
He said, “You don’t just decide to move into Ohio and launch your product a month later.” The first step is business development, which can take six to one year.
“Realistic expectations are crucial. Betfred’s team had realistic expectations and were prepared for what could go wrong.”
This team needs people who have a solid background and knowledge of local conditions.
Betfred was previously under the control of the UK Gambling Commission (UKGC) for many years in Britain. Bennett advised caution to any European companies looking for an identical experience in the USA.
The COO stated that “it’s very fragmented and the compliance is not always simple.” This was the most difficult piece that the UK team had, adapting to American licensing and compliance.
“Having someone who is knowledgeable in this area is important. We also had to ensure that we hired the right lawyers and consultants to help us navigate the licensing process.
“I believe that a lot European companies started by employing European-based people and then transferred them over. Betfred did it differently, and this was the right thing to do.”