As the new NFL season gets underway, Gambling Insider speaks to David Ball, Head of Pre-Game NFL at sports betting supplier Kambi, about the new campaign. In an interview that covers a range of topics in regard to the NFL and other US sports in general, Hall gets across the ideas that Kambi are pursuing, as well as giving his own opinion on which teams will stand out during the season.
During the conversation, Kambi’s Head of Pre-Game NFL also speaks atlength on the new markets the provider wants to expand into; the competition the company faces as the US marketgrows bigger; state betting statistics and the money sportsbooks lost to Tom Brady over the past decade – prior to the recent legalisation of sports betting in Massachusetts.
Are you excited for the new NFL season?
It’s a lot of build-up and work to prepare but now we’re getting actual games, so you start to get a bit of excitement. Seeing a lot of the player news, it’s starting to get real.
Who are the favourites this season among bettors?
The Buffalo Bills are the favourites, there’s a lot of love for them and for Josh Allen as MVP, too. I think they were arguably the best team last year, but they just didn’t getthe run of things in the Playoffs. So, they’re coming back stronger this year. They’re a very popular bet.
For the new season, what kind of betting statistics are you seeing state by state? Do most back their home team or who they think will win, regardless of affiliation or loyalty?
It’s interesting. I find the best way to look at it is by the season win totals for each team, and you’re seeing the most popular overs are with the Steelers and the Eagles, teams where there’s a big local following. The Eagles definitely feel good about their off-season and their chances. The Steelers have a seven-and-a-half win line, and Mike Tomlin – their head coach – has never had a losing season, so they feel they can cover that. It’s the same for the Lions in Michigan; everyone’s backing them there.Then, on the flip side, you’ve got one of the most popular under bets in the Chicago Bears – that’s a big market for us, and you may be seeing some local pessimism there. We’ve seen that in the past because New Jersey’s always been big. When we first opened there, we took a lot of bets on the Giants and the Jets from people who lived in that state and followed those teams; then you kind of saw it reverse once they had some bad fortune in their teams and itquickly turned against them.
Obviously, Massachusetts gave the go-ahead to sports betting recently; is that a new market for you now?
Absolutely, that’s the plan. Kambi is always ready to go into these new states and has a great track record when it comes to being online on day one. We see a lot of value in Massachusetts, it’s a really big sports town and, from an NFL perspective, you’ve got the Patriots; so that will be a great addition to our offering. We’ll be making sure, from a trading point of view, that we’ll be working with our operators on local team specials – stuff around that is always popular when you launch in new states.
Do you wish Massachusetts had opened up earlier, with the success of the Patriots over the last decade?
Well, sportsbooks lost a fair bit of money to Tom Brady without betting being legal in Massachusetts, so it may have made it even worse. There’s a lot
of luck involved in launching places at the right time, because you launch in a state and one of the first bets people want to make is on their team to win
a championship. But, over the long run, we feel it evens out. We don’t worry ourselves too much about that now, and it helps that we’ve got a much more diverse spread of states now. It’s not the same as when we first came here, where it was only New Jersey and Pennsylvania – we were a little concerned about those local teams winning the Super Bowl and getting a big payout from us.
Do you find it difficult when a new state opens up and introduces its own set of bespoke regulations?
There’s a lot to look at there, but it’s something we’re well-prepared for. We’ve got really good at offering a regulatory compliance team here who deal with most of that; and they’ve got a complicated matrix on what’s allowed in different states, ensuring we’ve got a great record of staying compliant there. As atrader, we’re working with them to give our full offering, and they’ll look through it and check everything is compliant with each state’s rules. We’ve got a good system in place for that and it doesn’t create too many issues, because our team is well versed in doing that from all the previous launches.
Whenever you launch in a new state, the competition you face must be huge?
Yeah, there are a lot of sportsbooks out there to compete with, but we’ve really focused on partnerships that can be market-leading – whether it’s more nationally or just leaders in the state where we open. We’re all about finding those strategic relationships where we can be a strong force in every state we go into.
What is the biggest sport in the US in terms of sheer bettors?
Overall our big ones are the major US sports, alongside soccer and tennis. Actually, with tennis, because it’s an all-year-round thing with big tournaments all over the globe, it makes it a key sport for us. But soccer is obviously big in a World Cup year, so that’s going to be fantastic for us. In terms of US sports, obviously football is massive and, looking at turnover per game, the NFL is really king in the US. That said, basketball has a lot more games, and with March Madness that’s the biggest challenge for us as an event.
Finally, what two teams do you think we’ll find in the Super Bowl this season?
I’m not just going to give you the favourites. On the AFC side, I’m going to say the Baltimore Ravens will bounce back this year; they had a rough year with injuries last year and are a very well-coached team. Currently, that would be my pick. In the NFC, I’m going against some of the old heads of Brady and Rogers, as good as the Rams are, sometimes it’s difficult to repeat.
I like the 49ers and, despite the uncertainty over the quarterback, the rest of the team is so strong. So give me the 49ers vs the Ravens in the Super Bowl.