18 October, 2022

Micro-betting for the masses

Simplebet CEO Chris Bevilacqua discusses the latest developments for the company, its plans for the near future, new regulations and more.

Micro-betting is not such a familiar term in the industry, but Simplebet CEO Chris Bevilacqua – along with his ambitious colleagues – is aiming to make sure it becomes everyday talk in the near future.

It’s been over four years since the overturning of PASPA, with many different states opting for a different approach towards the legalisation of sports betting. By his own admission, Bevilacqua believes the company perhaps arrived too early with its micro-betting focus, but now it has a real advantage in this innovative sector. Simplebet is already heavily involved in the US-centric sports of Major League Baseball, the National Football League and the National Basketball Association, but the more global sports of soccer, tennis and golf could soon be explored. Bevilacqua tells Gambling Insider about the journey so far and future plans.

How has Simplebet progressed in the last year?

It was pretty much exactly one year ago that we went live with DraftKings to bring our high-availability version of “micro-betting” to the masses. You learn fast when you get your product into users’ hands so we have certainly been battle-tested. We’ve made great progress improving our initial offerings – the NFL, NBA and MLB – while also expanding into college football and college basketball. Additionally, as we look to leverage our technology for wider fan engagement, we launched a single-screen free in-play experience with Yes network, where we overlay our micro-markets on top of live streaming in their app for fans to engage with during Yankees and Nets games.

What new updates are there regarding the company?

After proving our product at scale with DraftKings, we are approaching the next wave of partners looking to take micro-betting to new levels.

In the coming weeks we will be going live globally with a long-time leader of in-play, who we expect to apply proven best practices to the sports we offer. We have also partnered with my former co-founder, Joey Levy, who is launching a DTC Sportsbook called Betr with his new co-founder, Jake Paul. They aim to reimagine the user experience for the next generation of consumers while focusing predominantly on micro-betting.

This wave will continue into 2023, where we have a leading DFS (daily fantasy sports)company expanding into OSB and building various micro-betting games, an established season-long fantasy company integrating micro-betting into a more social experience and more operators looking to get our markets live and iterate from there.

We were probably a bit early with our micro-betting focus, but we now have a considerable first-mover advantage with the race to create engaging experiences on top of our enabling technology finally about to take off.

Simplebet covers the likes of MLB, NFL and NBA – has one of these sports enjoyed more success or attracted more interest than the others?

Baseball and football have been extremely successful, while basketball has been challenging given its fast-paced action. Our micro-markets accounted for a highly incremental 20-25% of in-play handle on DraftKings during NFL Playoffs and college bowl season, while micro-markets account for less than 3% of in-play handle for the other large operators (based on direct feedback from them).

We saw success in college basketball with our “always-on” Next Field Goal markets. In February, we began to offer markets for which team and type will score next for every basket of every game in real-time. This is very different from standard offerings where you pick a team to score some basket in the future – like the 20th point when the score is 10-5. So we will have “always-on” availability for the NBA this upcoming season.

Can you touch more on the MLB progress so far this campaign?

Baseball has always seemed best suited for micro-betting and that is exactly what we’re seeing this season. In addition to our pitch result and plate appearance markets, our new half-inning and pitch speed markets are fueling growth throughout the season. We estimate our micro-markets account for around 40% of our partners’ MLB in-play gross gaming revenue, but this is just the beginning.

It’s difficult to grow a product without marketing and so far there has been very little around micro-betting. Unlike soccer, micro-markets for US sports align with how casual fans already engage. “Aaron Judge goes deep on this next pitch” or “Patriots will definitely stuff ‘em on 3 and 1 here” are opinions fans talk about in real-time. We’re pleased with the volume from existing players, but we expect significant growth as our partners begin marketing pushes very soon.

You also have to take into consideration that existing sports betting apps were not built for micro-betting. Our high-availability markets are the first step, but the current experience is still far from frictionless. Discoverability needs significant improvement, especially for micro-betting where users don’t have time to search around in the app to find markets. Soon enough, we will start to see more personalisation with operators surfacing the right bets to the right users at the right time.

The past few years have been very slow on the product side as operators have had their hands full trying to scale. I think the large operators are finally shifting focus to product and this next wave of entrants I mentioned earlier should help accelerate that. As marketing and user experience around micro-betting become a priority for operators, I’d expect micro-markets to make up the majority of in-play volume; and for MLB specifically I think that will be as soon as 2023.

How has Simplebet been impacted by regulations and are there any new regulations you have encountered?

There are a couple of states that have not approved the majority of our markets, but in general we are live everywhere our partners are live.

What are your thoughts on the New York market, particularly the high tax rate?

On the one hand, it’s by far the state with the highest volume and most interest by users, and it’s clearly a market that has high visibility from a media perspective. On the other hand, the way the regulations were set up, including the 51% tax rate, it is difficult from an operator perspective to make it work financially over the long term. Over time, however, we believe the market will sort itself out.

Does Simplebet have plans to enter any other markets in the near future?

We are live with DraftKings in over a dozen international markets, with more on the way through our new partnerships. We see significant opportunity for growth through international distribution, particularly if/when we expand our offering to include more global sports like soccer, tennis and golf. Unfortunately, we have not been able to gain access to the official data needed for our micro-markets, as exclusive data rights-holders have thus far refused to consider licensing us any of the necessary data rights; which is clearly antithetical to the leagues’ strongly stated goals of driving engagement and revenue.

What does the rest of 2022 and early 2023 have in store for Simplebet?

We are expanding our NFL and NBA offerings into micro player props. Will Steph Curry make or miss his next shot? Which player will get the next reception or will Derrick Henry’s next carry be over 3.5 yards? US sports fans are obsessed with individual players and their stat lines. Combining that with the excitement of micro-betting is a no-brainer. Perhaps a less obvious benefit from these types of markets is that they are somewhat latency-proof when it comes to watching the game on TV. With most of these markets you are not necessarily betting on the “next” play, but rather queuing up some bets that will likely result in the next few minutes.

Additionally, we will be leveraging our real-time data capabilities to expand our product suite to include low-latency game tracking visualisers for our partners to embed in their app, starting with college football. It’s amazing we had so many users betting on plays and drives when there is no way to see the current down, distance and yardline in the app. Some sports have game-tracking visualisations but they are generally 7-10 seconds behind the betting markets. We think this is a huge missed opportunity with the current live-betting experience.

Finally, in 2023, we will be expanding into a new category that we are probably the most excited about: micro-parlays. Here, we plan to bring that single-game parlay experience to micro timeframes like at-bats, half innings, drives, etc. For example, while the Bengals are on defence you can start crafting your next drive parlay… Burrow will complete three pass attempts for over 40.5 yards, Mixon will have under 1.5 rush attempts and the Bengals will kick a field goal. This is where we’re headed and the possibilities are endless.