12 February, 2021

Better days ahead

Marc Pedersen, VP of business development and M&A, and general manager US, Better Collective, speaks about gaining momentum in the US and how 2020 has served as a springboard to better things.

What are Better Collective's priorities in the US market at the moment?
We remain highly dedicated to take part in the emerging US market, where more states are opening for online gambling. We are well-positioned in the market with strong acquired brands such as VegasInsider, RotoGrinders, SportsHandle and ScoresAndOdds while also having added deep local market knowledge to the Group. In the coming years we’ll continue to invest in quality content for our users in the US as the market remains strategically important for Better Collective.

Much has been made of the difference in betting content between the US and Europe. How does Better Collective approach the contrast between American-focused B2C content and the UK market, for example? Regarding betting previews or affiliate content like that, how would BC approach it differently in the US market as opposed to a European market like the UK? ?

One way to approach the difference is to have colleagues on ground in the US with local market and cultural knowledge. We believe this is crucial to be successful in the long-term and the reason why we’ve invested in building an organisation in the US. In regard to the content, there are cultural differences that need to be taken into consideration. For instance in Europe, we’ve historically operated within the affiliate marketing model, typically CPA or revenue share based, which ensures we can provide a quality experience free of charge for our users. ?

But in the US, people are more willing to pay for picks and premium sports betting analysis. Also, daily fantasy sports have historically been based on the CPA and revenue share model so there are opportunities for us to combine our expertise with our new learnings in the US.

How much of a focus is there on esports betting and content for Better Collective in the US?

Overall, esports is growing in the US as it is across markets in Europe. We’ve especially seen the strong importance of esports during the lockdown periods in 2020 in markets where they are legal and regulated. As with all sports betting options available in regulated states, we’re looking to support bettors with our broad range of betting resources, and that will include esports to the extent we are legally permitted.

A great example from Better Collective is our acquisition of the CS:GO media platform, HLTV, which we believe long-term will allow us to grow alongside the esports markets around the world.

How much of a gamechanger would mobile sports betting be in New York, given the Governor's recent comments in favour of online wagering? ?

Regulating mobile sports betting in New York, being one of the biggest states in the US, will definitely present new opportunities in the market overall.

The regulation of online wagering in the state, similar to the NJ model, which allows multiple operators to take part and compete in the market, will be a win-win situation for the customers and the state as the channeling of players to the regulated system will ensure good products and lines, and a higher degree of safety for the players. The state also has the opportunity to add new tax revenue streams adding to the state budget in a challenging time following the pandemic.

“Overall, esports is growing in the US as it is across markets in Europe. We’ve especially seen the strong importance of esports during the lockdown periods in 2020 in markets where they are legal and regulated. As with all sports betting options available in regulated states, we’re looking to support bettors with our broad range of betting resources.”

Are there any other key states you see making a difference to the overall market? ?
There are a number of major markets opening up this year Michigan, for example, with a few of our partners starting out of the gates. Catering to sports fans in Detroit continues the opening up of legal, online betting in the Midwest, along with the full online registration of Iowa, which started this year. Illinois, with the Chicago metro area, is a key state, especially with Governor Pritzker continuing to extend on a monthly basis the waiver on in-person registration. This means that bettors in Illinois can sign up for a legal, online sportsbook from anywhere in the state.

Additionally, with Virginia legalisation, there’s now legal online betting for 8.5 million new people, many of them living in or near the greater DC metro area. With DC still reliant on in-person betting (even with an app, you have to be on-location), and many DC workers living in Virginia (and thus, during the lockdown, not travelling into DC at present), legal online betting in Virginia creates a large, new market for affiliate companies and sportsbooks. Also, citizens in Maryland voted to authorise sports betting and we’re looking forward to that process developing over the next few months.

Ultimately, we'll also start to see a number of southern states legalise this year, such as Georgia and possibly even Kentucky, which is a good sign for the industry as a whole.

How does Better Collective reflect on such a tumultuous 2020 for US sports betting?
It’s been a challenging year for the industry with postponements and cancellations of sports events leading to a natural decline in sports betting activity. However, following the big lockdown in spring and early summer, sports have again returned and betting activity has also returned with fans eager to focus on sports again.

2020 was a year where we had to adapt to a new situation and find new ways of managing the business on a day-to-day basis. We’ve learned many things and were afforded the opportunity to accelerate the digitalisation of our cross-team collaborations. No doubt, we’re looking forward to a more eventful and positive 2021, where a lot of Americans again can engage in the entertainment of sports betting. I very much look forward to spectators getting back into the stadiums in a safe manner. Live sports with a crowd simply provide a better sports experience.

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