Post PASPA - A new Klondike or fool's gold?

By Robin Harrison

There’s been an outbreak of gold fever in post-PASPA America with prospectors rushing to exploit the new gilt-edged opportunities, writes Mark McGuinness. But will all this contagious excitement favour the e-braves, or will land-based operators strike gold too?

A new Klondike has emerged following the US Supreme Court’s strikedown of the Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act or PASPA. New claims are being staked every hour in this modern-day gold rush as the igaming industry positions itself to mine the mother lode that is sports betting in the land of the free.

America is without question one of the biggest gambling markets in the world, both from a land-based standpoint and the ongoing potential of individual states introducing legislation to allow for the provision of other forms of intrastate and interstate online sports betting. As an impassioned marketer, I am fully immersed in all the latest marketing and tech thinking coming out of Silicon Valley, the Bay Area and Palo Alto. Coupled with my passion for igaming, I believe the USA will once again regain its crown within online gaming. It’ll be like the Ryder Cup, we’ll wrestle it back from Europe. The US will go on to lead the way with innovation in regulated and socially responsible gambling entertainment.

So can land-based gaming and entertainment destinations in the USA flourish in this continually evolving, connected world post PASPA? Sure they can, and to back up my optimism I would cite three major physical entertainment industries that have all embraced digital marketing strategies. The first is the movie and theatre industry, which has withstood the advent of video and retail chains that resulted in a stay-at-home audience watching films on 50in TV sets. Rather than struggle, Hollywood has flourished, and movie theatres are setting records within an environment that offers the consumer so many different ways in which to watch a film.

The second example is Disney. Its physical destinations are flourishing, but would this still be the case if the company hadn’t evolved and invested heavily in digital channels and marketing? Without distributing its brand proposition to engage and to captivate, then I doubt whether the entertainment behemoth’s land-based business would have survived.

My final example is the NFL, which continues to grow through the use of ingenious digital marketing strategies. These help it reach new fans and, in turn, drive interest and physical attendance at the sporting venues.

So, what’s the secret sauce these land-based businesses flourishing in the digital space all share? Well, firstly there is no B2C (business to consumer) or B2B (business to business) silo thinking going on; it’s all H2H (human to human). Secondly, they’re all about multichannel marketing, using all the channels such as retail stores, online stores, mobile, apps, telephone methods, or any other means that a customer uses to transact or research or find information.

The key to why movie theatres, Disney and the NFL have flourished in the digital economy when they all operate capital-intensive, physical land-based operations, is the customer experience they offer. It’s pivotal to their brands’ survival. Like many things in our lives most events are ephemeral. However, in our three examples, the businesses have been able to extend the experience, capture it, and allow the customer to share it through social networks to such a degree that they can’t wait to have their next physical experience at the event. Hence the cycle continues over and over again.

It’s all about affiliate marketing

Of course, land-based gaming operators and their marketing agencies need to keep abreast of more than just emerging markets and the post-PASPA regulatory changes in mature market conditions. They also need to monitor the ever-changing landscape of technology platforms and the sometimes very contrary consumer trends towards desirable tech gadgetry which drives gambling participation and gambling consumption. Furthermore, marketing will also have to operate in a highly regulated environment, one that may impinge how land-based businesses reach these new or existing gambling customers.

Post PASPA, land-based gaming venues can flourish alongside the online world by using digital channels to adapt and change the behaviour of their customers – and more importantly future customers – to make the ephemeral gambling moment a genuinely connected experience. This will create a deeper desirability to visit the casino, racetrack, riverboat or sports betting parlour.

The threshold question is how will land-based gaming businesses prosper with the opportunity of sports betting and navigate the sea-changing digital landscape? Affiliates, yes, affiliates! For me, the most significant chance for a land-based gaming business in the USA isn’t about the sports betting technology, important though it is. It’s all about the marketing and more specifically the content marketing. Affiliates drive change; they drive consumer behaviour, adoption and engagement with betting and gaming operator brands. They’re already doing this in Europe in controlled and regulated environments. They have demonstrable expertise by the proverbial bucketload.

Affiliates are therefore fundamental, if not critical, to the success of any US land-based gaming entity that might be looking to add sports betting products to its offer in the months ahead. Hence, I foresee heightened interest in the many listed European affiliate marketing giants, which are uniquely positioned given all their digital marketing expertise to align themselves with US land-based gaming businesses. They will be the winners in this gold rush to capitalise on the sports betting paradigm that is unfolding before our very eyes in the USA.

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