Micro Sports Betting Emerges as US Market Reaches Inflection Point

·5 min read

If you live in Arizona, Colorado, Indiana, Iowa, New Hampshire, Pennsylvania, Tennessee, Virginia, West Virginia or Wyoming and opened the DraftKings (Nasdaq: DKNG) mobile app this past weekend, you may have noticed the number of betting markets and wagering opportunities available spanned far beyond what U.S. sports bettors have become accustomed to (think: point spreads, money lines). A recent tie-up with Simplebet enabled the operator to unleash hundreds of micro-betting markets within each NFL game.

Micro-betting is a form of in-game wagering, meant to describe “a bet on an event [within a game], that is about to happen and won’t last very long; like the next play or pitch,” DraftKings president and co-founder Matt Kalish explained. While the ability to bet on every play within a game remains a novelty for now, Simplebet CEO Chris Bevilacqua expects that “over the next three, four, five years, in-play micro-betting [will] become the predominant way people bet on sports in the U.S.” Jake Paul, who recently led the company’s $30 million Series C round with his partners through Anti Fund, agreed with that prediction, saying, “Micro-betting is the future of sports gaming as consumers continue to demonstrate a desire for shorter, instant interactions, with real-time outcomes.”

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Our Take: Micro-betting is a new phenomenon stateside. But the ability to wager on a multitude of in-game markets—and know whether you’ve won or lost in a matter of seconds (as opposed to waiting until the end of the game)—is rather prominent abroad. It is commonplace for fans in Europe to bet on individual points or games within a tennis match, for instance.

Micro-betting’s emergence in the U.S. is a byproduct of market maturation. For the first three years post-PASPA, sports betting operators put the vast majority of their resources behind going live; vertically integrating a proprietary tech stack, which enables control over their sports betting offerings; and customer acquisition. But the industry has reached an “inflection point,” Bevilacqua said. Operators have come to realize they are largely “selling the same thing” and that the steep competition for market share has become a “race to the top—who can spend more money,” he explained.

The desire to reduce customer acquisition costs—and to best serve the growing demand of their most highly engaged users—has led sports betting companies to turn their attention to product innovation (including the integration of micro-betting markets). “It’s a time when everyone is rapidly trying to improve their products,” Kalish said.

From a resource allocation standpoint it has become “more justifiable to make investments in technology and the products [that allow an operator] to really be able to chop up the game in a way that gets so many more predictions out there and accurately lays some sense of odds on those outcomes,” Kalish said.

Advancements in the underlying data feeds that support micro-betting products now make it a viable product for the first time, too.

It is likely going to take some time for micro-betting to become a household phenomenon. As Bevilacqua said: “There is going to be a whole discovery element to this. And obviously, [the functionality] hasn’t been widely marketed to this point.” But with in-play betting making up more than 70% of the European sports betting handle and attention spans dwindling, the gambling executive insists micro-betting will be the predominant way fans bet on games sooner rather than later. “We’re leaning into the TikTok-ification of America, where people just don’t sit around and watch three-hour events. There has been a whole social movement toward smaller, bite-sized time-and-attention allocations,” and giving sports fans the chance to bet on the outcome of the next play goes right along with it.

To be clear, that aforementioned European in-play handle isn’t comprised solely of micro-betting wagers; much of it is tied to money lines that move during the game. But that may be because soccer is the most prominent sport abroad and the constant flow of the game and lack of scoring makes it a challenge for operators to set micro-betting markets. The natural breaks within American football (between plays) and baseball (between pitches) make those sports a much better fit for the product.

DraftKings’ micro market offerings differentiate its product from the competition (save Intralot in D.C. and Montana)—for now. But it is just a matter of time before others incorporate the functionality. As Bevilacqua noted, while DraftKings is the first mover, there is nothing in the partnership that prevents the company from working with other operators. And of course, Simplebet is not the only micro market maker.

The perceived sports betting gold rush has sparked a host of acquisitions among technology providers and affiliate businesses. Companies that leverage machine learning to create odds and probabilities feeds—like Simplebet, Swish Analytics, Angstrom.bet—could be the next pickaxes that operators target, with the focus shifting to product development. In fact, the run on micro-betting market makers may have already started. Back in March, PointsBet spent $43 million to acquire Banach Technology in its efforts to expand the company’s in-play betting options.

Sports betting operators aren’t the only ones expected to benefit as micro-betting gains steam stateside. The increasing popularity of the product should also serve the pro sports leagues and broadcast networks via free-to-play and fan engagement products. Nakisa Bidarian, who co-led the Anti-Fund investment into Simplebet, said: “Micro-betting will allow sport books and leagues to gamify the game, creating significance for every single play, which will in turn drive viewership, engagement and revenue. It is the ultimate intersection of live sports, mobility, social media and gamification.”

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