NASCAR: Going through the gears in the US sports betting market?
Since the legalisation of online gambling and sports betting in the US, a number of mainstream sports have helped it to gain popularity especially among new customers. Indeed, major NBA and NFL franchises have agreed to multi-year sponsorship partnerships with key online gambling operators and, as a result, this has helped to increase acquisition at operators with awareness suitably raised.
This has proven to be a successful tactic for operators being able to gain traction in US states - especially ones that have become regulated over the last two years. Mainstream sports such as basketball, American football, ice hockey and baseball have a huge following, especially with big franchises.
As such it has led to operators identifying sponsorship opportunities to help with their growth, becoming the principal betting partners with venues being adorned in the relevant branding which has helped to convert sports fans into active bettors.
However, there are other sports in the US that have hidden potential for gambling operators to gain an even bigger share of the market. One that appears to be gaining considerable traction is one that does actually have its fair share of fans in certain pockets of the country.
A new platform for the growth of NASCAR?
Essentially a US institution, NASCAR is particularly popular in the likes of West Virginia, Iowa and Indiana and as a result it has recently seen an increase in betting popularity - especially for live betting.
The expansion of legal online betting across the country has led to multiple opportunities for NASCAR to experience further growth and as a result, can attract new people to betting on the sport via initiatives with sportsbooks.
Joseph Solosky took over as NASCAR’s Managing Director for Sports Betting in March and the main task to date is to educate fans about the possibilities that are available from a sports betting perspective.
“The big slice of the pie is the people who are not watching NASCAR but who may be betting on other sports, and introducing them to in-race odds or educating them on how NASCAR betting is different from other sports,” Solosky said. “(We are interested) in getting them to bet on the sport and then watch the sport and then hopefully go to a race where we can acquire them as fans.”
Solosky’s own career experience can certainly be a big asset for NASCAR having come from a European firm, Sportradar - a company that provides odds and analytics to betting companies. During his tenure he observed that live betting made up for between 75 and 90 per cent of the handle, depending on what kind of sports event it was.
“I could see that number jumping up to (a similar range), probably 70, 75 per cent within five years,” he said.
“We’re at just the beginning of in-race betting for NASCAR,” Solosky added, “and it’s been fun to watch the numbers and the reporting we’re getting from clients on the increased engagement from fans. We saw a report from the Daytona 500 where an operator did 90% of their total revenues in 2020 just at the Daytona event in 2021. And I attribute a lot of that to in-race betting. We’re at a really good spot with the introduction of in-race betting.”
Such is the infancy of NASCAR sports betting, it is estimated that this makes up for just one per cent of the entire sports betting handle in the US, though Solosky believes that growing this does not necessarily have to come at the expense of other sports - cross marketing could play a vital part.
“In growing our handle, we’re not looking to take away from other sports, we’re looking to grow the pie,” Solosky continued. “That may be co-creating experiences for people who are betting the NFL to get them to go to NASCAR events or bet on NASCAR events. These are ways I think that we can grow our handle.”
Emerging sportsbook BetMGM - a joint-venture between MGM Resorts International and UK-owned conglomerate, Entain - is one of NASCAR’s three official sportsbook partners and Seamus Magee, a sports trader at BetMGM has highlighted just how big in-play betting can be for NASCAR.
“In-play betting is such a big part of the future landscape of betting in the United States, and NASCAR is certainly one place where we can try out new things that fans will really enjoy,” Magee said.
Technology can help drive innovation
With undoubted gaps for growth in the NASCAR market, this means there are many opportunities for sportsbooks and software companies alike to identify ways to enhance the potential of betting on NASCAR and increase growth considerably.
Due to the fast and furious nature of the sport, where things can happen at the speed of light, it makes live betting particularly attractive, especially for those fans who are witnessing the event first-hand.
Because NASCAR is effectively limited to a number of states, it is hard to imagine that this will become a major US sport in the same way that basketball for example is, however, technological developments could help to make it more appealing.
There have been whispers for a long while about the impact that AR (Augmented Reality) and VR (Virtual Reality) may have on the sports betting and online gambling industry over the next few years. Incorporating this into something like NASCAR from a betting perspective leaves plenty to the imagination and could lead to a significant evolution in this space.
Newer marketing and advertising channels could also become available in order to help increase NASCAR betting acquisition numbers for operators, though, as Solosky appears to have found - there certainly seems to be potential there for future growth.
The next 12 months will likely have a lot of interesting things in store for this market, especially as more US states become regulated.