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  • Iowa sportsbook moves could underscore US industry’s future following Kindred exit

Shifts in Iowa’s sports betting lineup could be both a precursor and microcosm of the future of US sports betting.

Unibet parent company Kindred announced last week it would shutter its online sportsbook in Iowa. The news comes days after Fubo announced it would stop accepting bets in Iowa (and all other operating states).

This same month, SuperBook continued its expansion by launching online sports betting in the Hawkeye State.

Each state creates a unique sports betting market with different structures (and challenges), but the moves in Iowa could showcase future trends across the entire US.

Iowa, one of the first states to approve mobile sports betting legislation after the Supreme Court struck down the federal wagering ban in May 2018, has the third most operators of any US jurisdiction, trailing only Colorado and New Jersey. This has given many operators a chance for an early launch, but also led to the turnover reinforced by a frantic October.

Despite the proliferation of sports betting options, Iowa bettors are wagering mostly with the sportsbooks that dominate market share in all other competitive markets: FanDuel, DraftKings, BetMGM and Caesars. The quartet typically garners more than 80% of total handle, in line with similar averages in the more than a dozen states where all four operate.

Iowa also has another tier of high-profile national brands, including PointsBet, Barstool and BetRivers. These seven companies combined for more than 90% of Iowa’s average monthly sports betting revenue.

This leaves little room for remaining operators. Betfred, Bally Bet and Betway, other brands with national ambitions, each average less than 1% of the state’s monthly handle.

For European-based Kindred, pulling out of Iowa made sense considering its small market share. Of the 18 books that took bets in Iowa in September, Unibet’s handle beat only BlueBet-owned Clutchbet, an Australian-based sportsbook little known to most US bettors that launched stateside earlier this year.

Unibet received roughly $166,000 of the more than $200m wagered in Iowa last month. That figure trailed Fubo, another national brand that had nationwide aspirations and ceased operations in all states only two weeks ago.

Iowa is a tough state with a small population and a lot of competition. Kindred seems to be stuck in a bit of a balancing act – keep the US dream alive as it looks for a suitor while also minimizing cash burn in the near term https://t.co/T0Pl1qKh8z

— Chris Lynch (@ChrisLynchNJ) October 31, 2022

SuperBook will likely also see a small percentage of Iowa’s sports betting handle, though it has a different business structure than the two larger brands that have left the state in recent weeks. Anchored by its flagship retail sportsbook at the Westgate Casino in Las Vegas, SuperBook has taken a slower approach to state-by-state expansion. It has had no major national advertising campaigns and with that comes lower costs.

This shift in Iowa could continue a similar trend in other states; more narrowly focused brands slowly expanding and former operators with larger aspirations shutting down.

DraftKings, FanDuel, BetMGM and Caesars have each spent hundreds of millions on marketing in hopes to gain the broadest sports betting audiences possible. This massive cash influx has driven away other national rivals affiliated with large publicly traded companies, including Churchill Downs’ TwinSpires (now shuttered) and Wynn’s WynnBet (which has drastically curtailed its expansion plans).

This makes meaningful market share that much more difficult to obtain for operators unwilling (or unable) to spend as heavily. Fubo, also publicly traded, had hoped the integration of its sports betting platform into its eponymous streaming service would help it stand out among operators, but it was ultimately unable to complete an integration or gain significant traction.

This could be ominous for other sportsbook brands hoping they can stand out between the heavy spenders and the more niche operators.

Circa, a brand known for high betting limits and lauded by many high-profile bettors, has less than 1% market share in Iowa, one of just a handful of states where it offers mobile sports betting. But like SuperBook, its Las Vegas-based neighbor, Circa caters to a different subset of bettors than many larger national brands.

Iowa also has a handful of additional operators including DRF Sportsbook, Q Sportsbook and Elite Sportsbooks which are all directly or closely tied with the parent companies of their respective brick-and-mortar casino partners.

Most gaming industry figures believe further – and more dramatic – consolidation is inevitable. These moves in Iowa could give a roadmap for that figure.

Sports streaming service FuboTV is set to launch pick’em games on its platform this weekend as it integrates free-to-play predictions into the live TV experience.

Users will be able to forecast the outcome of sporting events directly from the FuboTV live streaming platform home screen, with pick’ems made available prior to the start of selected live sporting events every Sunday.

Winners will earn points and compete in community leaderboards, while FuboTV has pledged to expand the types of contests and overall gaming experience before introducing prizes in the future.

Players in select markets will also see the games integrated on Fubo Sportsbook, where a QR code alongside their free predictions will direct users to place real-money wagers aligned with their picks.

“With this weekend’s launch, FuboTV will become the first live TV streaming platform to offer pick’em games integrated into the video experience with a direct gateway to an owned-and-operated sportsbook,” said Mike Berkley, CPO at FuboTV. 

“We believe interactivity is a key product differentiator for Fubo and, with these immersive experiences built into our live streaming product, we can offer the most personalised – and customisable – sports and entertainment television experience.”

Scott Butera, president of Fubo Gaming, added: “While other media companies are entering into external partnerships with betting companies, FuboTV and Fubo Sportsbook have combined both into one ecosystem.

“The launch of pick’ems will further demonstrate FuboTV’s unique product integration and commitment to offering fans real-time immersive experiences across multiple touchpoints.”

Fubo Gaming president Scott Butera: “While other media companies are entering into external partnerships with betting companies, FuboTV and Fubo Sportsbook have combined both into one ecosystem.”

This is the latest development from FuboTV as it aims to combine streaming and gaming into a single entertainment interface.

“Fubo Sportsbook is purpose-built to meet US sports fans’ growing demand for interactivity by delivering personalised omniscreen experiences that turn passive viewers into active participants,” the firm said.

According to FuboTV, this integrated approach has led to stronger engagement, with crossover users on average placing a greater number of bets and having higher retention rates on the sportsbook than with sportsbook-only players.

The company intends to further integrate FuboTV and Fubo Sportsbook with additional product features this year, including live odds, subject to regulatory approvals.

Fubo is not the only firm seeking to combine live streaming with gambling.

Streaming giant DAZN recently teamed up with Pragmatic Group to launch a DAZN BET-branded sportsbook, while also bolstering the sports betting expertise of its management team with a series of high-profile hires.

Alun Bowden, senior consultant at Eilers & Krejcik Gaming, has written about interactive TV betting on his blog, The State of Online Gambling. The first line reads: “Few things have been as consistently dreadful as interactive TV betting over the years.”

You can click here to read the rest of his blog.