A Post-Pandemic Look At NJ Sports Betting; Will Retail Sportsbooks Survive?

Even when New Jersey sportsbooks are ready to open, the retail book will likely look a bit different post-pandemic then it did during the Super Bowl.

With Atlantic City casinos closed, online sports betting and casino gambling have been trying to fill the void.

Unfortunately for New Jersey sports betting enthusiasts, most sporting events are staying at home with the rest of us. There is light at the end of the tunnel, however.

The major sports leagues are currently formulating plans to safely get back on the field, ice or court. We could start seeing those plans as early as next week.

Before you get too excited, though, Dr. Anthony Fauci, an infectious disease expert and member of the administration’s coronavirus task force, says we are “not ready” for sports just yet.

Even when we are ready, it is likely that the retail sportsbook will look a bit different post-pandemic then it did during the Super Bowl.

But first things, first.

When will AC casinos open?

Before sportsbooks can reopen, Atlantic City casinos and New Jersey racetracks in the state need to open.

While some states are beginning to reopen businesses, NJ is still in lockdown mode.

This week, Gov. Phil Murphy extended NJ’s stay-at-home order until further notice. Some casinos in AC aren’t even accepting reservations until June 1.

It is not out of the realm of possibility that some sports will begin playing before NJ sportsbooks reopen.

One thing we have learned during this pandemic is that not all things are created equal.

Keep in mind that when Murphy begins to lift restrictions, those restrictions may be regional, which could delay the reopening of some sportsbooks in NJ even longer.

Reopening of sportsbooks in New Jersey

Sportsbooks reopening in NJ is only half the battle. Getting customers in the door may be the other half.

Experts believe the coronavirus will return in the fall, which likely means avoiding crowds will be a strong consideration for most people when making plans.

We know the majority of sports betting is done via NJ online gambling sites, not a betting window. That is the opposite of casino gambling, where online casinos account for only about 20% of land-based casino revenue.

In New Jersey, online sports betting accounts for roughly 80% of all betting handle. It makes sense that bettors may forgo watching sports with hundreds of their closest friends for a much smaller gathering at home.

Unfortunately, it may be a longer, more gradual road to recovery for NJ sportsbooks than other businesses in the state.

What can we expect at a post-pandemic sportsbook in NJ?

First of all, expect to see some cost-cutting measures. The key to survival for AC casinos and NJ racetracks post-pandemic will be liquidity.

Gambling companies will need to position themselves to last as long as possible as customers gradually return, and business slowly recovers.

We can’t help but dream of returning to normal. But what does that even mean these days? It is hard to know how a post-pandemic normal will look. We can, however, make some educated guesses.

Sportsbooks will probably rely more heavily on betting kiosks over betting windows to minimize human contact. Oh, and look for those disinfectant wipes sitting next to each one.

It seems likely that capacity figures will be adjusted. The layout of the sportsbook may be redesigned to create more space, making physical distancing easier.

Soon, AC casinos and NJ racetracks will have to make some hard decisions regarding their retail sports betting operations.

Where is a casino’s money best spent right now? The obvious answer is on the casino floor, which means NJ sportsbooks will get the leftovers if there are any.

The good news for the NJ sports betting market is that it isn’t reliant on its retail sportsbooks for the majority of its revenue.

What it is reliant on, though, is sports. Once sporting events are back on the board, handle will likely rebound quickly.

So, will NJ sportsbooks survive the pandemic? Certainly. It will just take a long time before things return to “normal.”

Ready, Set, Hike: NJ Sportsbooks Throw Free NFL Draft Contests At Sports Betting Fans

The 2020 NFL Draft is Thursday. Besides free contests at NJ sportsbooks, FanDuel is donating to an organization that prepares meals for the COVID-19 heroes.

New Jersey gambling sites are going all-in with this week’s NFL Draft.

And, by all-in, we mean free-to-play NJ sports betting contests.

Who’s up to the challenge?

FanDuel certainly is and in a big way.

In honor of the NFL Draft’s 85th anniversary, the FanDuel announced via a press release that it’s committing $85,000 in donations to Frontline Foods.

The grassroots organization raises money from the community to pay local restaurants to prepare meals for the heroes responding to the COVID-19 crisis.

But that’s not all.

They’re also donating $1 for every player who enters the $10K Predict the Draft – Fuel the Frontline contest to Frontline Foods and other COVID-19 response organizations.

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FanDuel and NFL Draft predictions

While FanDuel Sportsbook is offering several NFL Draft betting promotions, the free-to-play games are on the DFS app.

In this particular case, participation will result in a larger donation to the frontlines. Customers will need a DFS account to play (the sportsbook username and password will work).

The rules are simple:

  • Predict the 10 players drafted in order (there is no salary cap).
  • Contestants receive two points for every correct pick.
  • Five points will be awarded to any player chosen within one spot of their correct draft position.

At the same time, the sports wagering component is not being ignored. According to the release, in New Jersey alone, FanDuel Sportsbook has seen a three times increase in early betting.

The most popular markets at the moment include No. 1 overall pick and draft position of former Alabama QB Tua Tagovailoa.

There seems to be little doubt that the Cincinnati Bengals will be taking LSU quarterback Joe Burrow No. 1. The odds are -100,000.

The Miami Dolphins (+150) or Los Angeles Chargers (+170) are the current favorites to land Tagovailoa.

DraftKings Sportsbook + $15K prize pool

With the NBA, NHL and MLB all on the sidelines due to the coronavirus, DraftKings Sportsbook continues to roll out free-to-play pools. Tops have included food, weather and sports.

Thursday’s contest is centered around how the first round of the draft will play out. And there is $15K up for grabs.

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Contestants have 13 questions to answer. The deadline is 8 p.m. EST Monday.

Will Oregon quarterback Justin Herbert or Tagovailoa be drafted first?

How many quarterbacks will be drafted in the first round? Like with NFL betting, players pick the over or under (4.5).

Will the New England Patriots take a QB with their first pick to replace Tom Brady? It’s a yes or no question.

Those who place in the top five will earn a share of the prize money.

Playing 20 questions with BetMGM

Similar to DraftKings, BetMGM Sportsbook customers need to answer 20 questions. It’s part of the $2,000 Pro Football Draft Contest.

The rules are simple:

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Placing among the top-five spots is the key to the prize money. If there is a tie, contestants will split the cash. Here is the breakdown:

  • First place: $2,000
  • Second place: $500
  • Third place: $250
  • Fourth place: $150
  • Fifth place: $100

As far as the level of difficulty goes, the questions vary. Here are a few examples:

  • Which team will draft the first QB?
  • How many teams will trade down (trade back) in the first round of the draft?
  • Which running back will be drafted first?
  • How many players from the University of Alabama will get drafted?

Much like the 32 NFL general managers, you’re on the clock.

Answers must be submitted by 6:59 p.m. EST Thursday.

MLS Betting Preview: NJ Sportsbooks Have Favorites To Win MLS Cup 2020

New Jersey sports betting apps have futures on which teams are more likely to win the MLS Cup as Majore League Soccer kicks off its silver anniversary.

Over the past 25 years, Major League Soccer has seen its ups and downs.

However, as it kicks off its silver anniversary season this upcoming weekend, the future is looking bright for the league.

Two teams are joining the league this year, Inter Miami and Nashville SC, with more teams to come over the next couple of seasons.

While the league is growing year by year, the list of teams vying for the MLS Cup 2020 is a short one. Some are perennial contenders and some whose stock is on the rise.

New Jersey sports betting apps have futures on which teams are more likely to win the MLS Cup. We have included odds from:

NJ sports betting customers can check out these teams when it comes to laying down your future bets.

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Los Angeles Football Club

LAFC: +300 (DraftKings), +340 (FanDuel), +350 (William Hill)

The consensus favorite, Los Angeles Football Club (LAFC), will look to continue to build upon last season’s loss in the Western Conference Finals.

LAFC was led by Carlos Vela, who had 34 goals and 15 assists, leading LAFC to the best regular-season record in MLS history.

This offensive prowess, along with a stout midfield led by Latif Blessing and the addition of Dutch keeper Kenneth Vermeer will once again see LAFC in the hunt for both the Supporters’ Shield and the MLS Cup.

NJ Sportsbooks have LAFC winning the MLS Cup 2020 at:

  • +300 (DraftKings)
  • +340 (FanDuel)
  • +350 (William Hill)

Atlanta United

Atlanta United has made a lot of noise during its short time in MLS, including a 2018 MLS Cup.

The vast majority of that team is still there, most notably forward Josef Martinez and goalkeeper Brad Guzan. Despite losing midfielder Pity Martinez, Atlanta, led by long-time European coach Frank de Boer, is the favorite in the Eastern Conference.

Atlanta United winning the MLS Cup:

  • +350 (DraftKings)
  • +600 (William Hill)
  • +750 (FanDuel)

New York City Football Club

New York City Football Club (NYCFC) is coming off of their best season ever in their short history. It is bringing back the vast majority of last year’s team, including Maxi Moralez, Héber Araujo dos Santos, and Alexander Ring.

With the addition of new coach, former Celtic manager Ronny Deila and former Arsenal midfield prospect Gedion Zelalem, NYCFC is looking to build off of last year’s success.

NYCFC to win the MLS Cup:

  • +700 (DraftKings)
  • +800 (William Hill)
  • +850 (FanDuel)
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Seattle Sounders

Last season’s MLS Cup champions, Seattle Sounders, bring back the majority of its team.  Most notably, its three-pronged attack of Jordan Morris, Nicolas Lodeiro and Raul Ruidiaz and long-time goalkeeper Stefan Frei are back in 2020.

The only real concern that MLS experts have about the Sounders’ chances to repeat is the packed early-season schedule, which includes games in the CONCACAF Champions League. Besides that, the Sounders are expected to make it far.

Seattle Sounders chances to win the MLS Cup:

  • +700 (William Hill)
  • +800 (DraftKings)
  • +1100 (FanDuel)

Toronto Football Club

Toronto Football Club’s (Toronto FC) season ended with a loss in the MLS Cup Final to the Seattle Sounders but will once again be one of the top teams in the East.

Despite not having Michael Bradley until the summer due to ankle surgery, Toronto FC still has Jozy Altidore and Jonathan Osorio on offense and Laurent Ciman and Omar Gonzalez in the back. Knowing that a return to the MLS Cup playoffs and a run to the final is more than a possibility.

Toronto FC on winning the MLS Cup:

  • +750 (FanDuel)
  • +900 (William Hill)
  • +1100 (DraftKings)

XFL 2020: Is The Glass Half Empty Or Half Full? NJ Sportsbooks Weigh In

XFL betting in NJ was up, but viewership was down. Play ranged from abysmal to strong, leaving room for both optimists and pessimists going into Week 3.

From Week 1 to Week 2, sports betting in New Jersey on the XFL was up, but viewership was down.

The quality of play ranged from abysmal to quite strong, leaving enough room for both optimists and pessimists of the winter-spring football league before Week 3.

The upcoming Saturday schedule features the undefeated Houston Roughnecks visiting the winless Tampa Bay Vipers as 6.5-point favorites.  In the second game of the day, the Dallas Renegades are -5 against the host Seattle Dragons in a match of 1-1 teams. Both Saturday spreads come from DraftKings Sportsbook.

On Sunday, the 1-1 St. Louis BattleHawks celebrate their home opener against the 1-1 New York Guardians as a 10-point FanDuel Sportsbook favorite. The unbeaten DC Defenders hit the road by giving 8.5 to the winless Los Angeles Wildcats, completing the Sunday schedule.

Three of the four road teams are laying points.

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What NJ Sportsbooks have to say

While the league averaged more than 3 million television viewers per game in the first week. A little more than 2 million viewers returned for the second according to published reports.

The XFL could survive with Week 2 numbers. Most likely, the figured dropped-off because of curiosity driving higher Week 1 television ratings.

If viewership stabilizes near 2 million, networks should be satisfied that this investment won’t hurt them.

By working collaboratively, the networks cross-promote themselves and the league. The XFL may indeed satisfy its low-to-moderate bar for success as a winter sports-betting reprieve.

NJ Gambling Sites spoke exclusively with Johnny Avello, the DraftKings director of sportsbook operations, and Nick Bogdanovich, William Hill Director of Trading, this week. Both believe the league held up well.

Handle was up around 25% from the first week, so we’re happy with the progression,” Avello said. 

“There was more total money (the under was wagered on substantially). We also offered in-game lines which handled about 20% of all action.”

In-game action provided timely wagering opportunities. The over-under lines continually drifted downward, enticing bettors to stab at the lower game totals.  It was a tantalizing proposition.

Avello said the weekend finale, St. Louis and Houston, received the biggest game handle. He believes the positioning of the game, coming on the heels of an exciting finish between Los Angeles and Dallas in the first contest, enhanced the wagering flow.

Another benefit was the 6 p.m. (EST) start for St. Louis-Houston a one-hour difference from the second game of Week 1. That pushed this game into prime-time viewing territory. (The format is similar in Week 3).

XFL 2020 bridges Super Bowl and March Madness action

The league has been considered a nice betting bridge between the Super Bowl and March Madness. But Avello thinks the XFL train does not have to stop there.

“The key factor for this league staying intact is for them to keep doing what they are doing and for us to keep creating new offerings,” he said.

“I don’t believe March Madness threatens the XFL because the opening Thursday and Friday are two of the bigger focused days of tournament betting. It spreads out a little bit more on Saturday and Sunday (when the XFL plays) and then moving forward from that point, spreads out even more.”

Avello believes fantasy betting has been a pleasant addition to the DraftKings package. Stars include quarterbacks Cardale Jones and P.J. Walker of Houston, and Roughnecks wide receiver Cam Phillips, the XFL’ top-ranked star from Week 2.

Keep an eye on Renegades quarterback Landry Jones, who should improve after his rusty first returning from injury, and back Cameron Artis-Payne, who was the real star of the team’s victory against Los Angeles last week.

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William Hill: XFL Performs Well

Bogdanovich believes the XFL has surpassed initial expectations.

“I would give it a B+ or A-,” Bogdanovich said.

“The league has been rock solid. I am shocked that we are doing the numbers we are. The XFL has enjoyed a much better start than previous leagues.”

“I assume it will only get better,” he added. “There are two games each day. It is staggered, no overkill. I think it can hold its own during this time. Hopefully the play gets a little better, I think it will. Many of these guys have been in mothballs for a while and now they are playing.”

Bogdanovich said television coverage and its emphasis on gambling has helped inspire wagering and he believes action could improve once bettors lock in on a favorite team or player.

“We were dead even doing business from Week 1 to Week 2, which is not a bad thing because the XFL had a strong debut,” he said. “I have heard that some other books increased quite a bit in the second week.”

XFL 2020 Week 2 Report Card

Play started shabbily Saturday afternoon when New York Guardians quarterback Matt McGloin was horrific. He was not on the same page as his receivers and said the entire game plan had to be scrapped at halftime. New York lost 27-0 to DC.

The second game suffered a similar dilemma, with Tampa Bay and Seattle notching only one offensive TD in Seattle’s 17-9 win.

Through two games, Tampa has still not scored an offensive touchdown.

Twitter was buzzing about the weak quarterback play sinking the league. Indeed, many signal callers missed wide-open receivers and the only completions were short screens to the backs or small gains to tight ends.

Game 3 looked shaky until the Dallas running game and Los Angeles passing game rescued a game that limped through three quarters with Dallas leading 6-3.

Then came the five quarters that rescued the week. Los Angeles and Dallas scored 34 fourth-quarter points in what became a 25-18 Dallas win and the Houston-St. Louis game totaled 52. That was 86 points in five quarters, giving hope that the offenses will solidify.

The league needs the deep ball.

Houston’s 28-24 win over a resilient St. Louis gave the game a prime-time feel and it passed a test.

The Los Angeles Wildcats secured the first 3-point conversion in league history, a daring maneuver turning a 19-15 deficit into a 19-18 game. It was daring because a miss would have taken a game-tying field goal out of the equation.

Some analysists criticized Washington for trying a 3-pointer when leading the Guardians 27-0. Actually, there was no better time to try that. Somewhere down the line, a team will need a 3-point play. Practice it while there is no pressure.

NJ Gambling Sites XFL Power Rankings

  • DC Defenders
  • Houston Roughnecks
  • St. Louis Battle Hawks
  • Dallas Renegades
  • Seattle Dragons
  • New York Guardians
  • Los Angeles Wildcats
  • Tampa Bay Vipers

Is A NJ Sportsbook From Barstool Sports Coming To Freehold Raceway?

Penn National, part-owner of Freehold Raceway, recently purchased a 36% stake in Barstool Sports. What could the deal mean for NJ sports betting?

NJ sports betting is eventually coming to Freehold Raceway.

Though figuring out when is the tricky part.

Around this time last year, executives connected to the Monmouth County-based racetrack publicly stated that serious discussions were underway.

More than a week after Super Bowl 54, there is nothing new to report.

Or is there?

Hypothetically speaking, what if Freehold Raceway is the future home of a Barstool Sports sportsbook?

The racetrack is co-owned by Penn National Gaming and Greenwood Racing. 

In late January, Penn National announced it had acquired a 36% stake in the controversial media outlet.

Sports wagering is clearly part of the plans.

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NJ sports betting market is hard to ignore

Looking at the 20 markets that were offering legalized sports wagering in 2019, the Garden State was one of the biggest.

The American Gaming Association reported that a record $13 billion was legally wagered in the US last year. And, NJ is No. 2 on the list:

  1. Nevada: $5.3 billion 
  2. New Jersey: $4.6 billion
  3. Pennsylvania:  $1.5 billion
  4. Indiana: $436 million
  5. Mississippi: $369 million

Plus, online sports betting continues to set the bar for other jurisdictions. In December alone, $488.9 million of the NJ bets came via the 17 sports betting apps. It adds up to 88% of the total wagers.

So, when the Barstool Sports betting app launches, being live in NJ seems like a no-brainer.

The Barstool Sports betting app plans

The Barstool sportsbook app is still in its preliminary stages. According to the press release, Penn Interactive is focusing on “what we anticipate will be a best-in-class sports betting app.”

The anticipated launch is in the third quarter of 2020.

Jon Kaplowitz, head of Penn Interactive, elaborates on the plans:

“Our team is excited to begin collaborating with Barstool Sports on ways to utilize its key talent and leading content to drive audiences to Penn National’s online gaming products and retail locations, as well as to special events and fan experiences.”

As a media company, Barstool Sports has 66 million monthly unique visitors, so there is an established audience familiar with the brand.

Erika Nardini, CEO of Barstool Sports, shares a similar vision.

“… Over the last five years, Barstool Sports has brought its audience, creativity and expertise to the biggest sports betting and DFS operators in the country with great results,” said Nardini.

“The chance to combine our content and fans with Penn National’s massive footprint, and to develop a unique and compelling omni-channel approach together was, for us, a no-brainer.”

Freehold Raceway still needs a license

NJ bettors should remain calm.

For one, Penn National does not operate an Atlantic City casino. Secondly, Freehold still needs to be approved to offer NJ sports betting.

If and when they get a license, the Barstool brand would have its entry point. Since Freehold has already missed out on two seasons of NFL betting, big-name recognition is needed to attract customers.

Monmouth Park, home to one of three William Hill NJ sportsbooks, is less than 20 miles away.

Meadowlands Racetrack has a land-based partnership with the industry-leading FanDuel Sportsbook.

The other thing to consider is the Freehold racing dates are primarily Fridays and Saturdays. So, adding a retail sports betting operation would result in fewer off-nights.

Until there is some official announcement, we have nothing new to report. But we also wouldn’t be surprised to see a Barstool Sportsbook in NJ someday.

Which NJ Sportsbooks Are Making The Grade With Their NJ Devils’ Partnerships?

Are the partnerships between NJ Devils and NJ sportsbooks living up to their potential. We grade the deals with FanDuel, Caesars, William Hill and Unibet.

Since New Jersey sports betting became legal in May 2018, sports betting entities have been jockeying to market and establish their brands.

The 17 NJ sportsbooks are a true melting pot of companies.

It’s a diverse mix of legacy casino and gaming stalwarts (CaesarsMGMGolden Nugget), European companies expanding their footprint to the US (William HillPointsBetbet365Unibet), upstart daily fantasy brands (DraftKingsFanDuel) and media ownership (Fox BettheScore).

Each company has taken its unique approach to amplify their image in the Garden State.

One logical brand-building path for New Jersey gambling sites is to look for an association with a sports team.

This sponsorship path represents a challenge in NJ in that there are only two New Jersey pro sports venues:

  • Met Life Stadium in East Rutherford (Giants, Jets)
  • Prudential Center in Newark (New Jersey Devils)

New Jersey Devils attract sports betting brands

The NHL team was quick to embrace the emerging sports betting category.

They inked sponsorship deals for the 2018-19 season with William Hill, FanDuel and Caesars.

Each of the Devils’ sponsorship agreements was put in place before the start of the season or during it.

Given these time frames, there was little opportunity for the sponsors to plan their marketing effectively.

As a sponsorship and media consultant, one of the fundamental principles that I underscore with clients is to buy what you need and use what you buy.

After securing the sponsorship, the steps should be to spearhead a marketing plan to optimize the brand and its assets.

Which sports betting companies are Devils’ sponsors in 2019-20?

During the 2019-20 NHL season, I reviewed sports betting companies’ sponsorships of the Devils at Prudential Center and their TV/radio play-by-play media coverage.

There are four sports betting companies sponsoring the NJ Devils this season:

  • William Hill (concourse-branded sports lounge and playing area signage)
  • Caesars (concourse-branded club)
  • Unibet (playing area signage and radio)
  • FanDuel (TV and cable)

After attending a game at The Rock in December 2019, and monitoring the Devils’ media coverage, here are my grades for the four sports betting brands.

William Hill: Come one, come all to William Hill Sports Lounge

In addition to the mobile app, the William Hill brand has the strongest retail sportsbook presence in New Jersey.

William Hill boasts involvement at three of the 10 retail sportsbook locations: Monmouth Park, and Ocean Resort Casino and Tropicana in Atlantic City.

With knowledge and strength in the retail space, it’s no surprise that William Hill’s focal point of its Devils’ marketing plan is a branded area in the Devils’ main concourse, called the William Hill Sports Lounge.

What’s to like at William Hill Sports Lounge

Easy access

Any fan can access the lounge regardless of his or her seat location.

Additionally, it’s part of the main concourse and in a prime location near one of the Mulberry Street entry rotundas.

Comfortable

While it’s not an overly expansive space, there are six tables with four high-top chairs each, and plenty of room to stand and watch the four TV screens.

The prices available on multiple odds and futures are on the screens.

Spacious bar

The lounge features a large, amply staffed bar, with various beer and hard liquor selections.

It is a great spot to grab a pregame drink or between periods, especially if lines are long elsewhere in the concourse.

Viewing other sports

Outside of the private suites, William Hill Sports Lounge is the only public area where one can also check out the non-Devils sports action on TV.

During my visit, there were quite a few eyes on the college football action on the TV screens in the lounge.

The look and feel of a sportsbook

William Hill has done a first-rate job making the lounge look and feel like a sportsbook.

In fact, several patrons (with cash in hand) inquired where they could place their sports bets.

Betting with a live teller in a sports venue is not (yet) legal in NJ; the wagers at the arena can only be placed via the mobile platform.

Also, there were William Hill reps at the lounge offering an additional $5 bonus on top of their ongoing Bet 50, Get 50 sign-up promotion.

Challenges, limitations of William Hill Sports Lounge

“Excuse me, are you into sports betting?”

If you go near the lounge entrance, moneyline odds are -1000 that a clipboard-toting William Hill rep will want to chat with you. The reps are working to drive new sign-ups for the William Hill sports betting mobile app.

It seems ambitious to convert a fan from not having the William Hill app to registering and linking a credit card. However, I did see the reps adding customers despite the 10-15-minute process, all while standing in a busy arena concourse.

Big screen TV envy

The lounge would be a better place to hang out and spend more time if there were more and larger TV screens in the space.

To be fair, William Hill is doing its best within the confines of the real estate available at the Prudential Center.

Where are the power outlets?

The lounge might grab more traffic if there were more power outlets or a charging station for mobile phones.

William Hill marketing activation summary

There is no doubt that you are in a William Hill space.

It hosts excellent and consistent branding, without going overboard, with displayed sports betting terms to logoed pillars and barriers.

I can describe the look as persistent without being overbearing.

In addition to the sports lounge, William Hill also has a branding presence on in-arena dasher boards (shown below).

William Hill has an LED-ribbon board that rotates 360-degrees during game action. The main scoreboard’s call-to-action design pushes those in the arena to check out the sports lounge.

William Hill is an NHL league sponsor, which allows the usage of individual team logos on its mobile app.

Finally, I give credit to William Hill for thinking ahead by investing in the future with this space. Allow me to explain.

William Hill sponsored and rebranded a sports bar at Monmouth Park, almost five years before the eventual passing of legal sports betting in New Jersey in 2018.

Once sports betting became legal in New Jersey, the book was in a prime position to reap the benefits. While sports betting windows at sports venues are not permitted in New Jersey, the ownership and branding of this concourse space could feasibly transition to William Hill betting windows and tellers.

An example of this is at the Washington, D.C., home arena for the Capitals and Wizard.

William Hill Marketing Activation Grade: A-

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Caesars: Check out the Caesars Club, but by invitation only

Located only a few sections away from the William Hill lounge is the Caesars Club.

The club, which opened in late January 2019, is an expansive 5,000-square-foot space with a capacity for 175 premium-ticket holders.

The key adjective to note for the Caesars Club is “premium.”

Unlike the William Hill space, which is open to all of the arena ticket holders, the Caesars Club serves as a hospitality hub for those within six rows of the ice.

Premium-seat holders get access to unlimited food and nonalcoholic drink options, plus the full-service cash bars.

The crowd consists of mostly Devils’ season-ticket holders and coupled with single-game patrons who have paid a minimum of $100 per ticket to access this hospitality experience.

Reasons to check out the Caesars Club

 It’s spacious and convenient

Access to the Caesars Club is one of the amenities available to Devils’ premium-ticket holders.

Access to food and drinks is steps away from the ice-level seats. While there is seating for 175, there is plenty of room to stand and grab a bite to eat. Patrons can also belly up to two large bars.

The Caesars Club’s design is roomy and comfortable.

The ambiance is great

Hockey is most definitely spoke here.

On this day, there was a strong presence of Devils’ sweaters and plenty of Broadway blue shirts represented.

You can also get an up-close view of the Devils broadcast team Matt Loughlin and Glenn “Chico” Resch calling the game from outside the club entrance.

A ‘no sell zone’ inside the Caesars Club

The Caesars Club has a definitive polished, high-end look and feel.

Its brand logos affixed to marble tabletops and etched into the glass partitions at the club’s concourse entrance.

The branding is subtle, low-key and passive.

From what I have noted during my visits, there is no other activation push going on inside the Caesars Club. In fact, it’s so low key; there is no volume blaring on the TVs within the club.

You won’t go home hungry

Plenty of food options for hungry hockey fans is available at the Caesars Club.

Options range from pork tenderloin or prime rib at a carving station to traditional game-day food such as pretzels, hot dogs and chicken fingers.

The food is continually replenished throughout the game, like the endless supply of chicken tenders.

Challenges, limitations of the Caesars Club

Expensive to access

All the great Caesars Club amenities referenced above come with a price tag.

You can find some seats in the $100 range but the majority will be closer to $200 per ticket.

Hectic at peak times between periods

The typical NHL intermission lasts 17 minutes. During which, a frenzy of fans grab food or beverage, find a seat in the club and go to the restroom, etc. It’s not as hectic as a NASCAR pit stop, but fans are moving in every direction.

Limited TV screens Like many branded spaces and like the William Hill lounge space, Caesars wasn’t involved in the original design of this club.

It took over the naming rights of the space that has been part of the arena (under other previous sponsors or themes) since it opened in 2007.

There’s a design flaw; the concourse main entrance is a wide-open space that allows one to look up several levels in the arena; however, the area where the bars and food service is has a low ceiling.

Because of this design, there’s no logical placement for the “wow!” TV screens or video wall that you might expect to see in a 5,000-square-foot arena or stadium space.

Additionally, most of the video monitors are average in size, just a series of small screens throughout the club.

Many of the TV screens are dedicated to a Caesars’ message or promotion. While this is nice messaging for Caesars, it does limit the number of screens carrying game action.

Caesars’ marketing activation

The Caesars brand name is prominent throughout the club. It appears that Caesars is taking an umbrella approach to the Caesars Club marketing investment. It includes signing up for online NJ sports betting or online casino account or visiting one of the properties in Atlantic City or Las Vegas.

It does not feel like a particular push or pull in any specific direction in the Caesars brand portfolio.

The timing of the Devils game I attended coincided with a Caesars’ Las Vegas promotion. The winners won a trip to Las Vegas to see a Devils’ game versus the Vegas Golden Knights in March.

This promotion was in heavy rotation on the club’s video screens:

The promotion was open to online casino players as well as new NJ sportsbook account holders.

The vagueness of the promotion’s mechanics aside, this was still a good use of Caesars’ sponsorship assets with the Devils. It included a tie-in to Caesars-owned assets (Las Vegas hospitality) to offer value to new sports bettors and existing online casino players.

I referenced earlier in the review of the exclusive nature of the Caesars Club, which is limited to premium-ticket holders.

It would be of some concern in reaching the same Devils’ audience night in and night out, i.e., the potential for duplication within the fan base.

For Caesars, I suggest that it define the identity and focus of the messaging of the club. If it’s meant to be sports betting, then go all-in with that identity and create some betting visibility in the club.

Screens featuring odds boards, scoring updates, player props can be used to draw interest and attention.

In short, create more reasons to go to check out the club and spend some time there.

 Caesars Marketing Activation Grade: B

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Unibet: A new player makes its Devils debut

Unibet is one of the newest sports betting operators in New Jersey, having launched its NJ mobile app in September 2019. Unibet is one of 11 brands owned by the European operator Kindred Group.

Unibet announced its Devils’ marketing partnership just before the start of this season.

Unibet has two corner ice logos for Devils’ games, taking the spots once held by FanDuel last season.

Besides the in-ice logos, Unibet has virtual signage that is only visible during Devils’ home and away telecasts:

Unibet also airs commercial inventory in the Devils radio broadcasts.

Unibet marketing activation

Unibet’s signage provides good brand exposure at every Devils’ game, which helps establish its brand in New Jersey. On the media side, Unibet’s radio spots consist of generic brand messaging, with no reference to the Devils.

Unibet is the only Devils sports betting sponsor that references its partnership in the mobile betting app.

Unibet Devils

Unibet’s marketing platform includes the Devils legendary goalie Martin Brodeur as a brand ambassador.

According to the press release, Unibet promises to provide “unmatched experiences and hospitality.” There should be more to come as Unibet finds its marketing footing in New Jersey and during its marketing agreement with the Devils.

 Unibet Marketing Activation Grade: Incomplete

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FanDuel: Shifting focus from in-arena to TV elements

In year two of its Devils’ association, FanDuel Sportsbook has tweaked its sponsorship elements.

The book no longer has a static building presence and has directed its focus to inventory in the Devils’ TV/cable game coverage.

In November, Madison Square Garden (MSG) networks announced FanDuel as an official sports gaming partner for the Devils (and the New York Knicks) broadcasts on MSG Networks.

The FanDuel agreement with MSG includes commercial units and in-game features in the 78-regular season (plus playoffs) Devils’ games.

From what I have observed, FanDuel has done an outstanding job of integrating its content into the flow of the Devils’ TV game coverage.

Throughout the Devils’ pregame, in-game and postgame, FanDuel sponsors the news and scoreboard update “crawl” message along the bottom of the screen:

FanDuel has a feature during gameplay that introduces a call to action to make in-game wagers on their app:

During the intermission break, FanDuel is a sponsor of the “Intermission Report” with a strong brand tie-in:

It provides some examples of in-game bets that are available, with current pricing/odds:

FanDuel is doing a great job with its Devils’ activation.

It has taken an approach that both informs while pushing the viewer toward making bets on their FanDuel Sportsbook account.

The visuals are clean and crisp and make the FanDuel/Devils association come to life.

FanDuel Marketing Activation Grade: A

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Final thoughts

With four partners, the Devils-Prudential Center sports betting marketing landscape is crowded.

The Devils have worked out well to carve out individual space for each company across their arena and media inventory.

One final thought for each company sponsoring the Devils is to look to expand the available betting options for Devils’ games.

Consider some of these potential options:

  • Include more props, pregame and in-game odds boosts, specifically for Devils’ games.
  • Build in an incentive or reward for placing a bet on a Devils’ game, i.e., any $10 pregame Devils’ wager will receive a $5 site credit for a live in-game bet.

These are heady days for the NJ sports betting industry.

The associations and marketing activities are coming at a fast and furious pace. It’s a critical time for sports betting companies to establish a foothold and build brand loyalty in this competitive market.

While the pace of new NJ sportsbooks has slowed, a total of 17 books leaves room to expand. We will continue to track how the companies work to define, build a presence, and grow their brands in New Jersey.