Laila Mintas is the CEO of PlayUp USA, a global online sports betting and fantasy sports company, and a frequent author on global gaming laws and regulations.
When she thinks What the Future, she is thinking about all the ways betting can drive sports fan engagement. And trust us, there are many, many ways.
Matt Carmichael: How does betting and gambling tie into fandom for sports?
Laila Mintas: Studies have shown that if you have the opportunity to bet on sports, you watch more games, you watch games for a longer time, and you watch them up to the end because you want to know if your bet is successful or not. That is especially true for the younger generation.
Carmichael: Will betting bring new fans into sports?
Mintas: I have always thought women’s sports betting could lead to engagement with female sports overall. We can use sports betting as a tool to engage fans and to introduce sports to them that they will usually not watch.
Carmichael: I was just watching Olympic table tennis highlights. Do events like that lead to more exposure?
Mintas: When traditional sports were suspended during the pandemic some companies aired Russian table tennis and people would bet on it. That shows you that once you have differentiated content, if you have the opportunity to bet on it, you will start watching it.
Carmichael: Do you need to be a fan of something to bet on it?
Mintas: The majority of people really want to bet on something because they find it interesting. They want to watch it.
Carmichael: With today’s and tomorrow’s technology, are there any limits on the kinds of betting you can do in-game?
Mintas: You can bet on everything that happens in a game. To give you one example out of the soccer world, you can bet on things like who is next to get a red card or yellow card. We offer over 500 different betting markets. But from a regulatory standpoint, we are limited in what we can offer.
Carmichael: In one of our scenarios, we see a world where a fan watching a game with friends could bet $20, but it’s split over 50 or 100 micro bets throughout the game.
Mintas: You can actually build your own bet and basically build your own parlay, if you will. It’s important to give the customer a lot of flexibility. From a tech perspective, nowadays it’s endless. There’s so much you can do as long as you comply with the regulations.
Carmichael: How is the regulatory climate in the U.S. changing?
Mintas: It’s actually changing in some ways very quickly. One example: If you look into the progressive markets that have started to legalize sports betting, esports betting was not always involved. With the new markets that are coming up, you’ll see more esports betting being included, which makes sense because the esports space is huge and growing.
Carmichael: Are there some kinds of media partners and/or media that are better partners?
Mintas: I don’t think there is any medium that could not benefit from sports betting. A great invention that I have seen lately is that you watch TV and then you have your bet as a digital overlay on your screen.
Carmichael: How do you balance the fun of betting with the potential for serious gambling addictions?
Mintas: We take it very seriously. We monitor every single customer [for signs of problem gambling]. From a reputation standpoint, we have such a young sports betting community. We cannot afford to have lax standards. At this point, that might hit us back later as states wouldn’t legalize sports betting.
Carmichael: Is there a future where we are creating new kinds of sports with betting in mind, played by virtual athletes in a virtual world?
Mintas: We are almost there already. In other markets, not the U.S. yet, you can bet on virtual sport teams. Those products are like a slot machine because you’re just betting randomly, but instead of symbols that you see on a machine, you’re betting on a game every, say, 90 seconds.
Carmichael: How does the new data we have about sports and athletes change betting?
Mintas: Many data companies are looking into tracking data of athletes and how they use tracking data for sports betting. Think of an NFL athlete in terms of how he’s performing, or the speed of the athlete, etc., and using that kind of data for betting. It will be more sensor-based than computer vision in terms of a solution. I could see that innovation happening in the U.S. rather than more mature markets.
Carmichael: On the flip side, as fans have more finely tuned data available, does that make it easier for fans to make the right bet on things?
Mintas: That might not always be the case, but at least you feel smarter about your bet. You’re more encouraged to place a bet because you believe you have the knowledge. That’s engaging because the more data you have, the more you want to test it out and see if you can beat the sportsbook.