Arizona wasn’t the first state to provide market access to sports betting for sports teams. But Michael Bidwill, owner of the Arizona Cardinals, believes Arizona will prove to be a best-in-class model that will do more than influence future states that legalize sports wagering.
Speaking with American Gaming Association President and CEO Bill Miller at the Global Gaming Expo in Las Vegas, Bidwill predicted that early-adopter states would go back to change their sports betting laws to allow for the direct participation of sports teams.
That was one of his predictions for what sports betting would look like in the US in five years.
“If it’s not too late to unscramble all those eggs, they may be able to tweak things as they go forward,” Bidwill said. “My guess is the industry and the states will come back and probably update and modernize the legislation that passed in some of those early states.”
Why states should give sports teams market access
Bidwill contended that sports teams can be an important sports betting partner for states around the country.
“When I look at our presence, especially football, it’s driving professional sports betting,” Bidwill said. “To me, aligning with the sports teams is the right thing to do because we speak to our fans, and those are the people who are betting.”
He pointed out that the Cardinals make more than 12.5 million social media impressions a week during the football season. Additionally, more than 2 million videos are downloaded and watched every week.
“So our bullhorn, our audience, is really big,” Bidwill said. “If you’re a state, whatever state it is, and you want to have broader revenue, I think that’s the way to go.”
The numbers so far back this up. Going live the first day of the NFL season with several AZ mobile betting apps, Arizona already was the fourth-most active sports betting market in the country during the first four weeks.
Plans for Arizona sportsbook outside Cardinals stadium
In Arizona, the state opted to permit 10 mobile sports betting licenses to sports teams and 10 to Native American tribes. The Cardinals teamed up with BetMGM and the Gila River Indian Community for sports betting.
The BetMGM Arizona app is up and running in the Grand Canyon State. Bidwill said the BetMGM sportsbook at State Farm Stadium in Glendale will open in September 2022 — just in time for the NFL season.
The sportsbook will be located adjacent to the stadium, allowing easy access to fans and sports bettors 365 days a year.
With the Cardinals off to a 7-0 start behind franchise QB Kyler Murray, expect the sportsbook to be popular. Bidwill shared that BetMGM CEO Adam Greenblatt told him the No. 1 bet it has taken in Arizona is on the Cardinals to win.
Concerns about market oversaturation
Bidwill offered advice to others in the industry on not flooding the airwaves with so many advertisements that it catches the attention of regulators and politicians.
He explained that NFL broadcasts limit sports betting to six advertisements a game. One in the pregame, one in each quarter and one post-game.
“We all know in an instant, things can flip on you. And so I would say be careful about that. Especially with campaign season coming up and candidates next year wanting to differentiate themselves, let’s not give them anything to hang their hat on. We ought to look at the amount of advertising happening, because there’s some markets where it’s probably too much.”
Both Bidwill and Miller called out the tri-state area with Washington, DC, Virginia and Maryland companies all competing for sports betting dollars. Miller also pointed out that regulators in Italy, Spain, the UK and Australia limited sports betting advertisements due to oversaturation.
“When you get the attention of politicians, it’s typically a bad thing,” Miller said. “And so our job is to continue to try and do whatever we can to create a sustainable marketplace.”
Some viewers don’t want to see sports betting ads
Bidwill said the NFL’s research showed that there are active rejectors who don’t want to see or hear about sports betting. That’s why they focus on airing betting content on cable or via streaming services rather than on the traditional networks.
“For us, we need to make the whole consumption of our sport easier for our fans, and then we need to make sure we don’t offend them,” Bidwill said. “We know that legalized sports betting is not for everyone. The folks that it is for, we want to make sure that we’re engaging them enough, but not so much where we’re having people tune out our game broadcasts or not follow teams.”