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Rovell’s Move to The Action Network Over 20 Years in the Making

In his new role, Rovell will find himself in an executive position for the first time in his career.

Adam White

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You may love him, you may hate him, but there is no denying what Darren Rovell has been able to do for the sports business industry.

Not one to let trends or hot topics pass him by, Rovell’s move to The Action Network is part living out a passion and part wanting to get in on the action (no pun intended) as to what he believes is an area of the industry that will cause the most positive disruption for the foreseeable future.

“Living in New Jersey, you can’t ignore the impact of the sports betting industry. On the NJ Transit trains alone, I’ve seen three to four different book operators advertising. I’ve even had a chance to download up to eight apps on my phone which has given me a good peak into what this thing will look like at maturity.”

This isn’t the first time in which Rovell will turn his focus to sports betting content. While a sophomore at Northwestern in 1997, he saw piles of the Northwestern Chronicle, the weekly school newspaper, all over campus.

Sensing an opportunity to do something differently, he took over the sports section of the paper and turned it into a section devoted entirely to sports betting.

“No one read it (the Northwestern Chronicle) and my strategy was to change the sports section into only sports betting. Instead of other commentary, I put together a two-page spread of my picks of the week. While I was thinking more of a sports business at the time, I was very well aware of how popular sports gambling was and how it had the ability to draw people in.”

A look at his picks of the week section from his time at Northwestern. (Photo via Darren Rovell)

Like most people, leaving a good job at a company that likely isn’t going anywhere anytime soon can be tough.

For Rovell, making the move from ESPN was aided by the fact that the company’s leadership was willing to let him out of his deal, along with the fact that Chad Millman, his former boss at ESPN, had already made the move to the sports betting startup.

“Chad took the risk of going over before the repeal of PASPA and I know I wouldn’t have made the move if PASPA hadn’t been struck down by the Supreme Court. The executives who are there currently gave me faith in the product, plus with the Chernin Group being majority owners in the business and being known for best practices in the space, it was easier to believe in the company, which is key for anyone moving to a startup.”

Finding himself in an executive position for the first time, and having an equity stake in the company, Rovell will have a larger impact on the overall direction of the content being created.

The end goal? Become the number one editorial company in the business of sports betting and a very large company within the next two – five years.

Although a change of company, there won’t be much of a change from Rovell, who will still cover the sports business industry and put out content that gets people talking.

Some of that content will come from a collaboration with Big Cat, something that Rovell said will happen “sooner rather than later.”

“It will be relatively early. I will finally go on Pardon My Take.”

Going on Pardon My Take will likely be just the beginning, as Rovell pointed to the two potentially competing in a decathlon with all of the benefits going to a charity. 

“I think we will do some sort of decathlon. I think we could do a lot of PPV buys and incorporate some sort of live betting and live odds component to it. It would be insane, but I think we could even fill an entire normal track stadium with people to watch.”

Whatever your take may be on Rovell, he built a niche for himself, owned that niche, and is now benefiting from that, something not many people can do.

(*Edited: In a previous version, the it was said that the PPV event was on. The parties have confirmed with us that the event is still an idea and there is nothing set in stone from the PPV side of things.)

Adam is the Founder and CEO of Front Office Sports. A University of Miami Alum, Adam has worked for opendorse, the Fiesta Bowl, and the University of Miami Athletic Department. He can be reached at adam@frntofficesport.com.

Sports Betting

Why Dover Brought Sports Betting to NASCAR

Dover took advantage of the Supreme Court ruling to become the first speedway to have betting available on-site during a race weekend.

Kraig Doremus

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Dover International Speedway is aptly known as the “Monster Mile”. (Photo via Visit Delaware)

During its fall NASCAR tripleheader weekend on October 5-7, Dover International Speedway became the first NASCAR facility to offer sports betting, opening up a world of possibilities for the industry.

Full-scale sports betting, including auto racing wagers, was implemented at Dover Downs Hotel & Casino, along with Delaware’s other casinos, on June 5, following a May Supreme Court ruling overturning the Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act. Since 2009, Delaware had offered parlay betting on professional football only, but October marked the first race weekend that wagering on all sports was permitted.

“We knew that sports betting becoming legal would have a huge impact on the NASCAR races at the track,” said Gary Camp, the assistant vice president of marketing and communications at Dover. “For the track side of things, we saw it as a real opportunity to tout the addition of sports betting to our race fans who had never experienced it before but wanted the opportunity to wager.”

Just what could they wager on? Anything from the stage winner, to overall race winner or finishing position of their favorite driver.

“To wager on the stages, the outcome of the race, and even manufacturer winner is a unique opportunity for our fans,” Camp said. “We saw it as an opportunity to make the races even more exciting than they already are. A good percentage of our fans took advantage of the opportunity.”

On the Dover property, there are two publicly traded companies – Dover Motorsports Inc., which owns Dover International Speedway, and Dover Downs Gaming & Entertainment, which operates Dover Downs Hotel & Casino. John Hensley, the general manager and senior director of horse racing and sports betting at Dover Downs Hotel & Casino, knew just how important the recent Supreme Court ruling was for Dover.

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“In Delaware, there are three casinos, and we are all agents of the Delaware Lottery,” said Hensley. “Being an agent of the Delaware Lottery is what allows us to have the sports betting games. We sell sports betting tickets on whatever they allow us to sell.”

The speedway’s partnership with the Delaware Lottery allowed it to develop a unique display area during its October NASCAR weekend with a popup tent on speedway grounds to take bets. The track also pushed heavy social engagement, press releases, emails to fans and even a paid social media campaign to drum up interest and excitement.

Safe to say, it worked.

“At times there were 50-100 people in line making bets,” Hensley said. “We did not look at it as a revenue generator, but rather as a gaming company to have a presence and add that as addition and enhancement for the NASCAR fans. Now, they could bet at the track, not just the casino. It’s a great addition for the NASCAR fans to do and a way for us to help our sister company.”

Camp said the speedway kept NASCAR updated on its plans for promotions and activity around sports betting before the green flag dropped on weekend activities.

“We tried to be forthcoming with the folks at NASCAR in terms of our plans and the buzz in and around Delaware about the Supreme Court ruling,” Camp said. “For the track, it’s a point of differentiation that the fans can bet here on property, but not at any other track. I know some other facilities have it near the track, but not at it. We did our best to promote it, and it paid off.”

For the future, Hensley plans for more outlets to be available, while Camp said the track will have more time to promote it.

“From a gaming standpoint, we were conservative in our setup, but were pleasantly surprised at the reaction this year,” said Hensley. “We plan to have an additional machine and some more staff. I’m impressed with the knowledge of the race fan. The learning curve was smaller with this group of people when educating what spreads, props and over/under mean. They were knowledgeable.”

READ MORE: How NASCAR Stays Up to Speed in the Ever-Changing Digital Space

Camp said the addition of betting at the track just added more excitement to an already thrilling experience.

“We enjoyed it,” said Camp. “The buzz around the race track was incredible, and it provided another storyline for our weekend. Some fans bet on (race winner) Chase Elliott. It was fun to see them so excited and able to bet on the drivers and racing action.”

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Sports Betting

Why PointsBet Turned to Darrelle Revis to Bolster Marketing Efforts

You might remember Darrelle Revis as one of the best shutdown cornerbacks in NFL history. It appears he’s found a new initiative to dominate.

Bailey Knecht

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Darrelle Revis

With the recent legalization of sports betting in the U.S., sportsbook companies have already begun making waves in the American market. One of those bookmakers is PointsBet, which recently signed former NFL star Darrelle Revis to serve as the face of the U.S. branch of the Australia-based digital sportsbook.

“We wanted to feel the nuances of this market, especially in New Jersey and New York,” said Johnny Aitken, CEO of PointsBet USA. “Darrelle is widely known, and he’s one of the greatest New York Jets of all time. He has an eye for business. We wanted an advocate that didn’t just look like a phony ex-sports star.

“They had to have relevance. [Revis] will do videos about education on how to use the sites, how to bet, all in an authentic way, which is how he has handled himself throughout his career. He’s a savvy businessman.”

READ MORE: Inside the NFL’s New Partnership With ‘Fortnite’

Revis’s involvement will feature a video series called “The Revis Betting Academy” in which he provides an overview of basic bets. He will also be a part of a blog series called “Betting 101” and a weekly segment called “Darrelle’s Corner” where he provides NFL analysis and betting picks.

“We put an emphasis on education, how to bet and be safe; not betting more than you have,” Aitken stressed.

In addition to betting content, Revis will assist in educating users on how to use the PointsBet app.

According to Aitken, Revis is the perfect fit for PointsBet because the company is modern and exciting. The team offers a feature called PointsBetting — a point-of-difference style of betting that is high-risk, high-reward.

“It’s a very highly engaging, leveraged way of betting,” he said. “It’s like betting on steroids. It’s highly engaging and ego-driven. It’s not just about being right — it’s about being really, really right.”

That dedication to innovation allows PointsBet to stand out from other bookmakers, added Aitken.

“We use our own technology,” he said. “Competitors use other systems, which prevents them from being innovative, but we control our own destiny.”

READ MORE: Free Sports Prediction App GameOn Launches for the Casual Fan 

Revis joins NBA Hall of Famer Allen Iverson as another one of PointsBet’s big-name signings. In the past few months, Iverson has been featured in PointsBet marketing campaigns and will continue to serve as a brand ambassador, with a play on his NBA nickname, “The Answer.”

“He’s unique, for sure,” said Aitken of Iverson. “He has a lot of swagger, and he challenges the establishment, which is how his career was… Allen is a worldwide, household name.”

Bringing that fresh, fun perspective to sports betting has been PointsBet’s primary goal — and the efforts were certainly enhanced by bringing Revis aboard in such a large role.

“It’s really important,” Aitken said. “You go to a casino and go to the old sportsbooks, and they’re filled with male, 60-something-year-old gentlemen, in a dark, dimly lit corner of the floor. We need to bring it into the 21st century.”

With a contemporary feel on the website and the app, PointsBet has the power to make a statement in the quickly-growing U.S. sports betting industry.

“There are a lot of areas that we can outperform [competitors] — client experience, promotions, things of that nature,” he said. “We bring that fun, digital sense to this space.”

PointsBet, backed by its high-profile faces such as Revis, will officially launch its sportsbook in late November. 

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Sports Betting

US Integrity Helps Keep Sportsbooks and Leagues Safe

When it comes to sports betting, monitoring the data is a tall but extremely important task. That’s where U.S. Integrity comes in.

Adam White

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Throwing down a few bucks on your favorite horse or team has long been a way for people to enjoy extra excitement around what they are watching.

Beyond the obvious potential for financial gain, sports betting allows fans to have some “skin” in the game.

While walking up to a window, placing a bet, and then cashing it later (if you win) seems rather seamless to the end consumer, there are many different factors at play behind the scenes that make sure not only are the sportsbooks safe, but the leagues and its teams are too.

One of the companies helping do this is U.S. Integrity, a Las Vegas-based data company that provides its clients with reporting tools and analytics to allow them to detect concerns and apply best practices to ensure the highest integrity possible.

Matt Holt, the company’s president, likens the role they play to the PwC’s of the world.

“Our goal is to try to sort of be ‘Price Waterhouse’ in the middle and pull in as much data as possible and turn it into as many useful reports as possible to make sure that if things are going awry, we’re catching it early on and allowing the leagues and the sports books to get out in front of it.”

READ MORE: NHL and MGM Partnership Just Scratching the Surface of Sports Betting Potential

Specializing only in game integrity and fraud prevention consulting services, U.S. Integrity relies on its five core competencies when it comes to working with teams and leagues.

In the case of their football clients, these core competencies include line movement analysis, wagering activity report, injury/information analysis, an officials report, and then a report based on the outcome of how every play or penalty affected the outcome or spread of the game.

“All of this data is readily available to them in their dashboard, but since regulated sports betting is so new in many of these jurisdictions, we send the reports so we can walk through the data with them,” said Holt. “Our goal is to tell them what we found, why it’s important, and why it is sufficient. We have to be able to separate the white noise from the things that are actually potential integrity issues.”

Since the Supreme Court’s ruling in May to strike down PASPA, the sports betting landscape has exploded with partnerships, new states coming online, and interest from most of the big four leagues.

Still, in its infancy, Holt sees a regulated sports betting market that will continue to evolve over the next three to five years, but do so in a way that will be beneficial to all parties involved.

For himself and U.S. Integrity, the increased shift towards greater transparency is an area they are keeping a close eye on.

Likening it to the marijuana marketplace in Nevada where people can’t buy anything without a license that both identifies who they are and also helps track what it is that they are buying, Holt sees the regulated sports betting market headed that way.

“The difference in the next five years compared to what it (sports betting) was in the last 40 years will come down to transparency. You are seeing it now with sports books not allowing people to place bets as even as small as $500 or $1,000 without signing up for an account and providing certain data.”

More data equals more transparency, which equals more opportunity for companies like U.S. Integrity, which is a win for everyone involved, according to Holt.

“The more data that is available and can be monitored makes people really feel like the sports are really being monitored and that the games are really being played on a fair level. That kind of confidence turns into better and safer business for the sportsbooks. There is really nothing bad about it.”

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