Deals with Kambi, GAN Show Churchill Downs Ready to Make Moves with BetAmerica
Churchill Downs made some gaming news late last week that had nothing to do with the Kentucky Derby. The Louisville, Ky.-based gaming company finally announced it completed deals with both Kambi Group PLC and GAN Limited for a multitude of services for BetAmerica, its online gaming brand.
The multi-year agreements mean Kambi will replace SBTech as BetAmerica’s sportsbook technology and services provider while GAN will provide its software platform for both BetAmerica’s online sports betting and iGaming offerings.
“We believe the transition to GAN and Kambi as our new technology providers will enable our team to execute the rollout of BetAmerica sportsbooks and iGaming product offering more efficiently as states move to legalize and implement regulations permitting sports betting and iGaming in the coming years,” said Bill Carstanjen, CEO of Churchill Downs Inc. “BetAmerica will benefit from the proven excellence of these market-leading providers.”
It’s uncertain when the switchover will take place. As of Sunday night, BetAmerica’s online sportsbook was still using SBTech’s platform. In its release, Kambi said the deal would have a marginal effect on its 2020 revenue but offered “the potential to become a material source of revenue” in the years to come.
The stats currently show BetAmerica lags behind the major sports betting brands in the US in terms of handle. But the deals with Kambi and GAN, along with recent comments made by Carstanjen indicate that the company is ready to take several steps to boost its online gaming presence and possibly leverage some of its existing assets to accomplish that.
BetAmerica Behind the Pack
BetAmerica currently takes sports wagers in Indiana, Mississippi, New Jersey, and Pennsylvania. It offers online sports betting in Indiana, New Jersey, and Pennsylvania, and iGaming, or online casinos, in New Jersey and Pennsylvania.
Of those states, only Indiana and Pennsylvania break down performance by sportsbook on a monthly basis, and the data from those states shows BetAmerica has gained very little of the market in those two states with very competitive markets.
In Pennsylvania, where BetAmerica serves as the sportsbook for Churchill Downs-owned Presque Isle Downs, the sportsbook has taken roughly $23.4 million in wagers since opening. That accounts for .87 percent of the state’s sports betting handle.
And of that handle, only18 percent of it comes through BetAmerica’s website. Across all sportsbooks in Pennsylvania, roughly 87 percent of all bets have come from mobile apps or online sites.
In Indiana, BetAmerica, which operates out of the Rising Star Casino, has taken just $1.2 million of the more than $1 billion wagered since the state started taking bets a year ago. That’s just .12 percent of the market. While Indiana is similar to Pennsylvania in that online dominates the market, BetAmerica’s website takes only 42.6 percent of the wagers.
Part of the problem for BetAmerica is that the company only has a working mobile app in New Jersey. To place sports bets online in Pennsylvania or Indiana, a BetAmerica customer must use the desktop site that’s not accessible via a mobile platform or browser.
BetAmerica’s online site also was sidelined for three weeks earlier this year due to a cyberattack on SBTech. That issue though, happened during the early stages of the COVID-19 emergency, when all US sports were shut down due to the pandemic. The website became operational again on April 17.
Churchill Downs Sees Value in Sports Betting
Despite those anemic numbers, Churchill Downs officials are still bullish about sports betting and its role in the company.
We look forward to broadening our offerings to them as we enter the larger states of sports and iGaming and with our direct access to many markets and a roster of efficient indirect market access deals, we believe we have the foundation of a very special business,” Carstanjen told investment analysts during the company’s second quarter earning call a month ago.
BetAmerica has agreements in place to launch in Michigan and Colorado by later this year, and Carstanjen told analysts he expects the sports betting division to be in Tennessee and other states next year.
Kambi CEO Kristian Nylen said he sees the value in Churchill’s brand and its consumer database.
“I’m certain with the quality and experience we possess, together with the BetAmerica leadership team, we will be able to grow our businesses together as the U.S. sports betting and iGaming market expands,” he said in a statement.
BetAmerica + TwinSpires?
Churchill Downs has a casino or racing presence in nine states, several of which have yet to legalize either sports betting, iGaming or both. That does not include states where it has agreements in place for sports betting and iGaming, such as Colorado, Indiana, Michigan, and New Jersey. Churchill even has agreements in place to launch in California and New York when those states legalize online gaming.
It’s that presence that prompted GAN to call them a “tier one” client.
“We look forward to powering the BetAmerica brand with our highly optimized technology platform and enabling CDI to efficiently invest their marketing capital to attract loyal sports betting and iGaming players,” GAN CEO Dermot S. Smurfit said in a statement.
Something else to keep an eye on is the possible integration of BetAmerica with Churchill Downs’ TwinSpires.com online ADW racing platform, which ranks as the largest racing ADW in the country. According to figures from the Oregon Racing Commission, TwinSpires.com took in nearly $1.9 billion in wagers across the country in 2019.
Carstanjen told analysts such integration would “link our great customers seamlessly” to other products, similar to how FanDuel and DraftKings are able to leverage their daily fantasy products to market sports betting.
“All I can tell you is it’s something we’re very interested in seeing done, and we’ll pursue it in our list of other priorities as appropriate,” he said. “But I can’t give you a time frame right now. But I would tell you, we view that as an important strategic initiative of ours over time.”