As the world got ready for a new NFL season, IGT PlaySports’ Joe Asher and Tony DiTommaso spoke to Issue 22 of SBC Leaders about why the NFL is a true juggernaut for betting engagement across the US.

While NFL teams were busy at training camps all summer, the sports betting supplier was in an intense ramp-up period of its own.

“The lead up to the NFL season is one of the most exciting times of the year in the sports betting industry,” noted Asher, IGT PlaySports’ President of Sports Betting. 

“During the summer months, most of our customers are gearing up for football season, thinking of ways to enhance their sports betting offering for the upcoming season.” 

In the discussion, Asher described the NFL as at its “zenith” in terms of ratings, revenue, distribution and insatiable fandom. He is right. The 2021 NFL regular season averaged 17.1 million viewers – the highest regular-season average since 2015 and up more than 10 per cent from 2020.

“Sports betting makes the NFL more popular”

Joe Asher, IGT PlaySports’ President of Sports Betting

NFL games ranked 48 of the top 50 telecasts on TV in 2021, making up the entire top 16. On an individual game level, the Las Vegas Raiders game against the Dallas Cowboys racked up 40.8 million viewers.

“The US sports betting market is driven by fan engagement across all of the sports, but the NFL is the true juggernaut in terms of accelerating handle, engaging bettors and increasing sportsbook visitation nationwide,” added Asher. 

“Sports betting makes the NFL more popular and drives fan engagement. And, the NFL continues to occupy an ever-increasing prominence in American culture.”

So, what does a blue chip sports betting supplier do to ramp up for this demand? According to Asher and his Director of Trading, Tony DiTommaso, they do a lot.

“As a B2B supplier, IGT is committed to our customers’ success and that definition of ‘success’ can vary quite a bit from one customer to the next. For example, the Rhode Island Lottery and the Oneida Nation, both the sole sports betting operators in their respective jurisdictions, will have drastically different market conditions than say a FanDuel Sportsbook, a casino on the Las Vegas Strip or a rural tribal casino,” explained Asher. 

“The great thing about IGT and our scalable PlaySports solution is that we’re uniquely capable of servicing all of these customers.” 

The moment the Super Bowl champ is crowned is the very moment oddsmakers such as DiTommaso turn the page and look toward the next season.

“…there is still so much opportunity for growth, both in terms of geography and product maturity”

Tony DiTommaso, Director of Trading at IGT PlaySports

He said: “IGT is currently providing trading advisory services to nearly 20 retail and online sportsbooks across the US. Through the summer months and into the fall, I work very closely with our customers to help manage liability based on their individual appetite for risk. 

“For example, having the Green Bay Packers in the Super Bowl, conference and division future pools would create additional fan engagement and thus requires significant attention from IGT and our great customer Oneida Casino in Green Bay.”

DiTommaso, who boasts nearly 40 years’ experience in the industry, labelled himself as “old school” when it comes to certain aspects of his bookmaking process, including maintaining certain notes with a clipboard and pencil. 

He also emphasised the passion and talent of the trading advisory services team, and the company’s state-of-the art facility in Las Vegas. 

“The PlaySports team is engaged around the clock, armed with the industry’s most respected data resources and skilled at quickly identifying opportunities and threats.”

Pre-NFL preparation for suppliers is more than just a numbers game. Asher and his team invest many hours implementing systems upgrades, submitting products for regulatory approvals and providing counsel on a range of topics.

“The lead up to the NFL season is one of the most exciting times of the year”

Joe Asher, IGT PlaySports’ President of Sports Betting

“Given the collective tenure of the IGT PlaySports team, we find ourselves helping our customers gear up for NFL season in practically any way that you can think of. I’ve been asked by customers for my perspective on topics ranging from TV viewing angles, sportsbook menus and responsible gaming policies, to user experiences, kiosk functionality, and everything in between,” shared Asher.

In terms of betting behaviour, both Asher and DiTommaso agree that the NFL season should once again validate the fact that players are embracing the legal sports betting market, and illuminate the aspects of the US industry that are still in their infancy.

“At IGT, and as an industry, we have accomplished a lot in the four short years since the Supreme Court overturned PASPA. But despite that explosive expansion and market penetration, there is still so much opportunity for growth, both in terms of geography and product maturity. 

“In the US, we’re just skimming the surface of high-engagement in-play products and menus. We at IGT PlaySports are future-focused.”

Asher’s sentiments are supported by IGT’s trailblasing demeanour. In the coming months, the company is due to release its highly popular PeakBarTop video poker cabinet with sports betting and its award-winning CrystalFlex betting terminal, which is a one-of-a-kind VIP terminal that allows players to enjoy casino games and bet on sports at the same station and with the same wallet.

Although the industry may not agree on who will lift the Lombardi Trophy come February, or which quarterback will throw the most touchdown passes this season, all will concur that the start of a new NFL season signals game-on for sports betting.