The legalisation of sports betting in the US will result in a surge in demand for talent from Europe, says Findmyexpert.com CEO David Copeland.
It is inevitable that legal, regulated sports betting will be rolled out across the USA in the coming months and years.
New Jersey will be the catalyst for this, with the Supreme Court on the brink of revealing whether it will repeal PASPA and permit the state to allow casinos and racetracks to run sports books. According to insiders, it seems odds-on that it will.
Once New Jersey touches down others will follow suit, with Bills already on the table in 21 states including Pennsylvania.
Bringing sports betting out of the shadows and into the light provides tremendous upsides to casino and racetrack operators – the American Gaming Association estimates more than $4.6bn was wagered during last month’s Super Bowl, with just 3% legally through books in Nevada.
Operators will undoubtedly be keen to get in on the action, and quickly. Up for grabs are new customers, the opportunity to expand their product offerings and, in doing so, to drive revenues and profits.
But while these upsides are regularly touted and discussed, the challenges operators will face when it comes to launching their sportsbook are much less talked about.
If and when New Jersey gets the green light, there will be a rush as operators look to open their sportsbooks ahead of their rivals – there will be a real first-mover advantage in the early days.
But most US casino and racetrack operators will not have the necessary experience and expertise to launch and run successful sports betting products and services.
This will certainly be the case when it comes to technologies and platforms. A strategy will need to be developed and robustly tested before the operational stages of platform selection, build and product specification can even begin.
European operators are more than familiar with this process, and the seemingly never-ending cycle of launch, feedback, rebuild.
But the US talent pool lacks the experience to navigate this minefield. Nevada, Delaware, Oregon and Montana are the only states that offer legal sports betting at present, with a small number of bookmakers plying their trade in each market.
Operators would therefore be wise to look elsewhere for support, and Europe and Asia are where the most experienced sports book operators lie.
Those that decide to bring in overseas talent will be able to learn from the challenges these people have faced in the past.
They can guide and support operators and their teams, avoiding traps such as rushing to market with the wrong product, or taking too long with the right one.
Indeed, the decision operators make over whether to white label a solution or develop their own tech in-house will be make or break.
In this regard, there really is no substitute for experience – different operators will require different approaches – and the reality is this understanding lies in Europe, not the US.
Of course, operators could look to hire top-talent from Europe, but this brings its own challenges. Hiring permanent members of staff from outside the US has always been difficult, and is likely only to get worse under the current administration.
Sponsorship of visas can take months and even years, and there is a limit on the number of visas a company can apply for.
Even if a visa can be secured, regulatory headaches will almost certainly be encountered. The New Jersey regulator, for example, has a fierce reputation when it comes to investigating and licensing overseas workers.
Their stringent approach is evidenced in how tough it was for PokerStars to obtain its licence in the state – and the cull of senior management that had to take place before it was given the green light.
Such is the forensic nature of its approach, the regulator has been known to request old school reports for senior management as part of its character referencing.
In addition, it may be that top-tier sports betting experts from Europe are interested in working with stateside casino and racetrack operators, but are reluctant to relocate their families to the other side of the world.
For operators, the cost of relocation can also be high with top talent expecting moving fees, relocation bonuses, housing and sometimes even private tuition for their children. One solution is to use high-level consultants. They can be sourced, briefed and deployed almost immediately.
Operators can use consultants to transfer knowledge to their in-house teams and to provide guidance and support through the initial launch stage before gradually handing over the reins.
More often than not, consultants can work remotely, overcoming visa, licensing and relocation hurdles.
Indeed, European experts are in the driving seat to play a pivotal role in the roll out of sports betting in the US. But what impact will this have on European businesses, and will we see a brain drain?
That is unlikely, but I do think there will be a strong pull among the strategic talent that will be required to get operators, and, indeed, the US market off the ground.
The global gaming market has certainly moved from a generalist to a specialist approach in recent years, and smart, driven individuals are more than happy to work on a project basis.
So, while we may see talent shift stateside for a number of months, it won’t be long before they are looking for projects a little closer to home.