Having your mobile sports betting app go offline right before March Madness, one of the largest sports betting months of the year, certainly can’t be good for business.
That’s the challenge facing Delaware North, the operator of the Mardi Gras Casino and Sportsbook and Wheeling Island Casino and Sportsbook, as the NCAA Division I Men’s Basketball Tournament tips off.
The shutdown has left West Virginia sports bettors frustrated. Many of whom may have been ready to place some bets on early-round March Madness action utilizing the only mobile option currently online in the state.
What’s at stake?
A recent report by the American Gaming Association (AGA) offers a glimpse on some of the NCAA action BetLucky may be leaving on the court.
BetLucky stands to lose big – bet on it
This year’s hardwood action is the first in the US with a new wide-open sports wagering environment. States with legalized sports betting markets like New Jersey, Pennsylvania, and West Virginia should experience increased action at the betting windows – both online and in a mobile environment.
The AGA released some big numbers on Monday with betting on March Madness projected at $8.5 billion.
Here’s a look at some key numbers from the AGA survey:
- 47 million American adults will wager $8.5 billion on March Madness.
- $4.6 billion will be wagered on a collective 149 million brackets by more than 40 million people.
- Nearly 18 million people will wager $3.9 billion at a sportsbook, online, with a bookie, or with a friend. Of those, 2.4 million will bet illegally with a bookie and 5.2 million will bet online, likely at illegal offshore sites.
That last bullet point stands out when it comes to the West Virginia sports betting market. Of those 18 million people, 4.1 million are likely to place a bet at a casino sportsbook or using a legal app.
AGA President and CEO Bill Miller talked about March Madness betting in a press release:
“During this year’s tournament – the first in post-PASPA America – sports fans are expected to bet 40 percent more than they did on this year’s Super Bowl. Unlike any other sporting event in the country, March Madness attracts millions who fill out brackets, make casual bets with friends or wager at a legal sportsbook, which Americans can now do more than ever before.”
West Virginia’s BetLucky mobile app might have had only have a sliver of that action, but the statistic gives an idea of the possibilities as the only legal app in the state.
WV Sports betting numbers don’t lie
When it comes to specifics, the loss in West Virginia sports betting revenue is a bit of a guessing game. But a look at some recent numbers might show what the company is leaving on the table this month.
Handle on the app has definitely trended upward since BetLucky began accepting wagers in December. February proved a high-water mark for amount wagered. Here’s a closer look at handle for the last three months:
- December – $25,630 (only one week of wagering)
- January – $204,586
- February – $395,665
With the Super Bowl and NFL playoffs underway, February saw a huge jump – almost doubling the handle from January. With such a major event planned for March, it’s a good bet the app may have seen its handle increase even more.
Representatives with BetLucky and Delaware North didn’t offer any update n when the app would be up and running. However, the BetLucky did post this via Twitter on Tuesday:
“We continue to work toward a solution regarding the interruption in our sports wagering service and will share new updates on the web, via social media, and with news outlets. We thank you for your patience.”
BetLucky will miss another potentially nice month if the service interruption drags into April.
The NCAA final four games are on April 6, and the championship game is April. 8. Additionally, The PGA Tour hosts The Masters in April which is also said to attract a lot of attention from sports bettors.
Baseball season also gets underway March 28 and NBA and NHL playoffs will also be in full force in April.
Conservatively, considering the handle growth in such a short time and upcoming major events, it’s not hard to figure that app could miss out on quite a bit – and an opportunity to introduce itself to even more customers.
The total amount wagered in March could have topped February’s total – somewhere over $400,000 and possibly much more – or at least be in the same ballpark. April will also be a key month if the app isn’t back online by then.
WV sports betting market frustrated
Certainly, closing up shop hasn’t been easy for Delaware North and BetLucky.
It was just starting to gain momentum in West Virginia. Can it come back and pick up where it left off? Seems, unlikely. It will have work to do.
The company says that it had to close wagering due to a dispute involving its partner in the enterprise. The timing is poor and there is probably been some real teeth gnashing between Delaware North and Miomni.
A company representative told Legal Sports Report last week:
“We have been informed by Miomni Gaming, our sports wagering platform provider in West Virginia, that they have encountered a contract dispute with a third-party technology supplier.”
Rebuilding brand loyalty with customers may not be easy, and several bettors expressed their frustration with BetLucky on Twitter.
Will BetLucky regain its customers’ trust?
Certainly regaining bettor’s trust won’t be easy, especially with larger players like DraftKings Sportsbook (and possibly FanDuel Sportsbook and William Hill Sportsbook) moving into the market soon. DraftKings WV Sportsbook is awaiting regulatory approval to begin taking West Virginian’s mobile bets.
What could BetLucky do when it’s back to stop the bleeding?
Transparency would be great. Being open and honest about what happened and what is being done to remedy the situation would help. It might even reassure some bettors who might already be looking for greener pastures.
Making some changes to the app would also be nice. Prior to its closing, the app actually closed part of the day. This may sound like a joke to those accustomed to 24/7 wagering in Nevada and New Jersey, but that’s the reality. Opening up for a more convenient sports betting experience might appease some gamblers not happy with “part-time” virtual betting windows.
Also, there is definitely one thing bettors respond to – cold, hard cash.
Offer up some unique promotions and incentives to get players betting on the app again when it returns. This might also even attract new bettors to download the app and get in on the action.
Lastly, ramping up the marketing campaign might also get players back. Maybe hold a few bettor appreciation parties at the two live casino sportsbooks at Wheeling and Mardi Gras – fall on the sword and give your customers a couple of free beers or a burger. Show sports fans how the app works at these events.
It won’t be easy, but good faith efforts will help BetLucky possibly carve its own niche in the market when bigger players open up. The app may be called BetLucky, but player acquisition and attitudes shouldn’t be left to chance.