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Volume 26 No. 5
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NASCAR Partners With Genius Sports For First Gambling Deal

NASCAR has announced a gambling deal with Genius Sports, which will license and distribute the sanctioning body’s live data for sale to sportsbooks and work with it to develop an in-race betting product. Financial terms were not disclosed, but betting data deals typically are structured similarly to licensing deals, with upfront guarantees and royalties that can vary dramatically based on expectations. Genius becomes the first entity to license NASCAR’s live data, which is integral to creating an in-race betting product that will allow for wagering throughout each race, with odds that can change by the second. NASCAR Senior VP/Broadcast & Innovation Brian Herbst said Genius Sports will be able to start offering official post-race data in the next several months, but that the more extensive in-race data will likely not be available until the latter stages of '19 or early '20. Genius Sports will offer the data for sale to all sportsbooks operating in legal, regulated markets. Herbst said NASCAR started looking for a data partner in November. The two sides will attempt to create an in-play product never before offered in NASCAR; one that would be difficult -- or even impossible -- to replicate without access to its official data feed. “(In-race betting) is a fan-engagement hook,” Herbst said. “It allows an opportunity to engage with the race and have a little bit more of a stake in the game while the race is actually live. It’s giving you a reason to watch the race longer.”

OPPORTUNITY FOR GROWTH: NASCAR is one of the last major U.S. properties to sign a gambling data deal, leaving the NFL as the only one without one. NASCAR still is out looking for a sportsbook to come on as a corporate marketing partner. Sportsbook operators said the sport generates far less betting than the other major U.S. properties. “We see that more as an opportunity than a concern,” said Genius Sports Managing Dir of U.S. Operations Christopher Dougan. “We’re starting at the ground level with a sport that understands that it needs to engage with its audience. NASCAR realizes this is a nascent market. It hasn’t been developed to the extent that the NBA or NFL has. This is a great opportunity for them and for us.”

ISSUES TO WORK THROUGH: The lack of an existing, fully-baked market almost certainly will be a hurdle for NASCAR and Genius as they approach sportsbooks. The one Las Vegas oddsmaker who regularly sets and updates odds on NASCAR races said he sees potential in the product, but questions whether the sport can deliver enough bettors to justify the expense of official data. Already trailing football, basketball, baseball, tennis and hockey, NASCAR slipped behind golf and combat sports when it instituted what typically has been a 90-minute wait before certifying a race winner, said Westgate Superbook VP/Risk Management & Oddsmaking Ed Salmons. That delay means bettors holding winning tickets face an interminable wait to collect. “If they think (in-play) can bring people in by itself, they’re dead wrong,” said Salmons, who sets odds at the start of each race weekend and adjusts them after practice rounds. “It’s something that could work if the sport became more mainstream again. But given the fees that (some official data providers) are trying to charge, it’d be hard to justify. You’re only going to write x amount of money. And after giving them these fees, it just doesn’t add up. That’s the biggest issue.”