The advent of the social sportsbook

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OddFlex CEO Colin Dew-Becker sits down with Gaming America to discuss the modernization of sports betting via the 'social casino model.'

What is oddFlex and what does being a ‘social sportsbook’ mean?

It’s a free-to-play sport (F2P) betting application that’s actually expanded beyond sports. The general idea is that we’re replicating the real-money experience without having to risk money to get all the thrills from sports betting. We give you free credits on a daily basis; we give you more and more. But as you’re wagering and if you run out and don’t want to wait until the next day to get more, you can purchase them. So that’s the standard social casino model and it works in the sports betting world too.

Although it’s not in our current offering, we’ve been teasing it on our app. Our app is going to focus on betting performance. We have built a bunch of custom metrics, looking beyond win percentage. We’re looking at metrics that measure your ‘true betting count;’ so we have leaderboards that show everything, which means the long-term plan is that we’ll open up a marketplace where you can buy and sell betting information with other users for real money. If you’re really highly ranked on the leaderboards, maybe you’re really good at betting on basketball or you’re on a hot streak on football – whatever it might be. Maybe somebody in the marketplace will give you a dollar to buy all your picks for the next week or day.

I know in Europe these services have been around for a long time but my general experience with them has been negative. They’ve been scams or hard to verify exactly what’s going on, so we’re trying to lean into the transparency part where you can see every single bet the user that you’re buying from has ever placed. You have all these metrics that rank them against everybody else and can be filtered by sport and bet type and everything else. So in theory we’re trying to improve on experience and make it more legitimate.

The test is going to be whether other people who are decent at sports betting will be on here and other people will want to buy their betting pick. Will people react to someone being ‘hot’ or on a streak? Are they willing to pay a dollar or five dollars?

One of the things we’re starting to do is look for partnerships with sports leagues, social groups, sports bars and entertainment venues, where we can create any betting market on anything."

We wanted to ask about the breadth of sports on oddFlex. Are you trying to get sports bettors into other sports, say NFL fans into soccer?

Yes and there are regulatory benefits to this, as in the US there may be more restrictions on betting markets than there might be in Europe or Asia. This means with more sports we can offer a much broader spectrum of offerings.

As ‘the House’ we don’t have the same sort of downside risk that real-money operators do. This means we can have markets for thousands of soccer leagues and esports leagues, and we’ve just added election markets. We also have pop-culture award show-type markets. 

One of the things we’re starting to do is look for partnerships with sports leagues, social groups, sports bars and entertainment venues, where we can create any betting market on anything. It’s very trivial for us to make a new market and, especially in a F2P environment, we look at it as a social engagement thing – around things that people would talk about in passing – actually having betting markets on those things.  

"We’re trying to lean into the transparency part where you can see every single bet the user that you’re buying from has ever placed. You have all these metrics that rank them against everybody else."

So that’s one area we’re concentrating on, seeing what people are looking at as being possible to bet on. But we’re certainly pushing people to bet on leagues they would not usually bet on, or sports they would not bet on. It helps to have the metrics to show how you’re doing and they show the areas of betting you’re good at that you didn’t previously realize. The low-risk scenario helps lessen the pressure a little bit, so you may bet on things you wouldn’t have before. 

 What’s the profitability model? How much free currency can a player spend before they have to start spending real money?

So in theory, you can play forever and not make a purchase. That’s how the normal ‘freemium’ model works, we give you free credits every day. What we try and do is create an environment where you want to bet through your credits; you’re incentivized through them. Prior to working on this, I worked at Scientific Games and we built a social casino – and that was very similar, we would give you all these free credits. And on a daily basis, 98-99% of people aren’t going to spend any money and it’s just that 1% who want to boost their standing on the leaderboards. They want to have a bigger bankroll; they want to have more opportunities to increase their metrics and so on.

So we give you credits every day and create incentives to bet as much as possible. We have two bankrolls; we have a standard bank and then a live bank which you can only use to bet on in-play, in-progress events. The trick with these apps is you want people to stay on them as long as possible, as this increases the chance that they’re going to bet and also the chance of them making a purchase. 

We have tiers like casinos do, which we call ‘bettor tier’, that show your status. You might be a bronze, silver, or whatever – this changes how many credits we give you on a daily basis. It changes the number of credits you get when you make a purchase. Some people may never make a purchase, but as long as a small percentage does, that can drive a lot of revenue through. And that separate marketplace may be more highly engaged than the non-spenders. 

"It helps to have the metrics to show how you’re doing and they show the areas of betting you’re good at that you didn’t previously realize. The low-risk scenario helps lessen the pressure a little bit, so you may bet on things you wouldn’t have before."

There are a lot of things we can leverage here, but in the short term it’s how many credits can you get, and how much you get for making purchases. And status within the app – if a player can show off they are platinum tier. It’s something that makes people happy, saying that they’re an ‘elite.’

 What are the company’s plans for the next 12 months?

We launched in August ahead of the football season and the first area we expanded in was non-traditional sports that aren’t even really ‘sports’. These type of areas include elections and other events in culture-related fields. What we’re doing now is looking for partnerships to create markets for leagues or bars that wouldn’t be able to do that otherwise. Making those kinds of partnerships and trying to change how people engage with betting.

This market will be our start-of-2023 focus and we’re going to see how people engage with that. There isn’t much precedent for things like this; there are no formalized tab services in the US and seeing how people engage with that on a F2P platform - it’s a different form of management. 

Then there’s adding functionality into the app, adding that social, almost-DFS experience to the product but not picking player stats, picking points spreads. I think there are some real-money equivalents to what we’re doing but they’re not too far down the road, so I’m curious to see how they do.

Our long-term changes will be peer -to-peer betting, so it will start as a F2P experience but if that works out and our user base is large enough, we would probably pivot to a real-money dynamic there. There are multiple apps that are trying to do betting exchanges like that in the US but it’s always about liquidity and having enough users to make it work, so we’re going to see how that goes. 

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