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Kevin Smith

Online Bookmakers Express Optimism for the 2003 NFL Campaign

5 September 2003

The National Football League season is underway, and that means sports book operators are embarking on their busiest and most lucrative time of the year.

Despite U.S. efforts to thwart online sports betting, namely pending prohibition bills aimed at blocking online gambling payments, many operators are predicting the football season will produce record revenues.

"We are preparing to increase our marketing by 64 percent," said David Carruthers, CEO of, which is based in Costa Rica and relies on a heavily U.S.-based clientele.

Similarly, Sportingbet, despite being a publicly held U.K. company, gets 65 percent of its business from the States. That means the American football season is their busiest time of year.

"The U.S. is our No. 1 market, and football is the No. 1 betting sport," Sportingbet Executive Chairman Mark Blandford said. "We are targeting a 30 percent increase from our business over last year."

BOS created a stir during the football season last year with a marketing campaign entailing a tour of NFL cities with a luxury tour bus and PT Cruiser, both of which were adorned with the BetOnSports logo and URL.

The bold move got the attention of Tampa Bay authorities, who arrested the workers on the bus after undercover cops were allowed on it to establish accounts and place bets on a game.

But the positives far outweighed the negatives for Carruthers, who said the exposure gained and new customers acquired more than made up for the money spent on the marketing campaign.

This year's tour will feature a second bus, meaning twice as many stops will be made.

"What we have in store for this year with marketing will make what we did last year look like a backyard bonfire party," Carruthers said. "This will be like having a blowout party in Central Park."

Both Carruthers and Blandford said the uncertain future of credit card payments could affect their business this football season. Both sites have implemented multiple payment solutions and each operator was adamant that prohibition wouldn't work.

"That (cutting off credit card use) will not stop this activity from taking place," said Carruthers. "It will be a disgrace is Congress let's that happen but they can't stop offshore sports books from avoiding the shores of the U.S."

The betting action started off in a frenzy this week at BetOnSports. Carruthers said the site is expected to accept 400,000 bets with 100,000 of them coming on Sunday and another 90,000 coming in on Saturday as the college game sets the football stage for the NFL.

Meanwhile, the Sportingbet team is likewise geared up for a big season.

"The mood in the whole company is one of excitement because we know it is big and we know we are in good shape," Blandford said. "We have been planning for this since the end of March Madness and we fully expect a record number of transactions."

Licensed sports books in Nevada also depend heavily on football action for their business.

The state's 159 sports books reported a 33.3 percent increase in the amount won from football bettors during the fiscal year that ended June 30. Football punters bet $51.5 million of the total $124.4 million won on all sports. Bettors lost $33.7 million, up 12.2 percent, on basketball while baseball punters lost $12.2 million, down 16 percent.

Station Casinos sports book manager Art Manteris told the Associated Press that action on football represents about 40 percent of the handle brought in every year.

Casinos' most lucrative sports betting segment, parlay cards, won $23 million from gamblers, up 20.1 percent. Almost all parlay card bets are made on football games.

The optimism bodes well for businesses in peripheral segments too. StatFox, a leading handicapping service, released its new and improved "FoxSheets" service and has seen a record number of signups in the weeks leading up to the start of the football season.

The new FoxSheets include StatFox PlayTracker, which allows punters to track and archive all of their daily selections and StatFox View, which presents daily opinions from experienced members of the StatFox team.

While Internet sports book operators eying short-term success for the NFL season, they also have room to grow in 2004 and beyond.

Management at BOS and Sportingbet are always looking to expand their business. Both groups are looking into wireless platforms, although neither has intentions of introducing the service in the short term.

Online Bookmakers Express Optimism for the 2003 NFL Campaign is republished from
Kevin Smith
Kevin Smith