AAF Here to Stay With MGM Investing Heavily in Betting Technology

Written by:
Alejandro Botticelli
Published on:

In its first week, the Alliance of American Football (or AAF) surpassed all expectations, posting impressive ratings its first night and ranking as the most downloaded app Sunday.  But the real focus will be long-term on sports gambling data and technology.



Building a League Around Sports Betting

“The real place where we make revenue is in the back-end technology and how it can be sold to other partners,” said Charlie Ebersol, co-founder of the AAF and a television producer. “A lot of what this business is about is being an iceberg. You see about 10 percent of what the company is above water publicly.”

According to USA Today, investors like MGM Resorts International plan to spend $500 million to $750 million in the next five years to get off the ground.

The league isn't playing around.  They have hired a head engineer who previously worked as a software engineer at Tesla, the electric car maker, and Lockheed Martin, the defense contractor.

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The technology will be geared towards allowing gamblers to bet on quicker, shorter plays.

Such technology would be fast enough to allow gamblers to bet on the next play in a football game with a variety of options through an application on their mobile phones, USA Today noted. Will the next play be a run or a pass? A first down or a touchdown?

Sports leagues are now embracing betting following a U.S. Supreme Court decision to abolish decades of prohibition that has paved the way for individual states to harbor sportsbooks.

From USA Today:

More money on more plays in more states also is expected to intensify viewer interest in more games in more leagues even when the game scores are lopsided, making them more valuable to media companies and advertisers.

“It’s not fully functional, but it’s almost there,” said Scott Butera, president of interactive gaming at MGM, which has an exclusive license for AAF’s sports gambling technology. “What it will do, which is very important to us from a sports betting standpoint, is it will allow almost immediate transmission of data and what’s going on in an event to your mobile device, which will allow us to have play-by-play gambling, which is non-existent today.”

Offshore sportsbooks like BetDSI, which have been in business for 20 plus years now, continue to see an uptick in the number of gamblers placing bets in-play.  For many sites, live in-play wagering accounts for nearly half of all their business. 

The AAF has the ability to improve the experience further by having their players wear technology in games that gather a variety of data that can help MGM automate instant betting odds for next-play bets.

From USA Today:

This helps the technology’s “predictive casting,” which uses historical data, plus play formation data, including which players are on the field at the moment.

AAF Did See Some Betting Action Its First Week

While no US-based bookmaker would reveal precisely how much was bet on last weekend’s inaugural slate of games, many said they were encouraged.

“It was more than I expected,” Joe Asher, CEO of William Hill US, told the Associated Press. “Tiny in comparison to the NFL, but not bad considering it’s a brand new league.”

Jay Kornegay, vice president of race and sportsbook operations at the Westgate Las Vegas Superbook, said AAF games drew bets at about the same rate as an average college basketball game.

“It was light in football terms, but understandably so,” he said. “Some books had pretty robust action, comparable to an NBA game, while at others, it trickled in.”

Jay Rood, vice president of race and sports for MGM Resorts International was pleased with what he described as “fairly light” wagering that nonetheless was three times what the company expected to see.

- Alejandro Botticelli, Gambling911.com

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