Simplebet Investor List Showcases Bullish Push Around In-Play Betting

    • Simplebet counts Andre Agassi, David Blitzer and the San Francisco Giants among its investors.
    • In-play betting is believed to increase bettor engagement and attract a more casual consumer.

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A smattering of prominent investors are part of a new sports betting company focusing on in-play “micro-market” sports betting products.

Simplebet debuted on Aug. 12 in the United States after an initial launch was delayed in March, said co-founder and Chief Executive Officer Chris Bevilacqua. 

Simplebet has raised $35 million to date, including an $11 million Series B round that was closed in March. Simplebet investors include the San Francisco Giants; David Blitzer, co-managing partner of Harris Blitzer Sports & Entertainment, Andre Agassi, and Jeff Mallett, founding chief operating officer and president of Yahoo, and co-owner of the Vancouver Whitecaps, among others.

“We would have loved to have launched back in the spring and we’d be going through baseball and getting ready for football,” Bevilacqua said. “Like the old Mike Tyson saying, ‘Everyone has a plan until they get hit in the mouth.’” 

“The entirety of sports business got hit in the mouth,” he said. 

As the sports world got back up and running the past two months, so too has Simplebet. Bevilacqua said the software-based company has invested much of the money into machine learning to help streamline in-play betting opportunities. 

In-play is seen as a massive opportunity across the U.S. sports landscape.

Rather than forcing bettors to predict a full game, tournament or race, in-play betting essentially turns them into quick exercises that can further fan engagement.

For example, a bettor can wager whether a hitter will get a hit while at-bat in the third inning. 

In Europe, more than 70% of bets come from in-play opportunities. Earlier this year, approximately 20% of Nevada’s bets came during in-play.

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Baseball is seen as an opportunity sport in the U.S. because of in-play, while other operators are bullish on sports like NASCAR and golf. Whether it’s bets at every at-bat, every lap or every hole, each event could have nearly countless betting opportunities.

“Right now, it’s really just wagering on the run line or money line. We can turn one long game into 700 mini-games,” PointsBet Chief Executive Officer Johnny Aitken told FOS in July.

For operators, it can turn casual fans into bettors and boost revenue generation from existing customers. Sports betting as a whole can boost engagement in a game 80%, but bettors are more likely to watch news about it as well.

“Those bets and opportunities and markets unlock what I’d describe as a sports bettor that’s not a sports bettor today,” Bevilacqua said.

Bevilacqua is a 35-year sports and media industry veteran and between his experience and the enthusiasm behind in-play betting, he’s been able to secure a significant list of investors from the sports and business world.

Other investors include Steve Ellman, former Phoenix Coyotes owner; David Levy, former Warner Media President; Howard Schultz, Starbucks chairman emeritus; Gary Barber, Spyglass chairman and chief executive officer; Michael Weinberger, Milwaukee Bucks investor; Jordan Levy, managing partner of Softbank Capital; Sara Slane, former American Gaming Association senior vice president of public affairs; George Rover, former deputy director of the New Jersey Division of Gaming Enforcement; and David Baron, global partner and head of technology of Rothschild & Co.

“This is a really hot area of sports and sports media, sports tech, sports gambling,” Bevilacqua said. “There’s been a lack of innovation certainly on the product side because it hasn’t been legal. So bringing real product and innovation and products driven by machine learning and to center it at media and gaming is really a hot intersection. Now it comes down to execution.”

Simplebet has a handful of commercial agreements at the moment, including a deal with Chicago-area regional network Marquee Sports Network to provide at-bat level statistics to Illinois. 

Based on the delay of the company’s launch, Bevilacqua said he’s not too focused on the long-term future at the moment.

“I’m looking at the next three to five weeks. You just have to execute day-to-day,” he said. “Much of the execution risk, a fair amount is out of our control. Are sports playing? Is the virus spiking up? 

“At the end of the day you can’t do sports betting if there’s no sports.”