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XFL 2.0: The latest pro football league goes all in on gambling

Source: Social Blade

The Signal: The XFL made its triumphant return over the weekend after a nearly 20-year break. Founded by Vince McMahon, the 8-team professional football league played one season in 2001 before closing shop. To make the second go-around stick, McMahon expects to spend $500m over the league’s first 3 years.

The league’s relaunch is leaning heavily on two trends that didn’t exist during the original incarnation — social media and widely legalized sports betting.

As of Monday, the XFL’s Instagram account had 381k followers, with more than half joining since December (including a notable post-Super Bowl spike). The first two games — which were broadcast last weekend on ABC, ESPN, and Fox — led to another big spike. General interest will surely rise through the league’s championship game in late April.

The Opportunity: The big opportunity around the XFL this time involves sports betting. The league will serve as a test lab for gambling and related content that other leagues will be watching closely.

Gambling innovations include announcers openly talking about bets, bet odds displayed on the screen of the game and — in a VSiN / iHeartRadio partnership — a dedicated broadcast with betting experts (“Betcast”) covering the game purely through a gambling lens. 

There are a few ways you can jump right into the action :

  • Crack the betting code: With almost no gameplay history to speak of, one oddsmaker says it “won’t be until at least week 3” when sportsbook can get a handle on betting. For anyone closely watching the games, this creates an evergreen opportunity to “figure” out the betting landscape. Online betting platforms like FanDuel and Draftkings will have 6-figure prizes. 
  • Get in on game day: Another opportunity is to capitalize on game day, whether through selling merchandise or F&B and other services. The cities with a team are Dallas (Renegades), DC (Defenders), Houston (Roughnecks), LA (Wildcats), NY (Guardians), Seattle (Dragons), St. Louis (Battlehawks) and Tampa Bay (Vipers). Here is the 12-week XFL schedule
  • Create social media content: Become an XFL personality by providing great social content, through meme-ing game clips or providing betting commentary. Notable Twitter accounts to follow are: @XFL2020, @XFLNewsHub, @FanDuel, @DraftKings, @DFS_Tom, @DarrenRovell, @JoeFortenbaugh, @BFawkesESPN, @AlexMcKinnonXFL, and the Barstool Sports team (e.g., @PFTCommenter, @StoolPresidente).
  • Other ideas: In a recent Trends article, we cover some other gambling opportunities that are adjacent to the sportsbook:
    • Social gaming apps: Betting platforms for non-serious gamblers such as Betcha, which aims to replicate the social aspect of work pools with leaderboards and badges for the best winning streak. 
    • Audience development: Identify and build communities of customers new to gambling, whether that’s through a publication or retail-oriented gambling analytics tool. 
    • Gambling cessation & regulation: With new and larger audiences, casinos will also need more assistance in detecting problematic gamblers. Similarly, they’ll need geofencing and related technology that ensures the only people allowed to make bets are located in the proper geographical area.  

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