Former Breeders' Cup and Stronach Group CEO Greg Avioli has teamed up with Youbet.com founder David Marshall and formed a California-based company that uses mobile games to introduce pari-mutuel wagering to an entirely new demographic. With direct ties to the horse racing industry, b Spot began accepting customers by private invitation earlier this month. During a recent visit back to Lexington, where Avioli still maintains a home, I got a sneak preview of b Spot and asked him about this new venture.
What is b Spot?
b Spot is a mobile games community that lets you legally wager and win money in the United States. The company is headquartered in Los Angeles.
Why mobile games?
More than 150 million U.S. adults play games on their smart phones and tablets on a monthly basis. Mobile games are by far the largest and fastest growing form of entertainment in the U.S. And, as you know, most of these adults don't bet on horse races. We've found a fun and exciting way to bring these people into pari-mutuel pools by integrating the wagering experience with mobile games they enjoy playing.
What is the connection to the horseracing industry?
People playing b Spot-connected games make real wagers into live pari-mutuel pools. The technology we use at b Spot is the next evolution of horse race wagering. We've developed an advanced mobile platform and provide services that address legal, regulatory, security, financial, and player management requirements.
How did you get involved?
I have known David Marshall since the 1990s. We worked together in Washington on the amendment to the Interstate Horseracing Act that allows online wagering. He has always been a brilliant innovator, and a lot of people in racing will tell you they still think Youbet.com provided the best online wagering experience. When David approached me about bringing online pari-mutuel wagering to the masses through a mobile game interface, the idea made a lot of sense. It's a massive potential market and racing will be the biggest beneficiary.
How is it legal?
As you know, the Interstate Horseracing Act has allowed horse race wagering across state lines since the 1970s. This federal law helped establish the framework for national pari-mutuel pools and Advance Deposit Wagering, which is currently available in 37 states. We have a multi-state license with Oregon as well as licenses in other states. All our customers are standard ADW account holders and their wagers are placed into live, regulated horse race wagering pools.
How is b Spot different from other “racing powered” wagering products like Instant Racing, Derby Jackpot or Luckity?
b Spot is a platform that allows mobile game developers to add real gambling to their games. We are a gateway that connects racing to the games world. We're also a mobile platform. There is a saying you hear a lot in California these days, “If it doesn't work on mobile, it doesn't work.” With Apple selling nearly 100 million mobile devices in Q4 2014, that's kind of hard to argue with.
Another differentiating factor: We're a sophisticated game company with a really talented group of mobile game marketers. We have partnerships with some of the world's top game developers who have a large, existing player base that we tap into. The game playing experience we offer on b Spot is at a level that today's gamers demand.
You mentioned you're only accepting customers starting in California and Oregon. Why is that?
Like a lot of new technology products, we are beginning with what's known as a soft launch to make sure we offer the best customer experience early on. We expect to rapidly add additional states in the next few months and cover the majority of ADW states by the end of the year.
Why is this good for racing?
Every dollar wagered on the b Spot platform is a live horse race bet that goes into tracks' pari-mutuel pools. The tracks, horsemen and racing industry receive simulcast fees and other ADW compensation. Considering ADWs now account for over 25% of all racing handle, b Spot has the potential to produce a much greater positive impact on racing revenues. And our target audience is non-racing fans. By tapping into this broad game market, b Spot has the potential to generate a lot of new handle for the industry.
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