PointsBet USA CEO Johnny Aitken placed his first bet at six years old. He tried to at least. He gave his father five Australian dollars to put on a 40-1 horse named Kenny’s Best Pal. But his father never placed the wager, because the horse was too much of a long shot.
“He cost me $200,” Aitken says with a laugh.
Since then, Aitken has placed many more wagers, broke into the business by developing betting models with an Australian betting syndicate and rose to the head of the sportsbook’s U.S. operations.
Technology is top of mind
While William Hill, FanDuel and DraftKings are household names in the U.S. sports betting world — a twist of fate, or luck, for the DFS-turned-sportsbook operators — PointsBet is banking on technology to push them to top-of-mind awareness among sports bettors nationwide. When it comes to mobile sports betting, name recognition and the best product will likely be the two biggest factors in acquiring new customers.
“We’re a company founded on technology,” says Aitken.“We’re quite rare in space in the U.S. where we are one of just two out of over 20 operators in New Jersey that have their own technology, and the power of that can never be understated. The best product will win on the digital battlefield.”
He’s referring to PointsBet’s own software powering its mobile app and Web-based sportsbook. While most other sportsbooks are sharing common suppliers, meaning the betting markets and odds and in some cases the appearance is similar, even if customized in some areas.
For example in New Jersey, licensed operators DraftKings Sportsbook, Rush Street Interactive’s SugarHouse, 888sport and Unibet all use U.K.-based supplier Kambi Group for their software and risk-management tools. PointsBet manages these functions internally. The end result is a unique platform.
The state of Colorado is targeting a mobile and brick-and-mortar sports betting launch date of May 1. Some to-be online operators have obtained licensure and others are in the waiting line, PointsBet included, with still about two months before liftoff. PointsBet’s retail sports betting partner Double Eagle Hotel & Casino, located in Cripple Creek, obtained its Master License in February. The physical sportsbook lounge at Double Eagle will be a PointsBet-branded facility, the company’s second physical sportsbook in the U.S., following the opening of an Iowa sportsbook in 2019 with an Illinois location on deck.
PointsBet has their original U.S.-based office in New Jersey, but recently opened a western hub in Denver, where much of the company’s leadership resides. About 45 employees are currently working out of a temporary space in Denver while the permanent space in the same building undergoes construction and is expected to open in June.
Another factor that attracted the company to Denver is that the city is a hub for tech employees, which PointsBet will continue to hire as the company grows.
“That will become the main U.S. headquarters once the space is finalized, with the expectation of growing the team there up to 200, predominately focused on product and tech innovation,” PointsBet director of communications Pat Eichner told COBets. “We’re also working closely with Colorado universities to tap into the talented local tech pool.”
Aitken says, “Colorado is a state that’s very exciting because regulators set up a good framework to battle with offshore sportsbooks, taxation is at a good level.”
The company continues to expand in the legal U.S. sports betting market as legislation and licensure permits. According to its 2019 annual report: upon announcing its partnership with Penn National Gaming, PointsBet starts FY2020 with market access agreements in place for nine states with an additional option agreement in place for New York, subject to enabling legislation.
While Colorado will wait to launch legalized sports betting until May, New Jersey and Iowa are already open for business while PointsBet launched mobile sports wagering in Indiana on March 5, with the NCAA men’s basketball tournament fast approaching.
“I think March Madness is the equivalent of the Super Bowl in terms of allowing sports betting operators to drive acquisition and activity.”
Aitken is counting on superior technology and brand awareness to build upon their momentum as more states legalize mobile wagering.
For now, there’s no reason to bet against them.