Over the course of nearly four years and almost 200 episodes, Gamble On has established itself as the leading gaming industry podcast, delivering news and analysis as well as interviews with the most influential names in gambling every week.
Episode 194, posted May 26, 2022, features an interview with BetMGM Vice President of Gaming Matt Sunderland, one of the key executives behind the award-winning online casino product currently available in New Jersey, Pennsylvania, and Michigan. Sunderland spoke on the podcast about the highly competitive iCasino markets in the handful of states that have legalized the activity.
“There’s healthy competition between us and other operators. And, I certainly regularly talk to my counterparts at different operators — I think it’s a quite healthy thing to do,” Sunderland said. “But at the end of the day, there’s only so many people in so many states in terms of population who are of the legal age to enjoy our services. … Competition will always be there. It’s those who continue to surprise and delight their customers that will win out.”
Sunderland’s money quotes
Sunderland on the first day BetMGM was operational in Michigan, a state in which it has had exceptionally high revenue: “We launched in Michigan on the 22nd — it was a Friday, the 22nd of [January 2021]. And the numbers were coming hourly, I remember tracking. We did over a million dollars of gross gaming revenue in that first day. And we all thought the numbers were wrong. We thought our business intelligence piece was broken.”
On the company’s success in New Jersey: “One thing that’s helped us a lot is we have three brands in New Jersey. Which means we cross-sell to customers who are about to lapse out potentially of one brand to another with a different offer. It certainly helps. It also gives us the benefit of having a network. And by that, I mean, we have built our own jackpot network — in, actually, every state, but we started in Jersey with about 40 different slot titles, and we’ve built up the biggest online slot jackpot in Jersey.”
On more legal online poker states joining interstate compacts: “It has to happen. I don’t think there’s as much poker action as there should be at this point in time, and I think pooling liquidity across state lines where we can is 100 percent important to the game. … Without that liquidity-sharing piece, I don’t think we’re going to grow the market. And I think that’s important to us, [Poker]Stars, and WSOP.”
On a unique brick-and-mortar slots game that stands out to him: “There’s a really fun game, I don’t know whether you’ve ever seen it. It’s a game by Aruze, it’s called Go-Go Claw. And it is basically one of those claw machine games, where you dunk it and pick something up — but it’s a slot machine. It looks like it has an element of skill, which it doesn’t really. Those sort of new fun games are really appealing from a land-based perspective. [The question is] whether we can translate that into an online experience or not.”
DOJ calls Zeidman’s bluff
Podcast hosts Eric Raskin and John Brennan analyzed the indictment of World Series of Poker bracelet winner Cory Zeidman, who is alleged to have operated a fraud scheme that saw him and co-conspirators collect $25 million from sports bettors under false pretenses over a 16-year period. In essence, Zeidman is accused of acting as a tout claiming to have inside information on games, preying on the vulnerable and the, well, gullible.
Brennan offered what some might see as a contrarian take: “If this story was about bilking teenagers or those with cognitive disabilities or early stages of dementia, I’d be 1000 percent outraged and I’d say throw away the key. To be honest, this sounds like a bunch of greedy [customers] happy to take advantage of alleged match fixing to feather their own nests. … If it wasn’t Zeidman, someone else would have fleeced these sheep.”
Raskin has history with Zeidman, having edited poker columns written by the seven-card stud specialist for the now-defunct All In magazine. The Gamble On host wondered aloud on the podcast whether the baby gift Zeidman and his wife sent him 15 years ago was bought with “ill-gotten gains.” (Raskin hopes sharing this information doesn’t qualify him as another co-conspirator.)
The podcasters explored the related topic of whether touts and handicappers should be regulated, like sportsbooks are. “Regulation would flip the touting business on its head,” Raskin said, “if you had to basically show receipts for all your picks, all your wins and losses, and reveal the methodology.”
- In recent days, both the apparel company Fanatics and the fantasy sports operator Underdog have made clear their intention to open mobile sportsbooks. BetFanatics, in particular, is aiming to be a major player, and Raskin noted he’s already fascinated by the operator’s potential: “They didn’t get [licensed in] New York, despite trying, and one wonders if that will limit the ceiling of BetFanatics — or if that will prove a good thing for their bottom line, since the margins in New York are so thin due to the tax rate.”
- Minnesota flirted with passing sports betting legislation during the state’s most recent session, but the various stakeholders couldn’t get on the same page and the effort will have to wait until 2023. “If school kids want to get a hands-on lesson in inertia,” Brennan observed, “just bus them over to the statehouse. You’ll see it in all its glory, kids. ‘Over there, do you see those two well-dressed men talking intently? One of them is a lobbyist for the horsemen. The other is a key leader in the state Senate. Hey, they both look happy! I wonder why.’”
- Does anyone know what “I’d bet dollars to doughnuts” means or where the phrase comes from? Brennan busted it out mid-pod, then paused to admit the saying was something of a mystery to him.
- Closing thoughts: Brennan wrapped up the podcast with the rarely heard “good beat” story. Yes, that’s right, good beats happen too — like, hypothetically, if you meant to back Jordan Spieth in the PGA Championship, and you accidentally clicked on Justin Thomas instead.