The newly debuted Alliance of American Football is off to a modest start in terms of crowd sizes, but the new venture’s business model is about a lot more than filling stadium seats, USA Today reports. While the league does intend to draw crowds across its eight-team venues and has brokered network deals for airing games on CBS, investors expect that the lion’s share of their revenue will be coming from somewhere else: gambling.
Except the AAF isn’t just looking at traditional sports betting. Rather they aim to transform the technology and nature of betting on football, including providing real-time game data that could be used to allow gamblers to place bets on very short-term outcomes, like whether the next play will be a run or a pass or if a first-down attempt will be successful.
“It’s not fully functional, but it’s almost there,” said Scott Butera, who represents interactive gaming at MGM, who has licensed AAF’s betting technology. “What it will do, which is very important to us from a sports betting standpoint, is it will allow almost immediate transmission of data and what’s going on in an event to your mobile device, which will allow us to have play-by-play gambling, which is non-existent today.”
The AAF sees a future in "in-game" sports gambling technology, which would allow people to place bets on the game's next play using an app on their phone https://t.co/IvAp9zHZfs
— USA TODAY (@USATODAY) February 16, 2019
The goal, according to MGM and AAF, is to transmit the game and the underlying data in as close to real time as possible, with officials from the companies pointing out that their live stream was showing the game on mobile devices more quickly than the network broadcast on CBS. Such timing is critical for the premise of placing play-by-play bets within the game, as even a small amount of lag between game action and broadcast could allow betters to game the system.
Also critical to the concept is the ability to set odds for a variety of in-game scenarios in a very short period of time. AAF players are using wearable technology to gather data that will help automate that process and provide near-instantaneous betting odds for the next play, based on the action on the field.
So far, the league seems off to a promising start, even as they face the unparalleled competition of the NFL and smaller players like Vince McMahon’s XFL, which is mounting its own resurgence of late.
“The viewership was better than expected,” Butera said. “The attendance was better than expected, and the betting volumes were better than expected. There was a lot of in-game betting, too, which means the next generation is really following it.”