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The Nascar exec in charge of sports betting explains his plan to use data to boost gambling and entice younger viewers

25th November, 21:01

Nascar is leveraging the data it collects from its cars, and looking to sports like horse racing, to develop more kinds of bets.

Nascar is looking to sports betting to attract younger audiences to auto racing.

Like other US sports organizations, the auto-racing governing body is paying more attention to sports betting now that US states are legalizing it, following the overturning of a federal ban against sports gambling in May 2018.

Nascar thinks gambling -- and in-race wagering, in particular -- could make auto racing more "digestible" for millennials, who may not want to devote two to four hours watching a race, Scott Warfield, managing director of gaming at Nascar, told Business Insider.

"If you look at how these 20- to 32-year-olds are consuming anything, let alone sports, the days of four-and-a-half-hour baseball games or five-hour golf rounds, they're few and far in between," Warfield, who was recently named to Business Insider's first sports-betting power players list, said. "Can you gamify your events in a way that doesn't alienate your core fan but provides an entry point to these kind of younger and more fickle fans that want to come in and sample it? I think sports betting is one of those tools for us."

The typical Nascar viewer today is in their 50s, the company said.

Nascar's TV viewership has been falling since 2015, alongside the decline in overall TV viewership. Nascar, which is attempting a turnaround, seemed to stem some of the viewership losses this year after making a few changes, including altering its race schedule. The association, which is privately owned, declined to share with Business Insider recent attendance figures but said admissions were also stabilizing.

Sports betting is part of that turnaround strategy.

Nascar, historically, hasn't been a big draw for gamblers. Betting on auto racing pales in comparison to the handles for sports like football and basketball in legal US markets.

That's partly because there hasn't been much innovation around the types of bets that people can place on Nascar races. Gamblers mostly bet on who will win the race or series championship.

"Super static, not engaging," Warfield said of those bets. "But we have 400 laps, at times, 500 laps. Those are all discrete betting opportunities."

Gamblers could bet on who will win each lap of a race, or run the next fastest lap, for example. They could bet on individual drivers, or odd and even cars.

To create these new bet types, Nascar is repackaging, for sportsbooks, the data it has been collecting from its cars since 2001 and licensing to media and other partners.

"It's about packaging [the data] for the sportsbooks in a way that is compelling for not only the avid fan, but the casual fan," Warfield said, "who wants to come in and say, 'I have no idea who's going to win this race, but I feel much better about putting $10 down on this driver versus that driver, or an odd number car to win the race, or an even number car to win stage one."

Nascar inked a deal in May with sports data and tech company Genius Sports that laid the groundwork for gamblers to eventually be able to bet on any lap, or event, in a race.

As part of the deal, Genius Bet became the sole provider of official Nascar data to sportsbooks. And Genius Bet planned to the use that data to create a real-time gaming platform with live odds that could allow for different types wagers, including prop bets on events in a race, NBC Sports reported.

This year, the companies introduced the option to bet on the winners of each stage in a race, Warfield said.

Nascar has also been looking to other sports, like horse racing, for bet types, such as trifectas, or bets on the order of the first three winners of the race.

"We're trying to create a new viewing experience and a new betting experience," Warfield said. "It's just going to take some creativity and a little bit of a leap of faith to try some new things."

Warfield is betting on in-race wagering because it offers small payoffs throughout the race that could attract more bettors and keep casual fans watching longer.

The longer people watch, the more valuable media rights could become, as Business Insider previously reported.

"Our main goal is engagement," Warfield said. "If we can get the fans to watch another 15, 30, 45 minutes, that is success for us."

Warfield is hopeful that sports betting will start to impact Nascar's viewership starting in 2020.

Of the top 10 local markets for Nascar viewership as measured by Nielsen, six are in states where sports betting is legal, or projected to be legal by 2020. Two, including regions of Virginia and Wisconsin, border states where sports gambling is legal.

Looking further out, Warfield will look to gambling to bring in revenue for Nascar, too.

Technology and strategy firm Activate Consulting estimated legal sports betting could generate $19 billion in revenue, from wagering, as well as advertising, sponsorships, and media and data rights, by 2023. Lots of companies, including gaming operators, media companies, and leagues, are vying for pieces of that potential revenue.

Leagues like the NBA and MLB have started licensing official logos and data to sportsbooks like FanDuel and William Hill for fees.

Warfield is interested in similar partnerships with a select few operators, where Nascar can have top billing at a sportsbook or in a betting app.

"Us getting a check and operators going away and having the use of our name is great, because there's money in the in the door," Warfield said. "But I want to find that, plus a handful of operators that are going to help us activate it and promote it ... That's probably why we've been a little bit quiet on the partnership front."