BOSA-Digital: in conversation with MGM Resorts CEO Bill Hornbuckle

Bill Hornbuckle CEO of MGM Resorts opened proceedings on day two of SBC’s Betting on Sports America – Digital event on Wednesday this week. Speaking with ESPN staff writer David Purdum, he covered significant industry ground tackling issues such as the leagues’ relationship with stakeholders and the prospects for in-play betting.

Addressing the post-PASPA turnaround in attitude of the leagues towards sports betting, Hornbuckle expressed the view that while they have significant involvement through partnerships with stakeholders, they are unlikely to seek a direct stake in the business.

“I don’t believe it would be good for the sport or the industry because obviously it’s still a competition and you do not ever want to intertwine those two,” he said. “I would be hard pressed to believe they would want to cross over that line. I just think it gets a bit difficult for the commissioners and for the teams to then regulate what does and doesn’t happen.”

Purdum turned the questioning to mobile sports betting, specifically seeking Hornbuckle’s view on how he sees it working in conjunction with the terrestrial business and how it might encourage bettors to visit brick and mortar sportsbooks.

He responded: “This is the age-old argument of what do you think about native American casinos. What do you think about riverboats? And I think it’s all great. I think it’s proven itself – it’s lifted the bar. I think particularly when Las Vegas was booming, a healthy new competitor next door that drove visitation to the market place was and is a good thing. I feel the same about this (mobile).

Tennessee is the example. You could go from Tunica to Mississippi but there’s generally no place to go in Tennessee and so the idea that I could talk to you 365, make you hopefully understand our brand and our products via the device you have in your hand and put some loyalty opportunity for you to come and motivate that trip, I feel really good about. I have no concern.

“In this very sportsbook people will sit in their chair and never have to go to the counter because of their mobile device. Right now with COVID that’s extremely helpful. It keeps people safe, it’s efficient, there’s no long line – they can do a lot real quick. So we’re excited by the mobile environment.”

When asked about the current trend for convergence between media and operating companies, Hornbuckle answered: “For the media companies it’s being able to participate in the space without having to do it – if you will – basically as a large scale affiliate for lack of a better definition. So there’s pure economics, there’s exposure, there’s engagement most notably.

“That’s what they want – they want eyeballs, they want engagement. They want to keep you on your device longer.

“For us it’s a way into Yahoo! Fantasy Sports. They’ve got 60 million viewers – they’ve got about five million daily fantasy participants. Getting access to them – because they obviously enjoy sports, they’re passionate about it – getting them to switch over to live gaming is a pretty easy link. And so that’s how we benefit and ultimately how they benefit but for them it’s all about engagement. It’s about growing their database and giving people more content and more reasons to come back and to stay longer while they’re there.”

As for in-play betting, Hornbuckle offered up an uncomplicated view. “I think anything that stops – it’s easy,” he advised. “Like baseball’s easy. Golf is easier. The flow of football may be a bit more challenging, the flow of basketball may be even more challenging. Soccer’s a flowing game that doesn’t stop a whole lot but they push the bets out far enough so it’s just about how you propose it – how you serve it up and what the latency concern is around it.”

Now into its second and final day, there’s still time to access BOSA-Digital, with a line-up of expert speakers comprising operators’ senior executives, regulators, affiliates, suppliers, teams, leagues, and advisors.

The event also features an interactive product display area where operators can learn about the next generation of products and solutions from international suppliers, talk to suppliers’ expert teams, and experience the products directly through demos.

There are further opportunities for delegates to connect and build their network in the burgeoning US betting industry in the virtual networking lounge, the meeting rooms in the virtual networking bar, and at the program of themed networking roundtables.

Betting on Sports America – Digital is free to attend. To join the US and international delegates set to participate in the event, click here to register for free.

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