Joey Levy, the co-founder of micro-betting app Betr, doesn't believe the legal sports betting market that's taking shape in the U.S. is sustainable.
Levy believes today's bookmakers are tailoring their products for experienced bettors and not the mass-market consumer. He says the long-term success of the betting market hinges on providing entertainment value.
"This isn't going to work over time if we're just trying to extract as much money from people as possible when they're betting on sports," says Levy, who co-founded Betr with celebrity boxer and social media influencer Jake Paul.
Betr focuses on wagering on small in-game events like the result of the next pitch in baseball, a free-throw attempt in basketball or the next play or drive in football. The company has partnered with the Hall of Fame Village located around the Pro Football Hall of Fame in Canton, Ohio and is planning to launch Jan. 1, the targeted opening day of the state's betting market.
Levy made news last week at G2E, a prominent gaming conference in Las Vegas, by announcing that Betr would prohibit the use of credit cards for deposits and would impose deposit limits on customers ages 21-25.
He visited with ESPN recently to discuss his vision of the future of sports betting in the U.S. and how Betr will look to differentiate itself. The interview was conducted last week over the phone, and has been edited for clarity and brevity.
Q: What is your vision of the future of sports betting in the U.S.?
Levy: The sports betting operators today, with their money lines, point spreads and over/unders, are really only interpretable for people who have been betting on sports before. I don't think they're built for a mass-market consumer.
With Betr, we're taking a fundamentally different approach, where if we're indeed going to be the category-defining consumer business in the space, this needs to be about building a sustainable business and ensuring this industry is sustainable.
Q: What does that look like?
Levy: The ethos we really want to emulate here is this is all about entertainment value for the consumer, right? Sports betting needs to be all about how we enhance the way a mass-market, mainstream consumer in this country engages with sports. This needs to feel similarly to a consumer going to the movies and spends $20. They don't get anything in return for that $20, except for two hours of entertaining. That's how operators in the space should be approaching it.
Q: You recently announced that Betr will not allow deposits via credit cards and that deposit limits will be imposed on customers ages 21-25. Why was this important to you?
Levy: People talk about responsible gambling and how it's important to them, but I don't think anybody's actually taking any actions that reiterate it to their employees, regulators and, most importantly, to the consumers themselves that it's really important that you gamble within your means. This is all about entertainment value. The house always wins in the long run, right? The consumer should know that. We shouldn't be trying to extract as much money from the consumer as possible, because I think that's a really short-term way of viewing things.
We have no interest in enabling people to gamble with money that they don't have.
Q: How will you determine the deposit limitations on 21- to 25-year-olds?
Levy: We're evaluating how we're going to define what those deposit limits are. We have a really profound responsibility as leaders to ensure that we're rolling out gambling in the right way. You have a massive proliferation of gambling that's happening very rapidly in this country, and we're just not interested in potentially being a counterpart to putting young people in a bad spot, who four years didn't have gambling at their fingertips and now they do.
Q: Micro-betting, which Betr is centered on, has an element of instant gratification to it that's often associated with problem gambling. What are your plans to monitor your site for irresponsible betting habits and ultimately stop them?
Levy: We're going to have a lot infrastructure in place to detect problem gambling and shut it down before it can continue. We're surrounding ourselves with industry experts who've helped pioneer some of the modern problem gambling polices. We have a really robust problem gambling plan.
I think first and foremost that banning credit card deposits was an important step. I think it's just the most actionable step to make sure people are gambling within their means. I can't think of another way to ensure that people are not gambling with money that they don't have.
Q: What do you believe are appropriate betting limits for microbets? We don't want players to give a wink and nod to a guy in the stands and for him to place some bet on missing the next free throw. What can you do with betting limits to try to protect the integrity of these events?
Levy: I don't have an opinion on the specific dollar amounts at this time. Do I think people should be able to bet millions of dollars on individual outcomes of sporting events? Probably not.