PointsBet launched in Australia in early 2017 with one eye toward the U.S. market. As such, the company focused a significant portion of its offerings on popular U.S. sports like NFL and NBA allowing them to both gain differentiation in a thriving and developed Australian sports betting market while establishing a strong proof of concept for potential U.S. partnerships down the line. In doing so, the company managed to establish relationships with key people in the U.S. gaming sector, one being Jeff Gural, who runs the Meadowlands racecourse in New Jersey and the company won a competitive process to become a digital sportsbook provider via their license.
About Johnny Aitken
Johnny Aitken has over 15 years’ experience in the wagering industry and understands extensively operating within a highly regulated environment. Aitken joined Tom Waterhouse in 2010, Australia’s biggest on-course bookmaker and led its VIP business arm, and managed the trading P&L. After the completion of the tomwaterhouse.com sale to William Hill, Johnny was appointed head of risk before rising to trading director in mid-2015. As a member of the William Hill executive team, he managed the analytics, publishing and customer service departments with over 120 staff located in three operating locations. Aitken joined the PointsBet team as COO in early 2018, and post-PASPA was named CEO for the U.S.
Aitken recently took some time to answer questions from USBettingReport.com on the benefits of PointsBetting in the U.S. legalized sports betting market. What follows are his responses.
Can you describe the new signature format — PointsBetting option?
AITKEN: PointsBetting is a high-risk, high-reward type of betting whereby the more bettors are correct or incorrect in their predictions, the higher the winnings or losses. What’s great about PointsBetting is it flips the typical sports betting dynamic. Say you have a bet on the Warriors -7 and they’re up by 20 at halftime. Your interest in the second half is naturally going to wane, as your ticket is already essentially cashed. With PointsBetting, you’re not only closely watching the second half but you’re going crazy over each basket the Warriors score to extend their lead. If they go on to win by 35 points, they will have “beaten the spread” by a full 28 points, meaning you would win 28x your original bet.
What benefits does the platform have for users? How about for operators?
AITKEN: We own our own proprietary technology. We control our tech ecosystem and this will allow us to innovate with speed and precision. When users sign up for PointsBet they are getting a first-class, top-of-market experience from the word go. That includes a proactive customer-service team dedicated to facilitating the smoothest possible onboarding experience; a sleek, intuitive and user-friendly app; unmatched sign-up bonuses, daily promotions and “always-on” promos like early payouts; more markets and betting options than can be found anywhere else; and integrated content that includes The Darrelle Revis Betting Academy, in-app betting previews, and daily video and blog content.
How is PointsBet’s product unique compared to others currently available in the U.S.?
AITKEN: Well as I touched on, we are the only operator to offer PointsBetting, so our signature product is already a huge point of differentiation in this developing and highly competitive U.S. sports betting market. Not to mention we offer more sports and more unique betting markets than any operator in the world. In other words if you like to bet on sports, I can guarantee we have something for you.
What are some of your current U.S. partnerships and what new ones do you hope to have in the upcoming year?
AITKEN: In addition to our skin deal with the Meadowlands, we have an agreement with Tioga Downs in upstate New York that will provide us with an entry point into the massive New York market, pending sports betting legislation that we’re hopeful will pass sometime in 2019. And we’re constantly in talks with operators in other states that either have already legalized or represent one of the many lining up to do so through their own legislative frameworks. We have our boots on the ground, breathing in the U.S. market and this along with our expertise in sports betting and technology, will make us an attractive proposition for potential partners in new markets.
Just days after the launch of PointsBet the company was making news for the New Orleans Saints game with the announcement of the company refunding spread and moneyline bets. Can you provide us with any insight on the “good karma payout” and how it can be beneficial in such incidents? Also, financially what were the end results in this payout?
AITKEN: Well first off, you didn’t have to be a Saints bettor to know that they got robbed in that game. While that was an extreme example — it’s seldom you’re going to see such an obvious and egregious officiating error swing the outcome of a game of that magnitude — it nonetheless provided us with an opportunity to officially debut “the Karma Kommittee,” an initiative we had been planning for some time. Essentially the Karma Kommittee represents an extension of our greater brand identity as “the bettor’s friend.” If you’ve ever wagered on sports for any extended period of time you’ve almost certainly suffered a bad beat at some point. There’s no worse feeling than losing a bet you know you legitimately should’ve won.
The Karma Kommittee exists to identify and isolate similar occurrences and try to do right by our customers by giving them something back. In the case of the Saints game, we issued refunds in the form of bonus bets to anyone who had backed the Saints on the moneyline or spread. Of course this was in addition to paying out all Rams bettors. Our stance is that the good will and “good karma” that we’ll foster through this kind of initiative will far outweigh any monetary setbacks.
What growth do you see for the company in 2019, not just in the U.S., but beyond?
AITKEN: While we certainly have bigger ambitions, right now our sole focus as an operator is to provide our new and existing clients with the best sports betting experience New Jersey has to offer. By meeting that goal the opportunities for growth and expansion will undoubtedly manifest organically as the greater sports betting landscape continues to evolve.