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Smarkets: At the Head of the Class or Ahead of Its Time?

European-betting exchange leader Smarkets announced a first-time U.S. partnership with Las Vegas-based Full House Resorts in Indiana and Colorado for the launch of its recently patented SBK mobile sports betting app.

Full House Resorts owns and operates five casinos, including Rising Star in Indiana, Bronco Billy’s in Colorado, Silver Slipper in Mississippi, and the Stockman’s and Grand Lodge casinos in Nevada.

The Indiana legislature signed sports betting into law this May. Retail sportsbooks began to open September 1 and online sportsbooks are expected to go live before the end of the year. Operators in the Hoosier state can maintain up to three online skins.

The SBK app should be available for Android and Apple users in Indiana by late 2019.

Before Smarkets can get started in Colorado, however, residents of the Centennial state will have to approve legal sports betting in a voter referendum this November. If voters opt to pass HB 19-1327, online sports betting could be live by the spring of 2020.

Smarkets’ press release wound up with the optimistic statement that the partnership well-positions Smarkets “to accelerate growth through its internationalization plans across these two brands.”

What is a Betting Exchange and, More Importantly, What’s Wrong With It?

Betting exchanges have disrupted the betting industry (everywhere other than the U.S.) and are considered by some to be the preferred choice for educated bettors. The profit margins are higher than traditional sportsbooks.

Smarkets is good at what it does, where it’s already doing it. Its established betting exchange platform allegedly exceeds $15.6 billion in trading volume.

But rather than going into the details of how a betting exchange works, it will be much easier just to say it’s similar to the stock market, but, just like the stock market, you need a lot of people to participate and that is, in a nutshell, what’s wrong with it.

In the U.S., Smarkets is – quite literally – in a market all by itself.

At the federal level, the Department of Justice vigorously defends the 1961 Wire Act which prohibits the use of wired communication devices to transmit sports betting wagers and/or information that leads to a recipient receiving money or credit as the result of a bet.

As if that weren’t enough, at the state level, not one of the newly legalized sports betting states even touched on the subject of betting exchanges in nascent legislation.

The task of educating each state’s legislative and voting bodies, and lobbying everyone to back and approve additional laws to allow betting exchanges – between states, let along internationally – would be a Herculean or, quite possibly, a Sisyphean task.

SBK’s Social Network Aspect Might Be Fun Anyway

One of the innovations SBK brings to mobile sports betting apps is social media interaction. When a bettor makes a wager, they can tout their bet and even brag about their success rate with the entire SBK network, just their friends or they can keep their mouth shut and tell no one.

Since people are going to be allowed to tout on this particular social network, SBK feels it’s only fair that others can take a look at their profile to see their win-loss record.

Listing overall profits publicly might be too intrusive, but, even so, it will be fun to see whether someone’s win-loss record shows they have real insight or if they’re full of hot air.

Alex Stolyar, Full House Resorts’ SVP and chief development officer commented: “This is a very exciting time for sports betting in Indiana and Colorado, and we are delighted to partner with Smarkets. The SBK sportsbook platform that [CEO and founder] Jason [Trost] and his team have built brings many new innovations to the industry, including a unique social network to heighten the customer experience.”

Whether a serious betting exchange blossoms in the U.S. or not, the SBK app might still be fun.

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