Focus on IGT PlaySports: Legal sports betting fuels fan engagement, IGT exec says

February 3, 2023 8:00 AM
  • Mark Gruetze, CDC Gaming Reports
February 3, 2023 8:00 AM
  • Mark Gruetze, CDC Gaming Reports

The explosive growth of legal sportsbooks is less surprising than how quickly sports leagues have grown to value what they once fought, Joe Asher says.

“The embrace of sports betting by the leagues has probably been much more than I originally anticipated,” said Asher, president of sports betting for IGT and previously CEO of William Hill US. While acknowledging that leagues get “nice money” from sportsbook sponsorships and the sale of data, he said a major factor is that sports betting clearly intensifies fan engagement.

“You have a lot more interest in watching a game if you have placed a bet on it,” Asher said. He said leagues are considering additional ways to capitalize on sports betting’s popularity in hopes of further increasing fan engagement.

That’s a big turnaround. The NCAA, National Football League, National Basketball Association, National Hockey League and the commissioner’s office of Major League Baseball filed a lawsuit to keep New Jersey from legalizing sports betting in 2014. The case led to the 2018 U.S. Supreme Court decision allowing states outside Nevada and Delaware to legalize and regulate sports betting. Now, 33 states and the District of Columbia offer regulated sports betting, the American Gaming Association says. Three other states have legalized it but not begun taking bets.

Regulated sports betting in commercial sportsbooks, including hybrid tribal operations in Michigan and Arizona, generated $7.2 billion in gross revenue in 2022 and a win rate of 8.05 percent, according to, which tracks the U.S. sports betting industry. Legal sports betting produced $1.4 billion in state taxes last year, the site reports.

Asher believes revenue will increase as more states launch or expand sports betting. New York recently added mobile sports betting, and Ohio books began taking bets Jan. 1. Massachusetts started in-person betting on Jan. 31, with mobile betting expected in March.

“Early reports out of Ohio are that business is really flying,” Asher said. “I don’t think there’s any doubt that betting will continue to grow.”

IGT contributes to that growth, with its PlaySports platform and sports-betting kiosks used at more than 80 North American venues. The company’s latest hardware addition is the PeakBarTop With Sports Betting, a video poker/slot cabinet that allows players to place sports bets as well as play casino games.  It combines the functions of a sports-betting kiosk with IGT’s Game King suite of video poker, electronic keno, and slot games. Players can choose from more than 30 types of games. They access the sports-betting option through an on-screen banner that opens a window listing events to bet on. The player chooses an event and sees a wide variety of betting options, including in-game, futures, and prop bets. Then the player selects the type and amount of their bets.

IGT plans to install the PeakBarTop With Sports Betting in new markets throughout 2023. Regulators in Wisconsin and Mississippi already have approved it, and the company expects other states to do so later this year. A spokesperson predicted the cabinets will generate “strong usage and play during both daily and major sporting events.”