Social sports betting bridges the gap between virtual and real-money wagers


favourit-sidebets-youbetme-fanhood-social-sports-bettingAt last week’s Global Gaming Expo (G2E), William Hill US CEO Joe Asher told attendees there was “no doubt in my mind sports betting will one day be legal and widespread throughout the United States.” Asher neglected to offer a timetable for when that magical day might arrive, in part so people “will never be able to say I was wrong.” However, Asher added the following Christmas wish: “I certainly hope it comes at a time when it’s relevant to me and you.”

The best possible chance for any expansion of US sports betting outside its existing Nevada confines lies with New Jersey’s court fight with the major sports leagues, but it’s anyone’s guess as to when the barrage of motions over standing and discovery will switch to an actual hearing on the merits of the suit. In the meantime, punters outside Nevada must make do with the various social sports betting options; the number of which is expanding on a seemingly hourly basis.

The latest social sports betting offering is from San Francisco-based Fanhood, which had already attracted 40k registered users during its public beta. Facebook users can interact via friendly wagers, pools, challenges, etc. while watching all major pro and college sports games. Fanhood CEO Brandon Ramsey told VentureBeat that his company tracks what teams you cite as favorites in your social network profile, then uses that info to match you with a social networker who backs rival teams. Fanhood sends notices to both players before their teams go head-to-head, inviting the antagonistic pair to make a bet on the outcome.

Blue Ox Entertainment has released version 2.01 of its SideBets Social BETworking app for iOS with the cheeky come-on: “Screw the Bookie, Bet Your Friends.” The app also wins prizes for honesty by touting its ability to “easily recruit your degenerate friends” into betting ‘wads’ of play money. Blue Ox co-founder Jon Goldstein told Forbes his offering – which uses lines generated by ‘leading bookmakers’ – was the only socially focused peer-to-peer sports betting app for the iOS and Android platforms. “Legally, we can’t be a broker of real money. However, a private bookie really is a perfect user. I am not going to do anything to condone wagering money based on picks made on the app, but let’s be honest, people are doing it.” Goldstein says SideBets converts about 10% of app downloaders into betting at least once a week, and 10% of these active users are deemed “heavy users” that make over 20 bets per week.

Social Bet Inc’s YouBetMe has its own .com platform on which users can wager on “anything and everything,” but the company is keen to horn in on SideBets’ turf, with both Android and iOS apps in development. Founder Jason Neubauer told Upstart Business Journal that “peer-to-beer betting is actually legal. But in no way, shape, or form are we doing anything other than letting people have fun.”

And then there’s Favourit, the Australian-based virtual sportsbook that also lets punters wager real money on sporting events – or propositions like whether or not certain Australian museums will close their doors if their sports betting owners don’t pay the taxman – via its partnership with Aussie betting outfit Sportsbet. Favourit CEO Toby Simmons says this arrangement allows users “to choose to back their instincts via both real and virtual currency betting options in a social context.” Favourit has both a standalone platform and a Facebook page, and has raised $2.5m in funding to realize its global ambitions. Currently focused on Australia, Asia and Europe, Favourit is always on the lookout for new bookmaking partners in different jurisdictions.