A new app is looking to merge real-money sports betting with Uber-style user rankings, all while trying to avoid earning the ire of US law enforcement.
Bait, a new app created by Chicago resident Ian Peacock, attempts to satisfy Americans’ desire to bet on sports while not resulting in jail time for either bettors or its creator. The app, which is currently in beta release, hopes to make its official debut before the start of the upcoming 2016 NFL season.
Bait works by accessing a user’s phone contact list. Bettors can set up head-to-head wagers – straight up, over/under, against the spread – with friends and family using Las Vegas betting lines. The app will initially offer wagers on college and pro football, basketball and hockey, while golf will likely be added in a few months.
Once the outcome of the wager is known, Bait automatically notifies each sides of the bet. The losing bettor is then asked to click the app’s ‘pay’ button, which takes he/she to the winner’s account on Venmo, the mobile payment subsidiary of PayPal.
And here’s where things get interesting, because Bait can’t compel a losing bettor to actually honor his or her wager. Instead, Bait relies on a combination of the honor system and public shaming, the latter portion derived from a Uber-style user rating that elevates people who pay up while downgrading welchers.
Peacock told ChicagoInno.com that the fact that users “never actually risk your money” makes the app “fun and safe” for bettors who might feel uneasy about wagering with international licensed online sportsbooks. Peacock is betting that the same lack of risk means his bedroom door won’t be knocked down by AR15-wielding federal agents in the middle of the night.
Unlike traditional bookies, who take a cut of winning wagers – and attract the attention of law enforcement outside Nevada’s borders – Peacock plans to turn a profit from advertising revenue. This means Bait has to attract a critical mass of users if the site is to turn a profit.
The concept of social sports betting isn’t new but most apps restrict users to wagering with virtual credits rather than real cash. It remains to be seen how many times a winning bettor gets stiffed before they give up on the platform.