On Oct. 11 the Ultimate Fighting Championship announced that it would be launching an official live-sports betting product called UFC Event Centre in Q1 of 2020. Developed by another Endeavor-owned subsidiary, IMG Arena, UFC Event Centre will incorporate the official data feed of the UFC as well as fighter bios, photos and logos from the organization to create an information suite for potential bettors. Through various licensed partnerships, UFC Event Centre and the official data feed will be made available to sportsbooks and gaming operators globally, including IMG Arena’s current portfolio of more than 300 operators. The product will feature real-time data points, immediate bet settlement and more than 50 wager opportunities per bout, including 20 that focus specifically on live in-fight betting.
“The UFC Event Centre and its official data feed will be a game-changer for how UFC fans engage with our events through sportsbooks and gaming operators,” UFC President Dana White said, “We have the most passionate, die-hard fans of any sport, and they’re going to love the option to place bets live during a fight. Betting operators are also going to love this product because, unlike other sports, UFC has no offseason. The action will be non-stop for fans and sportsbook operators.”
Although it’s difficult to get an exact idea of the market for sports gambling, due to various regulations and data accessibility across different countries, international sports betting is estimated to have a market value of around $250 billion. The Asia-Pacific (APAC) region accounts for the largest segment of this market with an estimated 47 percent of the world’s total sports bets coming from the area. Given the region’s forecasted Compounded Annual Growth Rate (CAGR) of 12.9 percent between 2018-2024, APAC will continue to play a major role in sports betting moving forward.
The United States is seen as the fastest-growing market segment, largely due to the U.S. Supreme Court striking down the Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act (PASPA) last year. PASPA essentially limited land-based sports betting to Nevada and New Jersey, and since its demise several states have opted to follow in the footsteps of Sin City in a bid to increase their revenue through gambling taxation. States that introduced legal sports betting in 2018 have seen monthly revenue that ranges from $400,000 all the way up to $32 million, depending on how the taxes are calculated in a particular state. Another 17 states are on track to implement similar legislation within the next 12 months, making it legal to place a wager on sports in almost half of the United States.
Given the booming sports gambling market, it only makes sense that the UFC get a piece of the action. According to executive vice president and managing director of IMG Arena Freddie Longe, the average UFC fan is in a sportsbook’s sweet spot demographic, men aged 21 to 44. Unlike other major league sports, the UFC also has no off-season, allowing for revenue from wagers placed during one of the promotion’s 42 events year-round. The UFC estimates that around one-third of their fanbase regularly visits gambling websites, and company COO Lawrence Epstein believes that UFC Event Centre will not only help drive customer engagement, but also attract new fans.
“It’s fun to go to a Vegas sportsbook at 11 o’clock at night and watch everybody go crazy over the University of Hawaii game, which no one would care about but for the fact that it’s the only college-football game left,” Epstein said. “We’re for anything that increases fan engagement.”
By creating the gambling suite product in-house and licensing it out to other sportsbooks and gaming operators, the UFC also gains another source of guaranteed revenue. Ever since the promotion announced its distribution deal with ESPN back in March, the UFC has been focused on growing revenue streams with few variables, shifting away from the heavy star-power driven business model that gave rise to the organization. With its parent company Endeavor currently dealing with a failed IPO and thoughts of its own public offering in the future, the more stable revenue the UFC can generate, the better.
How much revenue the UFC Event Centre can generate is hard to predict at the moment. According to IMG Arena, only 8 percent of bets placed on a UFC fight are done after the bout has actually started, and a big push of the new product is to exploit this fast-growing niche of in-game sports betting. If the UFC can leverage its existing betting fan base and gain new viewers through the gambling suite, then the sky is the limit on the amount of money the new revenue stream could produce. While we’ll have to wait and see just how successful UFC Event Centre is, there are still plenty of prop bets to be made in the meantime -- like whether or not Nick Diaz actually makes it back to the octagon.