It’s a Saturday afternoon and you’re watching the Redwoods against the Chrome on TV. You open up the fantasy sports app on your phone and go to the prop bet section. You see that you can bet on whether Ryder Garnsey will score three goals in the fourth quarter. On TV you see Garnsey’s vital signs and Brendan Burke mentions that he is performing at 85 percent his normal capacity entering the third quarter with average hydration levels. The NBC is sharing this data through the wearable on the wrist of Garnsey and the rest of the PLL players on the field. Based on the data the broadcast is providing you, you place a $10 bet that Garnsey will score those three goals…
This may seem like a rather abstract sports betting scenario, but based on Paul Rabil and Mike Rabil’s comments on the PLL’s future in gambling, this is an incredibly real scenario—and it could occur sooner than you think.
The Rabils discussed the league’s plans for 2020 in great detail during their interview with Front Office Sports CEO Adam White on the “Office Hours” podcast, with one of the big topics discussed being fantasy sports and sports betting. Paul Rabil even went so far as to stating that the PLL will introduce a fantasy game in some capacity during the 2020 season.
“Gambling drives viewership. Gambling cannot only drive revenue now with the partnerships that are being cut but if we want to see increased viewership, stickiness among millennials and upwards, you gamify it. There’s a lot of nuance in executing, but we’re well ahead of it right now and we’re hoping to roll out a game in 2020.”
-Paul Rabil on the PLL’s approach to sports gambling
For the Rabils, fantasy sports and gambling aren’t just a revenue generator, it’s also a key part of their plan to attract new fans to the league and the sport of lacrosse as a whole.
“We’re always talking about how do we get net new sports fans to lacrosse. How do I get that hardcore fan of football in Oklahoma to be a fan of the PLL and one of the teams,” PLL CEO Mike Rabil said. “So I think about that in-game opportunity as a way to say hey ‘I don’t know much about lacrosse, but I have the ability to bet in this game when the Redwoods are playing the Chrome and I’m going to bet on these things just because it’s fun and I like that aspect of it.’ Then they’re engaging with the sport more and then they become a fan of lacrosse and our league and our teams.”
“If you look at the benefit of sports gambling across sports leagues, particularly the NFL, it can account for up to 50 percent of viewership,” Paul Rabil added. “Take Thursday, Sunday and Monday night football for example. Those are the most-viewed football games on a weekly basis and most of the time those who are watching aren’t fans of the teams… they’re just watching football because their fantasy results are tied to it or they’re gambling on it.”
Yet, the Rabils are not satisfied with simply getting into the sports gambling space; they plan to engage with sports gamblers in ways that have never been attempted by other leagues before.
“We’re working closely with a group called Boom Fantasy to try and figure that out and NBC has been doing some stuff with them across their other properties. What are the things as the PLL, we can provide Boom Fantasy or a Fan Duel or a Draft Kings that they’re not getting with other sports leagues,” Mike Rabil said. “We have some interesting things that we’re working on that they can’t get with the NFL or NBA.”
The PLL has already experimented with prop betting this past summer by including bonus questions based on prop bet scenarios in their PLL Bracket Challenge — though it was free to play and no money was on the line.
“If you look at prop betting which is exciting for us and the ways we can actually interact with our viewers,” Paul Rabil added. “Because we’re a single entity and more agile then the legacy leagues, an example would be structuring with a wearable technology company, where we can get wearables on our players, integrate with NBC, deliver real-time feedback on player performance whether it’s hydration levels, heart rate, muscle expenditure throughout a game and that assists and encourages people to take what they’re seeing as a live viewer to the prop bet what they think is going to happen.”
When we will see these innovations that Paul Rabil discussed is yet to be determined, but the discussion alone is exciting and professional lacrosse’s presence in the sports gambling space is yet another way that the sport of lacrosse can attract a larger, mainstream audience.
To hear Paul and Mike Rabil’s full interview check out the first episode of Office Hours. If the article has you eager to play fantasy lacrosse, be sure to sign up and enter Pro Lacrosse Talk’s free NLL Fantasy Lacrosse Pick ‘Em Challenge for a chance to win weekly prizes.