Sacramento Kings Prepare for Legalization of Sports Betting in California

The Sacramento Kings aren’t sure when California will legalize sports betting, but the NBA franchise is putting the preparation work in now so that it can hit the ground running when the state eventually does.

The Kings are further investing in their partnership with interactive fan engagement partner Xperiel, which has built the team’s free-to-play prediction game Call The Shot. As part of an expanded deal, the Kings have brought on gambling giant MGM Resorts International as a sponsor and will begin offering a more robust suite of prizes to winners.

(Courtesy of Xperiel)

Call The Shot enables fans to make free real-time predictions from the Kings’ mobile app, including anything from shooting percentage and which teams will have the highest rebounds to top scoring players and teams.

Since the game launched in 2016, fans participating and interacting with it have been able to make their way onto a leaderboard and earn digital points that can be exchanged for team merchandise. Now, they’ll also be able to access MGM rewards, such as a weekend stay at one of its resort properties, and other gifts offered via Amazon GameOn, an API that allows developers to build competitions into their apps and have prizes sent directly to winners’ homes via the Amazon ecosystem.

One goal of this effort is to get fans more engaged by incentivizing them to interact with the game and app. Another major intention is to educate fans about sports betting so they can be prepared for new levels of in-game engagement once California legalizes sports gambling.

“We know where this is going and we want to be prepared,” said Sacramento Kings CTO Ryan Montoya. “Our fans, we want to provide them with the best experiences possible, and this is, for us, a way for them to learn and for us to be prepared when it does become legal in California. We’ve got training wheels on and when it does become legal, not only will we be ready but are fans will be ready.”

(Courtesy of Xperiel)

Under the leadership of Kings owner and chairman Vivek Ranadivé, the franchise and its executive team have been encouraged to experiment with new technologies. One area Ranadivé has been particularly interested in is how legalized sports betting might impact the team and fan experience. He had the vision as early as 2016 that any predictive gaming experience the Kings adopted should have a Vegas-like gaming feel without actual wagering.

“We are committed to exploring new ways that technology can be used to engage with fans as they consume and interact with the game,” Ranadivé said in a press release. “The future is experiential and we are proud to lead the way in continuing to redefine the fan experience with this innovative and interactive platform.”

Since launching Call The Shot in 2016, the Kings have learned what works and what doesn’t. They’ve been working closely with MGM in an unofficial capacity for the past two years to learn more about how gambling works and have been able to internally iterate in response to feedback obtained through fan interaction with the app.

The next stage of pre-gambling preparation will involve more of the same as they gather data about the way fans are using and reacting to the free-to-play game.

“Vivek is always asking us to ask the tough questions,” Montoya said. “We know that betting is going to bring a lot of disruption. So we want to be able to disrupt ourselves, and we want to be able to bring this into the daylight to really understand it, introduce our fans to it and learn along the way.”

The Kings aren’t the only pro teams working with Xperiel. The company is also building similar enhancements into the New York Jets’  in-app prediction game, I Called It. As part of that deal, announced in October, MGM signed a multiyear deal with the Jets to become the franchise’s official gaming partner. Notably, though, sports betting is currently legal in New Jersey, where the Jets play.

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All of this is meant to prepare traditional sports teams and leagues for the next generation of sports fan, a generation that grew up with gaming consoles and smartphones in its hands, according to Xperiel CEO Alex Hertel.

“All of this is highly relevant to the next generation of fans,” he said. “Gen Z and Millenials, they demand more than a passive experience, they want to be engaged. Everything we’re doing with the Kings is about engaging the next generation of fans using the technology they gravitate towards.”

What these MGM-sponsored prediction games allow is for teams such as the Kings to figure out what works in the gaming sphere so they can develop the best product to leverage sports betting when it eventually does become legal in California.

“What we don’t want to do is wait until that day to figure out what kind of product to build. So part of what we’re doing here is gathering data: learning what fans love the most so when day comes we’re learning what to build and emphasize and what not to build and emphasize,” Hertel said. “The other big part is teaching. In a family-friendly free-to-play way, we’re teaching fans about how fun it is to create this extra layer of engagement with the sport.”

Read more: sporttechie.com

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