A recent survey out from the American Gaming Association found that more than 20 million Americans planned to bet on the summer Olympics. And as more states legalize sports betting in the U.S., Americans may find more creative ways to gamble, according to Versus Game CEO John Vitti.
Looking to the future, he said, the sports betting industry may become more user-directed.
"I think the next big wave is basically self-driving content, where people are going to create their own questions, their own predictions, and let other people play," Vitti told Yahoo Finance Live in an interview on Friday. "I think that the holy grail is user-generated content ... That's kind of what Versus Game is doing. We're letting people, the masses, not only play but pick what they want to play, and create those games, and share it with their friends."
Versus Game is a consumer prediction service that provides a platform for speculation on sports contests. Founded in 2019, the company recently launched its own gaming economy that gives users more control in setting up their own sports prediction matchups. On the website, which is accompanied by an app, users are rewarded through payments for correct predictions.
The rise of sports betting in the U.S.
Though sports betting may be on the rise globally, it has been highly regulated in the U.S. But in 2018 the Supreme Court struck down a law that prohibited sports betting in most of the U.S., paving the way for states to begin legalizing the practice. Today, betting on sports events is legal in over 20 states.
This makes the Tokyo Summer Olympic games the first where millions across the U.S. are allowed to place bets. Speaking to Yahoo Finance last week, Vitti pointed out that the Olympics has generated a great deal of enthusiasm among bettors. The restriction of sports in general during the early stages of the pandemic may have contributed to the recent fervor surrounding sports betting, he said.
“And then as far as the Olympics and just sports are concerned, during COVID, during quarantine, there were none,” he said. “People were bummed out [that] they couldn't watch their favorite teams. They couldn't rally. That sense of community wasn't really there, and now it's just out of the gates.”
The Tokyo Olympics, postponed from last year after the coronavirus pandemic disrupted international travel, announced the decision to not allow spectators at events earlier this month. The lack of in-person spectatorship came with financial repercussions to the Olympic economy and a loss of tourism for Japan.
Still, sports betting can be a way for fans of the games to become more engaged participants even when they can't attend the games in person. “Everybody wants [to turn] from a passive watcher to an active participant," Vitti said, "and they can't really get on the field with some of these athletes.”
Ihsaan Fanusie is a writer at Yahoo Finance. Follow him on Twitter @IFanusie.