JefeBet Out to Serve Massive Latino Community’s Sports, Gambling, Entertainment Appetite

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They’re two Caucasian guys named Seth, one of them concedes, as if needed. But the more than 60 million Latinos living in the United States have come to define who they are as businessmen. Specifically, they contend, those Latino sports fans and gamblers who have been an afterthought to traditional media and gambling companies alike.

Seth Young speaks enough of the language to inform his employees and customers that he knows just enough Spanish to tell them such. Seth Schorr is admittedly a little behind his namesake.

But the co-founders of Fifth Street Gaming Digital‘s JefeBet, launched in March, aim to leverage their years of interactive gaming experience to cater to a diverse collective spanning the country. There’s sports and entertainment content at the media hub, gambling content, and, for customers in Latin America next year, an online casino. There could eventually be a sports betting affiliation in the United States. As for now, their soon-to-be-renamed JefeBet Casino is the only Spanish-focused property in Las Vegas.

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Gaming Today spoke with Schorr (left) and Young about cornering a large market, catering, not pandering, and how they know they’re doing it right on the first day of Hispanic Heritage Month.

The Underserved Market of Latino Gamblers

Gaming Today: Why is this something that you’ve decided to invest a lot of your time and effort into?

Seth Schorr: A little bit of background on myself I think it’s important to understand. I own and operate physical land-based casinos in Las Vegas. Two of them have been catering to the Latino population for over 15 years. So this is an audience that, myself and our company and our team, know very well, have been working with, working for, creating events for, for a decade and a half. What we’re doing today, what Seth and I are doing is leveraging that experience and expertise and bringing it digitally to the rest of the world, taking our learnings from working with the Latino community in Las Vegas and expanding that.

I don’t think it’s a matter of why we’re doing it. It’s something we’ve been doing a long time. It’s something we believe in, genuinely, authentically. Our company is built around a very strong Latino team. One of our casinos in Las Vegas, that’s being rebranded as JefeBet, is operated by a Latino who’s been operating for about 15 years. So we’re excited to take that online and out of the country.

Seth Young: Seth and I have known each other for over 10 years now, and we’ve stayed in touch, and previous to this role I was at PointsBet, and then Foxwood [Resort Casino in Connecticut], and always been more of an entrepreneur than a corporate guy. When I was first starting in DFS years ago, Seth was one of only a handful of people who was endemic to the space that was really interested in learning. I think we see opportunities. We really see the forest for the trees for what the gaming industry is.

And what we do know is that this market, or this demographic in the United States in particular, has been completely underserved — if not ignored — when it comes to gaming content, entertainment content. And the media experience is so fractured for those that identify as Latino and Hispanic. So when we first started conceiving this business, we’d been talking for a long time. And the more that I read about it, the more interesting it became.

Seth and his partner, Jeffrey Fine, who are the other co-founders in the business, two of the main co-founders that own Fifth Street Gaming, they’ve been serving the market for 15 years. I’m coming in on the digital side with a real passion for building business. I guess the way that I look at this is you have 64 million people that identify as Latino or Hispanic, and it is mainstream, but not really thought of as mainstream yet in the United States by most endemic stakeholders.

So looking at the opportunity to engage and create sustainable communication channels with an audience that doesn’t have anything is very, very compelling to me as gaming continues to proliferate online throughout the rest of the country and a great read-through for our expansion, both here domestically and internationally.

The whole impetus forward, we use the word authenticity a lot, but it really is important. You have to be authentic in the value that you’re putting out for the audience. Otherwise, you’re not going to engage with it. So that’s been a focus of ours on the content side with JefeBet.com. The media portal, where we’re putting out, hundreds of proprietary, written articles, monthly. We have a number of podcasts, and we continue to expand free-to-play daily fantasy sports. And we’re launching Lotteria, hopefully by Mexican Independence Day (Friday, September 16). And all these things are free because we want them to be accessible. We really want to build a community.

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New-Look Las Vegas Casino

Gaming Today: When does the Lucky Club become Ojos Locos Sports Cantina y Casino at Hotel Jefe?

Seth Schorr: Lucky Club closes September 16, Mexican Independence Day. We’re having our groundbreaking for the renovation. So we’re shutting down the casino. It’s about a four-month renovation, and it’ll be reopening on December 12.

Gaming Today: What will the changes entail?

Seth Schorr: It’s a very small hotel. So it’s only a 100-room hotel. It’s a mid-sized casino. The casino is about 25,000 square feet, being completely gutted, completely redone. We’re doing a few things that are interesting there. In addition to it being the first Latino casino, 100% Spanish, what’s very interesting about the casino is we’ve partnered with an outfit out of Dallas, Texas called Ojos Locos. Ojos Locos is the best Mexican sports bar in the country. There are about 30 of them. We’re putting that restaurant/sports bar right in the center of the casino and then putting machines around it with TVs around the entire perimeter, creating the first fully-integrated restaurant casino and sportsbook all in one box.

The book is generally like off to the side. This we’ve created one integrated experience, which I’m very excited about.

Gaming Today: Where could JefeBet casinos or betting platforms appear in the United States?

Seth Schorr: We are extending the JefeBet brand across physical brick-and-mortar and digital. The JefeBet Casino will be the first. We already launched the JefeBet Event Center at a different property and we’re already rolling out a gaming tavern that’ll have the JefeBet brand. The idea is to take this brand to other jurisdictions as well. We’re starting in Las Vegas, we’re starting within our own properties. But we even potentially see other operators leveraging our brand to cater to the Latino audience. So we’ll see. We’re starting with our properties first. But that is our plan.

‘Many Different Flavors’

Gaming Today: Is it difficult to show your audience you’re fully invested and not dabbling?

Seth Schorr: That’s totally right, and it’s why our content is all Spanish-first, really Spanish only. Internally, we’ve made very conscious decisions to make sure that our brand and our content is all-in. And I’ve seen that in Las Vegas, being the only casino that has gone all-in with this audience. I see other properties that maybe have a Sunday Latin night or September, which is Hispanic Appreciation Month, they’ll do an event around Mexican Independence Day, sort of stick their foot in the water. I mean, you’d have to have your head in the sand not to realize how big of an audience (this market is). But nobody has been completely committed, and that’s what we’ve done.

There’s a huge difference between catering and pandering, right? And so we aim to cater to not pander to, which is the focus on authenticity. So rather than consider this as a portion of our value proposition, where we aim to play is serving this audience.  So when it comes down to that, I think it’s a good read-through for everything that we want to introduce. We know who we are and where our expertise lays and what that means for our future and really the future of this audience and how they engage in, consume gaming and entertainment content. So everything that we put forward is meant to be personalized, localized, so to speak, for the community, and not just an afterthought.

It took years to cultivate the relationships with promoters in Mexico to find that talent. The Loteria game that we brought to Las Vegas about 10-plus years ago, it’s a Mexican bingo game. No one knew what that was. We just sort of discovered these things over many, many, many years.

Seth Young

Gaming Today: How different is the Latino community as a consumer group?

Seth Shorr: Completely different. We very much intentionally created our brand to speak to the widest segment of the Latino audience, knowing that the biggest segment is Mexican. Period. And that is the audience that we cater to mostly in Las Vegas. So that is a very important segment, but in many of our businesses, we’re just segmenting within the Hispanic community. But that’s something that certainly we’re very aware of.

Seth Young: Introducing something in Spanish, if you just translate an application, you can’t just say, if you speak Spanish, you are Latino. There’s Latino, there’s Hispanic, and there’s many different flavors, just like there are any other cultural heritage. And so for us, if you look more west it’s very heavily Mexican. If you look down to Florida … Cuban, Dominican, Puerto Rican, a lot more Caribbean in New York. It’s different in DC. It’s different in Chicago. So we think we do a good job in localizing our content, our copy, to speak to different audiences in different places when we put it out. Whether it’s our social channels or our site, or our podcasts, they’re meant to engage different segments of the entire demographic.

Corona y Fútbol

Gaming Today: What tastes and habits make Latino gambling customers unique from non-Latinos?

Latino-sports-bettingSeth Schorr: From a land-based perspective, it’s not going to surprise you. Mexican beers are very popular. There was one year I did a Corona special, and our mid-size casino sold more Coronas than any Strip property. We got some really good deals, 73 cents a bottle.

The entertainment is probably the thing that we had to learn the most about. And while we have leaned heavily into northern Mexican music, banda or Norteno music, we actually do a lot of Columbian cumbia concerts as well. Sports, it’s not going to surprise you: soccer. Liga MX is by far the most popular with the Latino community in Las Vegas.

Seth Young: Here’s another thing that won’t surprise you: when it comes down to it, we’re all humans and we all have the same basic interests. So there’s not much of a difference in our interests in gambling or consuming entertainment. It’s just a matter of what we grew up with in many ways.

My father was born in the Bronx and I grew up a Yankees fan. So I love baseball. I didn’t really grow up with basketball. But if you look at the American Caucasian demographic, a lot of basketball fans, right? For the Hispanic and Latino audience, it’s a lot of soccer. It’s a lot of boxing, MMA, football, basketball, baseball, not necessarily in that order.

Seth Schorr: And even with the food, Mexican food is very popular. But you have to do it very authentically. We learned to make great Menudo and tongue and things that you’re going to find in Mexico. And we have to do it well.

Gaming Today: How’s your Spanish?

Seth Young: My Spanish is good enough, but I sound like an American when I speak it. I don’t have an accent, so I can get along with the team we have. We have just around 35-36 people on the team now between all of our functions, and I’d say 30 of them speak Spanish first. So, it’s important for us to obviously be able to communicate. We have great managers on each team and everybody speaks English in varying levels. So we get along quite well. We’ve got great process.

One thing I’m really proud of is, is because we’re a fully remote team across South America, Latin America, and parts of the States, we’ve had to do a really good job adapting to this new world of work, particularly with two languages that we’re working in many different countries. So the process is fantastic. It’s been really important to have that ability to communicate in both languages, frankly.

Seth Schorr: Not quite as good as Seth. For me, my role is to make sure that our team has the resources they need. This is how I run all of my businesses. It’s a benefit that I rely on the team to execute and it’s working very, very well.

No True Competition for the Latino Bettor?

Gaming Today: Are you the only one doing this?

Seth Young: For sure. And the way that we’re doing it, absolutely. There is no competitor that has any kind of assets like we do, or any kind of expertise in the gaming space. A lot of people can create media sites or try. We’ve built a tremendous infrastructure that we can scale from on that side of the fence. And we have these incredible assets and ideas that we can put forward in the market with authority. So in that sense, we don’t have competition.

There are other sites that look Latino or Hispanic-focused media, but they lack the fundamental expertise in the gambling space and the fundamental assets that we do have, which sets us apart in a major way.

Gaming Today: How do you know if you’re doing a good job?

Seth Young: That’s a really good question. I definitely want to take a stab at this. We have a great cultural consultant.

You can look at us. We’re not Latino, right? We all know this. So we brought on cultural consultants that are making sure that what we are putting out is authentic, is catering to the community, is on the right side of things in today’s America.

And I think part of how we understand if we’re doing well, obviously data and analytics are really important to show what engagement looks like, but internally, most of our team is Latino or Hispanic, and they’re able to provide feedback in real-time on strategies, on content. And so far, there’s just general excitement. We can’t hire fast enough, for people that would like to join the team, that are in and around people that are working with us.

But a huge focus is on data. We’ve had pretty significant growth from where we’ve only been live as a media business for four-ish months after doing a ton of work on infrastructure. We have triple-digit growth month-over-month, so far in visitation and traffic. It’s still early days, but the initial read-through, if we kind of juxtapose this with businesses that are similar in Latin America that have grown up the same way, as media sites, we seem to be on par or ahead from where they were, when they started at the same time.

And the other barometer for me is going to be how engaged is my team and/or our team. And right now everybody is rowing in the same direction, couldn’t be more excited.

About the Author
Brant James

Brant James

Brant James is the lead writer for Gaming Today canvassing events and trends in the gambling industry. He has covered the American sports betting industry in the United States since before professional sports teams even knew what an official gaming partnership entailed. Before focusing on the gambling industry, James was a nationally acclaimed motorsports writer and a long-time member of the National Hockey League media corps, formerly writing for USA Today, ESPN, SI.com and the Tampa Bay Times.

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