NASCAR Tries Drafting Off Micro-Betting Trend

NASCAR has enlisted a new partner in its drive to make the national stock car series a more popular sports betting market.

The Daytona Beach-based series on Thursday announced it has agreed to a multi-year deal with nVenue, which creates in-play micro-bets using artificial intelligence and machine learning. nVenue already provides the service for the NBA and Major League Baseball, which has experienced an improvement in the amount of in-game “rapid bets” over the past year. nVenue will generate predictive analytics for NASCAR similar to its product for Apple TV’s MLB coverage.

Further contract details were not disclosed.

These prospective new NASCAR markets will be much more granular than the types of pre-race bets previously available and could include pit strategies or the results of race segments.

As part of the deal, which has been in the works for more than six months, nVenue gains access to NASCAR’s proprietary real-time and historical data.

“This collaboration epitomizes a shared vision to entertain fans and enhance the race viewing experience,” Joe Solosky, NASCAR managing director of sports betting, said in a statement. “We are thrilled to pair our racing product with expert technology like nVenue’s to bring micro-betting to NASCAR fans going forward.”

NASCAR the Latest Series to Leverage In-Play Wagering

Motorsports leagues in general have struggled to generate betting interest, with NASCAR accounting for less than 1% of the national sports betting handle. That figure has grown in the last two years, though, and the series sees in-race markets as a chance to extend betting opportunities over the duration of a race.

“I think the biggest thing is we’re seeing: the NASCAR handle grow year after year,” nVenue chief revenue officer Jeremy Jones told Gaming Today. “And it’s growing with the same markets every single year with the same sportsbooks out there not creating more innovative markets. And I think that was just the biggest thing and why it was so important for NASCAR to partner with a company like us, because it takes a lot of tech and the right team to build these specific fast markets that we’re going to build with them.

I think the most important thing here is that we’re getting the data directly from NASCAR, and they’re the experts on how their fans want to bet, how their fans are watching. And the key to this partnership is they’re not just saying, ‘Hey, here’s our data. Go start building innovative racing markets.'”

nVenue meets bi-weekly with NASCAR officials to glean betting trends as identified by the series and its authorized gaming operators BetMGM, FanDuel – as of Aug. 25 and PENN Entertainment.

“It’s all about keeping the fans engaged throughout the whole race,” Jones said, “instead of placing these bets at the beginning of the race and then tuning in the last couple laps to see if I won or not. We think it’s going to attract more of that casual fan, too, that might not understand some of these big bets pre-race.”

Jones said the nVenue in-race markets would first be integrated with NASCAR’s official partners and commercial deals would later have to be made with others.

NASCAR micro-betting nVenue
AP: Darron Cummings

“nVenue is thrilled to partner with the NASCAR team to build the future of in-race betting and live engagements to delight fans for years to come,” Kelly Pracht, CEO and co-founder of nVenue, said in the press release. “It is a terrific match: nVenue brings the real-time predictive sports platform designed for micro-bets and media, and NASCAR brings the mind-share and reach of a league ready to innovate leveled-up fan experiences. We predict this industry-first collaboration will be significantly beneficial not only for sportsbooks and media, but also for NASCAR’s base of knowledgeable, and new fans.”

On Aug. 29, NASCAR announced a four-year extension of its media data rights partnership with Sportradar, which now includes official betting data.

AI Crucial in Creating NASCAR Micro-Betting Markets

The inherent volatility of racing — a football team can’t be knocked out of a game in the first quarter like a driver can be wrecked on Lap 1 — complicates the endeavor. Creating NASCAR micro-betting markets that could be acted on quickly is seen as a crucial advance. The machines, therefore, will be providing the horsepower on the track and bookmaking power off it.

“It’s above the speed of humans. It has to be all AI machine learning,” Jones said. “If you take basketball for example, we build a micro-bet free throw that’s 8-to-10 seconds when someone comes to the line and shoots a free throw. That has to be all AI machine learning. It all starts with our team. Our CEO Kelly Pracht was with HP for multiple years leading massive teams with machine learning and AI. So she’s a true tech expert on what it takes. It’s all predictive AI, literally the next generation of betting and media experiences.”

Update on Phoenix Raceway Retail Sportsbook After Barstool Demise

In NASCAR non-news, the impending rebrand of Barstool Sportsbook as ESPN Bets this fall has apparently not resurrected the moth-balled plans for a retail sportsbook at Phoenix Raceway.

Solosky told Gaming Today in June, "Right now it just doesn’t make sense to build out that retail book at the racetrack."

About the Author
Brant James

Brant James

Senior Writer
Brant James is a senior writer who covers the sports betting industry and legislation at Gaming Today. An alum of the Tampa Bay Times, ESPN.com, espnW, SI.com, and USA Today, he's covered motorsports and the NHL as beats. He also once made a tail-hook landing on an aircraft carrier with Dale Earnhardt Jr. and rode to the top of Mt. Washington with Travis Pastrana. John Tortorella has yelled at him numerous times.

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