NEW YORK – The case study for WagerWire was a hypothetical powered by real anguish.
Travis Geiger’s anguish. As a co-founder of WagerWire, a yet-to-launch marketplace for buying and selling sports bets, a Cincinnati Bengals fan, and a hedger at heart, he was the perfect case study before Super Bowl LVI.
Geiger never had to make the decision. But he knows what he would have done. And in the process, the sports bet marketplace he and three friends, fraternity brothers, and longtime roommates hope to soon launch would have validated itself.
Sprawled across furniture in a 17th-floor suite of the Edison Hotel, Geiger, Zach Doctor, and Guy Dotan relate the hypothetical as part of a demonstration of their big plan to inject a new element into the sports betting habits for the players and a new path to customer-retention for the sportsbooks.
Along the way, they insist, there’s fun and financial reward to be had.
Make a bet. Fall out of love with the bet. Sell the bet. Buy someone else’s.
It’s all about tech and user experience, but, in keeping with the idea behind the project, it has to involve some fandom, too. Then Doctor sets the hook.
“You could also sell part of your bet. So that’s a pretty cool feature, too. Like Travis, is a huge Cincinnati Bengal fan. He grew up in Cincinnati,” Doctor said gesturing to his right. “They were 250-1 starting this season. If you bet, even just $20 bucks on that, let alone $100, you’re sitting on this huge ticket.
“They go all the way to the Super Bowl. But he’s a homer. He doesn’t want to bail on the team.”
“I make the call. Right?,” Geiger interjected. “I know they’re going to lose. I know this. But I don’t want to bail. So by actually just being able to part with a little bit of my bet – maybe it’s my buy-in and I just ride the upside or whatever – I get to have the best of both worlds. I get to keep my action, and I get to take a little off the table.”
And he gets to remain a devout fan with a monetized rooting interest, free or whatever karmic repercussions he might fear.
Then the math guy chimes in.
“And if you wanted to do that as a dynamic strategy, where once the bet doubles in value, you sell half and then you ride the other half of it,” Dotan pointed out.
Each of these youngish-looking 30-somethings brings a piece of the equation to WagerWire.
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WagerWire Explained: Bets as Commodities, NFTs or Sneakers
WagerWire as a broad concept is not new. Numerous betting exchanges already serve as a clearinghouse for bettors selling wagers as assets and speculators seeking an investment.
Buy the Bengals low. Sell them high. If the heart strings can be unwound. The company, which completed a $3 million seed funding round in July, is different, say its founders and executives because it’s more user-friendly, accessible and, crucially for the business-to-business aspect, a customer-acquisition and -retention tool for sportsbooks that would incorporate WagerWire into their app coding.
That’s because WagerWire users would need an active account at the sportsbook where a desired bet was placed to bid on it. No such deals have been announced yet.
Doctor is the one with the tablet, gliding through a beta version of the WagerWire app for what must have been numerous times, judging by the one thick finger smudge stretching across the otherwise clean screen.
“This is a marketplace of bets available that other people have posted for sale,” the CEO said, gesturing to the tablet. “You can add bets to your watch list. You can filter by bet type, but really, as you go through the flow, you’ll see kind of where this customer-acquisition angle comes from.
“If you click on a bet, it’ll tell you which sportsbook it originated with. And we’re working on some partnerships that we’re hopefully going to be able to announce pretty soon that will be pretty exciting. So here’s the step where you have to link your account to be able to check out because you have to demonstrate that you already have an account with that sportsbook or you have to create an account. So that’s where you can actually monetize that, too. We’re actually driving users to the sportsbook.”
And bets that eventually pay out add funds into the sportsbook account where that bet was first placed.
WagerWire suggests a real-time value for a bet placed in the marketplace, but the seller decides when to sell, and for how much.
“This is massive for retention here, because even if I’ve zeroed out my Bally’s account, I still have a reason to come back and check it because the bets that are sitting in my wallet have value,” Geiger, the chief marketing executive, said. “I might be able to flip ’em and get some cash back in my balance.”
This aspect, they say, has spurred interest and discussion with numerous sportsbooks.
But they also want this to be fun for the speculators. That word comes up a lot.
They want checking their WagerWire account to be as much of a daily habit as Robinhood or Coinbase.
“It should be fun,” Geiger said. “It shouldn’t be math class.”
“But math people love it, too,” Dotan, the COO, said. “We want people that are super into stocks and crypto and stuff to love it. But we also want the kind of casual Robinhood user, too.”
“I want the guy six beers in to love it,” Geiger grinned.
WagerWire Origin Story: A Guy Wants Another’s Packers Line
Doctor, Dotan and Geiger finish each other’s sentences and pivot to their part in or their favorite aspect of the project like fraternity brothers who’ve lived with each other for a decade. That’s because they have.
Geiger is the film school product with a list of IMDB credits and the gift for projecting the social, communal aspect of the plan.
“Story and narrative is my passion and sports … it’s a beautiful thing,” he said. “A game is a beautiful story. It’s packaged with a bow.
“Sports betting is a disaster of a narrative. The narrative’s totally broken. We’re not saying we’re going to fix it, but we think that there’s a better way to play and that we’re the better way to play.”
Doctor’s business sensibilities demonstrated themselves in his teens, when he and his older brother turned a side hustle selling bicycle tires on eBay into a full-fledged business his father now maintains. He reached vice president in mergers and acquisitions at a financial firm by age 26.
Dotan rests on the far end of the chaise in this suite on the 17th floor of the Edison Hotel. He is the requisite math guy, having a statistics degree and an MBA with a thesis on building an algorithm to beat the books on NBA betting.
The perfect theoretical case study for WagerWire didn’t happen, but the genesis of it had the same spirit, with a bunch of Sigma Nus back in Los Angeles arguing with each other over football.
“I had placed a bet on an NFL line,” Doctor explained. “I had gotten minus-3 before the game. And then the team – I think it was the Packers – they’re up by like 10 points halfway through the second quarter. Now the live line has moved. It’s up to like minus-10. But Trav didn’t want to grab minus-10. He wanted minus-3. But the sportsbooks don’t offer minus-3 anymore once the line’s moved. So that was like, ‘Wait a minute. How could you set up a system where you could actually get the line that someone else had from before the game?'”
The idea ruminated until they began moving on it as a business plan in 2018.
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Not a Sportsbook but WagerWire Treads Carefully
Facilitating the movement of bets makes WagerWire a marketplace. It could be sneakers or NFTs. They’re all a monetized aspiration, after all.
The sticky part particular to sports bets, though, involves the Wire Act, state-level taxation, and a host of other issues the Internet makes both easy and incredibly difficult.
What happens if someone not in a state where sports betting is legal uses WagerWire as a workaround by purchasing bets where the wagers were made legally?
Are they betting or buying?
No vig taken means no sportsbook. That’s the consensus among WagerWire’s founders and other betting exchanges like BettorEdge, but what if a state regulator eventually disagrees?
Dotan said the company has done an extreme amount of legal due diligence in the matter and believes they’re free from risk. But, Geiger said, the company is “doing compliance” with every state and currently plans to block customers if they aren’t in a state with legal sports betting while attempting to buy a bet.
“We have nothing to hide,” he said. “We’re not ticket scalpers.”
What if a Celebrity Wanted Your Bet?
Because WagerWire would display the names of the participants in a transaction, there is the chance for some fun here, they contend.
Would celebrity bets drive business? What would the demand for a Dave Portnoy punt be in an open marketplace of bros?
Anyone care to fade Drake?
Still, the ultimate backdrop for Doctor, Dotan, and Geiger appears to be a couch like the one where the whole idea coalesced for them, or this lounger overlooking the edge of Times Square.
Dream scenario: Scene opens on a group of friends slumped in front of the television, spent pizza boxes and bottles all around.
QB1 went down. 25-34-year-old guy is crestfallen.
His lucrative futures bet on their mutually adored NFL team may be worthless now.
“Then his buddy goes ‘I’ll buy low on that’,” Geiger chimes in.
“And then you have the comeback offer,” Doctor said.
“I think you just wrote our first TV spot,” Dotan said.