Interview: "Dramatic Uplift" in Talent Market Following US Sportsbook Legalisation

11 July 2018 By Alastair Cleland

1654 Original

MARWA MITCHELL, Pentasia’s VP Recruitment, North America, answers some of the questions posed by theeffective legalisation of sports bettingin the United States

Hi Marwa. It’s early days, but how has the US recruitment market been affected so far by the recent PASPA ruling?

Recruitment is often the first business activity to ramp up in circumstances like these, so it’s a good indicator of investment and future performance.

It’s fair to say we have seen a dramatic uplift in hiring activity. There have always been hopes that the Supreme Court might take this step but, now that it has happened, it is clear many firms were preparing the ground to act upon it – and some are better placed than others to move forward.

In the short term there will be a shortage of talent in many areas of sportsbook operations. We are already seeing employers competing, looking further afield and planning ahead.

Clearly, many businesses are now scaling up operations. Which are the highest priority skills on their hiring list?

Experience in sports betting in general and digital in particular. Firms based in Nevada who have been working on sports will be well utilised by operators setting up sportsbook operations. They have more knowledge than anybody in the country; those people will be in demand.

Obviously, there will be a learning curve on the digital side. There will be candidates in the UK and Europe who have experience of digital roles in areas such as product management, operations and compliance.

What challenges will be faced by firms looking to import talent to scale up their sportsbook operations?

We are restricted when it comes to visas. For various reasons, the US is now making it virtually impossible to come here on a full working visa. It is a big problem.

There are ways we can get around it. For instance, a lot of American companies that have an operation in the UK can employ someone in that office and then transfer them internally.

Then, of course, there are American citizens who are based overseas and have been working in the industry in places like the UK and Gibraltar and now have that sportsbook expertise. If that’s you, you are going to be in demand… and we are super-excited to talk to you.

Another way to get the talent involved will be by the consulting route. If you are engaged as a consultant by a US-based company, you can come in and out on a visitor’s visa.

How soon will US firms be launching sportsbooks?

Two states – New Jersey and Delaware – have already signed legislation and are taking bets. Others, including West Virginia, Pennsylvania and Mississippi, are preparing to go live.

There are a few other states waiting in the wings, such as Connecticut and New York.

What was your personal response to the Supreme Court ruling?

For those of us who have been around the scene for many years, there was a lot of joy. 

I’ve been working for Pentasia in Las Vegas since 2012 and we’ve helped to staff up New Jersey casinos, helped the horse racing industry and, of course, Vegas. We’ve also been providing a consultative service.

But it has been an uphill battle. To be able to finally realise the visions we have had for the gambling industry is pretty exciting.

What’s your prediction for the future of US sportsbook?

It’s an exciting time and we’re going to see a lot of growth. You have to bear in mind that, in many ways, sports betting is more accepted than casino gambling in the USA.

Within five years I think there will be between 15 and 20 states that have sportsbooks. It certainly won’t be all of them. There’s lots of talk about California, for instance, but it’s always been so highly regulated and it’s hard to do anything there.

In terms of an impact on the sports themselves, I think everyone’s worried that, the next time a big, surprising result comes in that works to the bookmakers’ benefit, people will voice suspicions.

But the fact is that, where you have regulated sportsbook betting, things are far more transparent. The industry has to be strong enough to stand up to the suspicion.