California law prohibits traditional sports betting, but that doesn’t mean legal sports gaming options don’t exist in the state.
The 29 Palms Band of Mission Indians recently launched a social betting platform that allows bettors to participate in free-to-play sports wagering and redeem credits for use inside the tribe’s casinos.
Created in partnership with “social betwork” Sparket, the platform allows bettors to pick winners of sporting events, reality TV show competitions, esports and more.
Looking ahead, 29 Palms sports-related social betting gives both the tribe and Sparket a head start on preparing for legalized sports betting in California.
Sparket uses a pari-mutuel model
The 29 Palms tribe has two casinos in Southern California: Spotlight 29 and Tortoise Rock.
Because it functions as a sweepstakes contest and doesn’t involve real money betting, the tribe’s app doesn’t violate California law on sports wagering. According to 29 Palms Band of Mission Indian Leadership, “Sparket’s technology allows us to offer social promotions for major sporting events and beyond.”
The app enters the market following another sweepstakes sportsbook, Fliff. However, the Sparket-built app uses a pari-mutuel model where bets are placed in a pool. Odds are not fixed in advance and are determined by the amount wagered on each outcome. Fliff is based on traditional fixed-odds betting.
“It’s literally just a pure, free-to-play platform,” Sparket COO and President Evan Fisher told PlayCA in an interview.
More than 50% redeemed credits at the casinos
This past spring, 29 Palms offered customers a chance to predict the outcome of the men’s Final Four via its new platform. It was a boon, as San Diego State made it to the Final Four and the title game.
California fans of the Aztecs had a chance to enter betting pools for the final rounds of the exciting tournament and win credits for use at the tribe’s casinos. Winners then redeemed their credits in person. Both casinos offer slot machines, table games, dining and live entertainment, and credits can be used on all of these activities.
According to Fisher, the March Madness contest was a success for the casinos and Sparket because a high percentage of people who won online showed up at the casinos to redeem their credits.
“We experienced a little over 50% on-site prize redemption rate, which means we had the contest online, and then the winners of the contest would win slot credit or other prizes at 29 Palms casino locations,” Fisher said. “The industry average is about 20-25% for those type of promotions to result in on-site redemption.”
Looking for continued success
The Sparket executive was pleased with the redemption rate and indicated it would provide valuable information for 29 Palms.
“So those are all incremental visits to the casino location, and I think that data for them was really valuable going forward,” Fisher said.
According to Fisher, there’s been an uptick in demand for social gaming since Propositions 26 and 27 failed last fall. Prop 26 would have legalized retail sports betting at the state’s tribal casinos and horse racetracks, and Prop 27 would have legalized online sports betting.
“Our type of product enables tribal casino groups to upskill their sports betting experience, engage users and then convert them to on-site casino customers,” Fisher said.
The future of Sparket and tribal casinos
As 29 Palms reaps the benefits of its new social gaming arm, Sparket aims to diversify its content offerings and demographic base, according to Fisher.
Founded in 2019, the company and 29 Palms are preparing for the future in California as other states continue to give sports wagering the green light.
Both entities now have a head start on building a database of people interested in sports-related social gaming. Because of that, they now have an eye on converting them to sports betting customers if the industry becomes legalized in California in the future.