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Over/Under Bar In Chicago Looking To Go Plus-Size

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Slightly more than two years after opening the Over/Under in the Lakeview neighborhood of Chicago, it’s clear Ed Berry has made some enhancements to his sports betting bar on the north side of the city.

More TV screens for game action and odds information. More seats. New-look seats. A third viewing area after blowing out the back section of the 3,300-square foot location.

Another March Madness full of college basketball is underway with conference tournament week, and Berry is ready to see if his new ideas — what he calls “Over/Under Plus” — will take hold and take him nationwide as he perpetually tinkers with what has been a successful business model since opening in early 2022.

“The idea of (Over/Under) being a sportsbook bar is clearly understood,” Berry said in a sit-down interview at his bar with Sports Handle in late February. “… The majority of our sales are on the really big days of sports. We figure there’s 140 days to 150 days a year that are just great sports days, right? And we do really well.”

But Berry, whose list of former jobs includes being the head of interactive sales for CBS Television, felt there was something more Over/Under could give in terms of attracting new sports bettors and giving everyone a chance to participate in some type of action.

Enter the “Betting Ambassadors,” who can be called by patrons to any table to discuss the day’s games and relevant stats to help them with their mobile wagers.

Berry’s Over/Under Plus is one part social interaction, one part gamification, and one part technology. It’s a model he hopes to bring to other bars throughout the city — and eventually across the country — to make them go-to destinations.

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Berry had been working on the “Betting Ambassadors” concept since the Over/Under opened prior to the bar becoming a FanDuel affiliate, originally calling them “Pit Bosses.” With a chuckle, he mentioned asking the mobile sports betting giant if he could call them “bookies” hoping FanDuel would be in on the joke before settling on the current title.

“When we’re going up to the table, it’s my job to drop knowledge on you and help you, ‘Tell me more about today’s matchups,’” Berry said in explaining the ambassador’s role. “And in the beginning, we were doing it for NBA only. And then it got later into the season (with the) playoffs and you couldn’t really do it because it was hard with a limited number of games.”

This leads to the second part of Berry’s plus-model: the gamification of wagering itself.

There was some trial and error, as he required legal clearance from FanDuel each time the betting ambassadors expanded into a different sport and combined different contests with the sign-up bonuses that come with mobile registration. But Berry’s creations of raffles for bettors and “Bettor Bingo” took off quickly.

“We invented gamification and prizeification to go with the book experience,” he said. “And it’s been greatly embraced.

“If you have $200 worth of bets, for your first $20, I give you one raffle ticket. For your next $180, I give you, each $10, another raffle ticket. You have 19 raffle tickets in your hand. And every two hours we’ll offer off a winning number. And (the bettor) wins $50 or $100 to be credited back onto the cash deposit.”

“Bettor Bingo” has patrons attempt to put together a winning five-leg parlay that has minimum +400 odds, which plays right into FanDuel’s wheelhouse as the biggest mover of such wagering among sports betting apps. Berry estimates that during big game days, at least half of the patrons at Over/Under are doing some type of wagering.

He thinks the action itself is now the biggest distinction in being a sports bar. Otherwise, why would a person go to a sports bar?

“I think if you’re not a sportsbook bar, you’re not a sports bar anymore,” Berry said. “Because why would you own a sports bar 10 years ago if you couldn’t find a way to get (patrons) to be loyal? And that’s where I watch my games, right?

“There’s thousands of great sports bars across America that don’t know what to do to kind of get an appeal to the sports bettor. We looked at expanding more of these.”

Finding the missing piece

The third piece of the Over/Under Plus model came into Berry’s line of vision as he visited other cities with his evolving business model. What if the betting ambassador could harness the betting odds information, their own sports betting knowledge, and technology to essentially retrofit a location to make it similar to Over/Under?

“Let’s say it’s football Sunday, they’ve got Bears-Packers, and the next screen over is Ravens-Steelers,” Berry said while making a visual presentation with his television screens. “I can customize every screen, and as my betting ambassador talks to you, they can talk to you about what they see on those matchups.

“And there could be Bettor Bingos or special offers on that specific game if that’s what you want to talk about. For some of these bars, it’s a simple add-on for the technology, and we don’t have to put in new screens — we’re just manipulating the feed into their screens.”

The odds information appears in an L-shape on the outer perimeter of the picture showing the game via an internet feed, and they’re the same odds available on the FanDuel sports betting app. The screens that don’t have games being aired have odds information, and Berry suggested adding advertisements into the rotation of the odds information to include ads that feature the sign-up specials in addition to the QR scan codes found at each table.

The ambassadors are in charge of the pre-game setup, picking which games appear on which screens and which games will have audio throughout the location. The ambassadors can also set a screen to a specific game with those specific odds listings in the L-shape addition to walk and talk patrons through the sign-up process and betting options if they wish.

Berry has made it a point to his ambassadors not to tell patrons what to pick but rather provide information that helps them arrive at a decision to make a pick.

Expecting a big March Madness scene

The gamification of wagering at Over/Under has served the location well in the sense of generating repeat business. Berry is offering patrons the opportunity to reserve tables through Tock for six-hour blocks at a time for the NCAA Tournament for $60 per person for groups up to 20, with that deposit going toward the final bill.

He chose Tock as his reservation system because it was the most conducive to Over/Under’s needs, supplying what he called “the ability to ask the extra question.” Berry calls that the “golden part of the reservation” since he can store information specific to his customers and their preferences.

He and the Over/Under staff have promoted using Tock to their patrons with success — Berry usually has all of his tables full on big game days, and Over/Under already has 120 reservations for the first two rounds of the NCAA Tournament.

Berry’s model will get a baptism by fire this month. Over/Under will run head-to-head versus FanDuel’s eternal rival, as the DraftKings Sportsbook at Wrigley Field became fully operational last Friday after receiving its sports facility sports wagering license from the Illinois Gaming Board to begin taking retail bets.

Two years ago, Berry said his “biggest competition is the one that doesn’t exist today.” While the 20,000-square foot DraftKings Sportbook at Wrigley Field is front and center less than two miles to the north, Berry feels Over/Under Plus has the agility to provide a leading edge into an eventual and needed transition for sportsbooks — going from customer acquisition to customer retention.

His optimal scenario is one where Over/Under expands into six cities and then uses those cities as hubs while being a mobile sportsbook affiliate and getting 200 to 300 other bars to use Over/Under Plus.

Then it becomes, as he called it, “when in Rome, do like the Romans do” with that specific book, making customer retention a key point because Over/Under Plus would saturate the city.

“The secret sauce is really the betting ambassador and making sure that person is a good MC of the environment,” Berry said. “I think you have to go where the people are, and then if you reach the right people, they’ll influence their friends. And then that group is going to say, ‘Hey, you know what, I used to be on this book, but I’m on that book now because it pays to play with them. They make it fun because we do this at XYZ bar.’”

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