'Super Bowl gaining traction locally'

BY SHAMILLE SCOTT Business reporter

Wednesday, February 05, 2014    

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IT'S not football as Jamaicans know it, but the Super Bowl of 'American football' is becoming an increasing attraction locally.

Patrons went out in droves at various sports bars and lounges last Sunday night to view the annual championship game of the National Football League (NFL) Super Bowl final -- where the Seattle Seahawks blitzed the Denver Broncos with a 48 to three victory.

What's more, local punters wagered millions of dollars on the outcome of the event.

Cuddy'z Sports Bar estimates that about 200 patrons watched the game at its New Kingston location on Sunday, while Usain Bolt 's Tracks and Records figures it had over 250 customers that night. New player, Ribbiz Ultra Lounge at the Acropolis Gaming Lounge, said the turnout was as projected.

Admittedly, persons don't flock the sports bar to view the play offs but wait until the big game.

"It has a small but loyal following, but nothing major like some of the other sports such as football, basketball, track and boxing," said Gary Matalon, CEO of the KLE Group that operates Tracks and Records. Matalon added that the excitement really starts closer to the Super Bowl.

Meanwhile, the general manager of Cuddy'z, Jeanelle Waddell, said that the popularity of the game is gaining traction, but the Super Bowl event is quite popular.

"Jamaicans love sports, it's a natural fit, but it doesn't compare to our tradional football (soccer)," she said.

Andrei Roper, senior marketing officer, sports betting at Supreme Ventures, figures that the reason the game has become popular is because of how close Jamaica is to the US.

"The NFL does a good job in marketing the Super Bowl, Jamaicans travel, and many of them go off to college and become accustomed to the game," he said.

As for sports betting, JustBet reported that sales last Sunday were just under $1 million, while total JustBet wagers on the Super Bowl came in at almost $2 million.

Still, overall sports betting sales for the Super Bowl is much higher at well over US$100 million in the US, with estimated worldwide sales exceeding US$200 million.

Furthermore, a Jamaican-born right tackle, Orlando Franklin, 26, was a part of the Broncos team. Indeed, this along with the excitement about the game helped to pull Jamaicans in and make them interested.

"Let's not forget that Americans, Irish and Canadians who love the game also live here, many of whom were at Ribbiz," Roper said.

"Ribbiz has one of the best viewing experiences, with eight large televisions on every wall and the event was complemented with a drink-inclusive package for $3,000," said Kamal Bankay, experience curator, Ribbiz.

Tracks and Records said that it sent out blast emails and had heavy social and traditional media campaigns leading up to the event.

"JustBet is pleased that we were able to offer bets on the day of the Super Bowl. It is critical to fans and punters who follow and research their sports closely, to be able to bet right up to just before the match," said Roper, adding that this allows players to evaluate weather conditions, injury reports or any other factors that they believe may affect the outcome of the game.

The Super Bowl has set a record for the most-watched television event in US history, drawing the attention of 111.5 million viewers and has the potential for a worldwide audience of 1 billion.

February 2 was the first Sunday that sales of the JustBet sports betting product became available island-wide and the company expects to see more growth in Sunday betting sales, Supreme Ventures said.

"We at JustBet are confident that Sunday betting will facilitate even greater growth, given the number of NBA, Barclays Premier League and other European football leagues, international cricket and other events that are played on a Sunday, not to mention the upcoming FIFA World Cup in Brazil", added Roper.





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