[Updated 8:14 am 11/23/15: Fixed terms related to betting].
JetBet is announcing it is launching its social sports technology today in partnership with men’s lifestyle brand Maxim, which is also unveiling its Maxim Sports Live web site.
The real-time technology lets sports fans predict sports events as they happen in a “second screen” experience. The first web site (with Facebook and mobile apps pending) targets NFL football fans, which add up to a big market as 16.2 million viewers tune into each NFL game.
Las Vegas-based JetBet, founded by video game pioneer Louis Castle, has created a way to let sports fans test their knowledge — but not actually bet real money in return for real money winnings — on every play in a sports event in real time.
The first product from Maxim is a free-to-play web site, where players can pay real money to enter tournaments but cannot cash out any winnings. Instead, they can earn points that give them bragging rights. Players get free virtual currency to make predictions, but if they run out or want to play in bigger tournaments, they can purchase more with real money.
“We are focused on the competitive fun of predicting sports, play by play,” Castle said in an email.
Maxim Sports Live will let sports fans make predictions, demonstrate their knowledge, and share their passion for their teams in real-time during live sporting events via the app on mobile devices. You can predict just about anything that you think is going to happen next in a game. Maxim will tout Maxim Sports Live as an intuitive experience for players of all skill levels, and it will include a chat feature to discuss plays and banter with rivals.
“Maxim has built the leading men’s lifestyle brand by understanding the pulse of their audience,” said Castle, CEO and cofounder of JetBet, in a statement. “We are very excited to be their partner in bringing real time social sports to tens of millions of fans worldwide.”
Castle, who has three decades of experience in video games and is known as the cofounder of Westwood Studios (which was acquired by Electronic Arts) has experience in the real-money gambling space as well. He was on the board of gambling table games maker Shuffle Master (SHFL Entertainment). After that, he was its chief strategy officer before its $1.3 billion sale in 2014 to slot machine giant Bally Technologies.
He was inspired to create JetBet after he saw a demo of the live data analytics from Metric Gaming, which is focused on real-money gambling. He saw the opportunity to make a free-to-play game based on the technology. So he licensed the sports analytics from Metric and went to Bellwether to license the social casino platform. Then he hired staff to build a custom app that could make watching live sports more exciting with a free-to-play experience that did not involve real-money gambling.
Castle said in an email that the company is not a “daily fantasy sports” startup, where rivals enable players to put together teams of sports players and then bet on how well they do on the playing field. There’s controversy about whether such apps are skill-based, legal games or constitute real-money gambling, as the New York state attorney general contends.
JetBet and Maxim are play-by-play action, and they are not focused on replicating the daily fantasy sports betting. Instead are focused on the free-to-play for bragging rights experience. The tournaments do not offer anything except bragging rights, and if players are ever awarded any actual prizes, they would be for playing, not as a prize for any particular successful prediction, Castle said. He said he considers JetBet predictions to be a skill-based game, not a chance-based betting experience.
JetBet’s technology is built on Metric Gaming, which combines human and computer-based analytics to set odds for each prediction. Data from live events is fed into Metric Gaming’s analytics. Bellwether’s socially scalable casino platform broadcasts the play prediction options to mobile devices of all kinds using HTML5, the lingua franca of the web. The delay loop of broadcast events allows JetBet to keep up with the second-to-second action and often even gets seconds ahead of the broadcast. Millions can play at the same time, JetBet says
The company was founded in 2014, and it has 11 employees. Rival sites include other daily fantasy sports sites where players spend their time during sporting events.
JetBet’s investors include Castle, Metric Gaming, Bellwether, and other private investors. To date, the company has raised $700,000, with another $300,000 committed.