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Startups Want to Lure You Into Sports Betting

With the legal landscape changing, companies want to make gambling feel like viral smartphone apps.
2017 Major League Baseball World Series Game Two: Houston Astros v. Los Angeles Dodgers

Photographer: Rob Tringali/MLB Photos via Getty Images

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As the chief executive officer of a fledgling sports gambling company, Tom King said there have been two watershed moments in the last year. One, of course, was the Supreme Court’s recent move to let states legalize sports gambling. The other was the rise of HQ, the smartphone trivia app that draws over one million people to compete for cash in its twice-daily games. The Supreme Court gave King confidence that his company, Readyfire Inc., would be able to offer new gambling products legally; HQ showed him that people would use them. 

In the short term, the primary beneficiaries of the Supreme Court’s decision are likely to be the established casinos and gaming companies in New Jersey that handle the action from Jets fans visiting their local horse track. But Readyfire is betting that legal sports betting will expand until it’s commonplace for people to place wagers on their phones during lulls in the action instead of checking Twitter. As it aims to create many new gamblers, Readyfire is developing games that will appeal to people who are unlikely ever to set foot in a casino or cultivate a relationship with the neighborhood bookie.