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State of the Union: US Sports Betting Update – FanDuel Storms the Pennsylvania Market

FanDuel is preparing to take Pennsylvania by storm after becoming the fourth online sports betting operator to launch in the Keystone State. The former daily fantasy sports powerhouse has enjoyed tremendous success in New Jersey this year, where it accounts for 52% of all sports wagering revenue and dominates its rivals. Now it is beginning to spread its tentacles across the country and Pennsylvania represents a great opportunity for the brand to significantly boost its footprint.

It is the largest state in terms of population and GDP to permit online sports betting, and it hosts seven major sports teams – four in Philadelphia and three in Pennsylvania. To date its sports betting handle and revenue figures are paltry compared to those recorded in neighbouring New Jersey, but that is due to a lack of online sportsbooks. Sports fans in Pennsylvania could only place legal wagers at brick and mortar books until Rush Street Gaming launched its PlaySugarHouse app in late May. June 27 saw the launch of an online offering from Parx Casino in Bensalem, while RSG launched a second online sportsbook linked to its Rivers Casino in Pittsburgh.

Online gaming represented 40% of all sports bets in the state during June, despite the lack of options for bettors. Now that FanDuel has launched, it has the potential to blow its rivals away and send Pennsylvania’s handle through the stratosphere. Paddy Power Betfair, which has now rebranded as Flutter Entertainment, snapped up FanDuel last year and used the brand to front its U.S. sports betting operations. The brand was already well known to Americans through its success within DFS, and Paddy Power backed it with an enviable marketing budget. That has seen it trounce the competition in New Jersey, and there is every reason to think it will flourish in Pennsylvania too.

Eyes on the Prize

FanDuel already operates a physical sportsbook at Valley Forge Casino, although that is a pretty small business. The real prize is online sports wagering, as Pennsylvania is a large state and many people live several hours away from their nearest brick and mortar sportsbook, so they need online wagering.

One big advantage FanDuel has over the competition is that its app can be downloaded by iPhone users. The app was already listed in the Apple app store when FanDuel went live in New Jersey, so it was already approved and ready to go for Pennsylvanian users. Apple has since changed its guidelines on real-money gaming apps, preventing RSG and Parx from launching on the iOS app store. RSG has found a way around it, partnering with geolocation tech firm GeoComply. Apple users can download its GeoGuard app and this allows them to use the browser versions of the SugarHouse and BetRivers sites on their phones, but it is a convoluted process and the offering is not exactly optimised for mobile users.

Having an easily downloadable app is a major advantage for FanDuel, and it is also offering a $500 risk free bet until December 31 in order to attract new bettors. DraftKings, its great DFS rival and its closest competitor in New Jersey, has not yet launched in Pennsylvania, meaning FanDuel could clear up.

Empire State of Mind

It has also become the second operator to launch a brick and mortar sportsbook in New York. The state does not currently permit online wagering, but its first physical book opened at Rivers Casino Resort in Schenectady last week. FanDuel quickly followed by opening the doors to its new sportsbook at Tioga Downs in Nichols. It is located in the southern tier of the state, close to the Pennsylvania border. “As we continue to expand our sportsbook operations across the U.S. the opening of our FanDuel Sportsbook at Tioga Downs Casino Resort is a history-making moment for the FanDuel Group,” said Keith Wall, vice president commercial retail at FanDuel, who added that it was pleased to be able to provide jobs and bring in tax revenue for the Empire State. The new 2,600 sq. ft. retail location features eight betting windows, 27 video displays, 14 self-service betting kiosks, three sports tickers, and large seating areas. It is taking bets on all major U.S. sports, plus soccer, golf, boxing, motorsports and more.

FanDuel is also present in West Virginia and it has already enjoyed great success at its physical sportsbook at the Meadowlands. It is in New Jersey, but located just a few miles from Manhattan, and it shares a home with the New York Giants and the New York Jets, so it attracts strong footfall from New Yorkers. “Our partnership with FanDuel at the Meadowlands has surpassed expectations,” said Jeff Gural, chairman of American racing and entertainment at FanDuel. “Now that legislation in New York has been passed, we look forward to bringing the fun and excitement of wagering on sports to the Upstate region.”

DraftKings Strikes MLB Deal

FanDuel may be dominating the news agenda, but DraftKings has not been entirely quiet. This week it tied up a deal to become an official gaming partner for Major League Baseball, following in the footsteps of MGM. It allows DraftKings to use the MLB logo and gain access to official league data to settle in-play bets.  “This deal speaks to the commitment we have to our customers and sports leagues alike while providing the safest and most entertaining American-made sportsbook,” said chief business officer Ezra Kucharz. “As a result of this agreement, our customers will experience enhanced live wagering offerings for all MLB games.”

Elsewhere, Mississippi recorded its quietest month for sports betting since August 2018 when it took revenue of just $1.6 million in June. The handle reached $15.2 million, the majority of which came from baseball, but the low figures are understandable as it is currently a quiet time during the U.S. sporting calendar. Mississippi is similar to New York and Delaware in that it only permits retail sportsbooks, while online offerings still prohibited. Yet it should see its handle and revenue rise soon as the new football season looms large on the horizon.

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