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State of the Union: US Sports Betting Update – Mississippi Money-spinner and FanDuel Foul Up

The start of the football season drove a strong performance for Mississippi’s new regulated sports betting industry in September. The Magnolia State rolled out its first sportsbooks to great fanfare in Biloxi and Tunica on August 1, yet a lack of sport led to a slightly underwhelming start. Turnover reached $6.3 million in August, but that shot up to $31.7 million in September after the NFL and college football seasons began. Operators can afford to be optimistic after keeping revenue of $5.5 million, an astonishing 17.3% win, indicating they could be onto a very profitable venture.

Nevada typically holds around 5% in revenue, so the Mississippi win looks huge, although that should come down as the market matures and bettors perfect their strategies. American Football accounted for just short of $4 million of the revenue Mississippi’s 10 sportsbooks held in September, while they made narrow losses in baseball and basketball and did well on parlays. It is important to note that more sportsbooks were open in September than in August, as the industry continues to gather pace in the state, but the figures certainly look encouraging.

Mississippi River - Natchez

The sports wagering in Mississippi pales in comparison to the $184 million that New Jersey sportsbooks took in their first ever September of trading. The Jersey books took $24 million in revenue between them, a 13% margin, which also looks strong. However, Nevada typically takes $450 million in sports wagers in September, so that shows just how far the Garden State has to go before it can challenge Vegas as the home of sports betting in America.

William Hill Files Lawsuit Against FanDuel

Yet right now a couple of the state’s leading operators have other matters to contend with. William Hill has launched a remarkable lawsuit against Paddy Power Betfair-owned rival FanDuel, claiming the operator copied its How to Bet guide near enough word for word. It relates to a pamphlet that FanDuel issued to visitors to its Meadowlands sportsbook. William Hill argued that the copyright infringement was so barefaced that it even used the same hypothetical example to illustrate a particular type of bet. The lawsuit seeks unspecified damages against FanDuel, including any profits it made by using the allegedly copied guide.

Lawsuit

FanDuel, snapped up by Paddy Power Betfair earlier this year, has thus far declined to comment, but Legal Sports Report received a statement from William Hill US chief executive Joe Asher, saying: “We are not litigious people but this is ridiculous. If the court finds in our favour, a portion of the proceeds will fund scholarships for creative writing programs at New Jersey universities.” William Hill adds in its lawsuit that a “simple side-by-side comparison” of its copyrighted work alongside FanDuel’s “infringing” pamphlet “clearly demonstrates how egregious FanDuel has been in its unauthorised copying”, while Legal Sports Report points out that FanDuel even forgot to take William Hill’s name off one page of the pamphlet.

FanDuel are experiencing a bumpy ride as they try to compete with rivals like William Hill, MGM and DraftKings in the Garden State. They courted controversy by closing the cage before paying bettors on a late MLB game, and then refused to honour a ticket after a software glitch threw up huge in-play odds on a Denver Broncos win on September 15. The firm eventually relented after receiving negative publicity, and must now be keen to simply get on with business away from such distractions.

FanDuel Wins One Back

Yet FanDuel did receive one timely boost this week as the Indiana Supreme Court ruled in its favour in a dispute with three former college football players. They initiated a claim against FanDuel and fellow daily fantasy sports provider DraftKings, arguing that the popular pursuit violated their “right of publicity” by using their names and statistics without consent and compensation. Fantasy sports had grown in popularity while sports wagering was outlawed in the US, but it is tipped to be usurped by sports betting now that a number of states are rolling out regulated markets.

Quarterback

The court ruled against the three players and that could prove to be a landmark case for any players, franchises, colleges or sports leagues hoping to sue sports betting operators for using their image rights for wagering purposes. The judges decided that the information used by the DFS companies was in the public domain and freely available to anyone. “It’s a big victory for DraftKings and FanDuel,” said sports and gaming lawyer Daniel Wallach. “But looking ahead as sports betting becomes more prominent, the question over player compensation for in-game wagering is going to be front and centre very soon.”

The Near Future of US Sports Betting

Across the USA the sports betting industry continues to gather pace after the PASPA repeal in May. New Jersey opened a ninth physical sportsbook this week after the Tropicana casino in Atlantic City teamed up with William Hill for a high-profile launch. The British bookmaking giant already operates sportsbooks at Monmouth Park and Ocean Resort Casino in the Garden State, so this takes its tally to three. Last month it tied up a deal with Tropicana owner Eldorado Resorts to create “a nationwide partnership for digital and land-based sports betting and online gaming in the United States”. That is now starting to bear fruit.

They will also team up to open sportsbooks at The Mountaineer Casino Racetrack and Resort in West Virginia, and three casinos in Mississippi: The Lady Luck Casino in Vicksburg, Isle of Capri in Lula and Tropicana Casino in Greenville. Sports betting in New Mexico began last week, taking the overall tally to six states that are offering regulated sportsbooks, and Pennsylvania is soon to join the party after it awarded licenses to Hollywood Casino and Parx Casino. Twin River Casinos in Lincoln and Tiverton, Rhode Island, are also expected to open their doors by the middle of November, so there should be eight states up and running before the year is out. Illinois may well be next and a widespread nationwide industry seems inevitable in the not too distant future.


Author: Kristian

Kristian heads up the content and SEO team at Digital Fuel having worked in digital marketing for ten years. He’s as passionate about creative content as he is about Brighton & Hove Albion FC and when he’s not following football he’s writing about Brighton’s bustling pub scene

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