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State of the Union: US Sports Betting Update – Nevada Regains Its Throne

Nevada has quickly regained its status as the largest sports betting market in the U.S. after receiving a record-breaking handle during the month of June. The Silver State lost its crown in May as New Jersey sneaked above it for the first time, but Nevada is now back on top. Its sports betting handle rose to $322 million in June and that saw it comfortably beat the $273 million that sports fans wagered in New Jersey.

Until May 2018, Nevada was the only state permitted to accept sports bets as it was exempt from PASPA, the federal ban that outlawed sportsbooks elsewhere. Then New Jersey won its prolonged legal battle with the sports leagues and PASPA came crashing down following a landmark Supreme Court ruling. Since then all manner of states have joined the party and Nevada’s crown always looked in jeopardy.

It clung on as the market leader until May 2019, when it took $317.3 million in sports bets. New Jersey had already declared a handle of $318.9 million and that saw it soar into first place. Many saw it as a symbolic changing of the guard moment, and the Garden State was expected to pull further away. However, Nevada has quickly dispelled such notions by enjoying strong June trading figures.

Strong Annual Growth

The $332 million it took represented a 12.1% increase on the handle of $287.4 million it brought in during June 2018. It shows that legalization of sports betting in other states has not negatively impacted Nevada. Over the past 12 months, the handle is up 6.6% on the previous year. Las Vegas remains a key tourist destination for bettors and California is a long way from rolling out regulated sportsbooks, so it should continue to enjoy a steady stream of punters from the Golden State long into the future.

However, it was not all good news for Silver State sportsbooks. Despite the handle growth they enjoyed in June, revenue actually decreased by 18% year-on-year as bettors proved to be savvy in their selections. Operators took $208 million in baseball bets and held $11.6 million, which is broadly in line with historical averages. However, basketball hold was just 1.8% as the Toronto Raptors stunned the Golden State Warriors in the NBA Finals.

First State Feels the Pain

New Jersey was not the only state to suffer a sharp downturn during June. Delaware, the first state to launch regulated sportsbooks after PASPA was axed, saw revenue drop 46.7% year-on-year. However, that could be attributed to the excitement among sports fans in June 2018, as sportsbooks had just launched and there was still a novelty factor. Revenue actually increased 14.9% from $406,293 in May 2019 to $466,705 in June 2019, showing that Delaware is on an upward curve this summer. 

Delaware and New Jersey were joined by Pennsylvania, Mississippi, West Virginia, Rhode Island and New Mexico in launching legal sports betting industries in 2018. This year, the first sportsbooks have sprung up in New York, while Illinois, Indiana, Tennessee, North Carolina, Montana, New Hampshire and Iowa have all passed legislation this year and those states are pending launch

A bill is awaiting signature in Maine and now Connecticut plans to be the next New England state to join in the action. A draft bill unveiled this week would authorise sports betting both in-person and online, along with table games, slots and online lottery. It amounts to a bipartisan compromise on a sweeping expansion of the state’s gambling laws. As is the case in New Mexico and North Carolina, tribal gaming groups would be the ones to run the industry.

Puerto Rico to Launch Sports Betting

This week also saw sports betting legalised in the U.S. territory of Puerto Rico. The island has been plunged into chaos over the past few weeks and Gov. Ricardo Roselló has been forced to resign today following weeks of protests. They began in response to hundreds of pages of leaked text messages between Roselló and 11 members of his team, who shared racist and homophobic jokes and mocked victims of Hurricane Maria. His secretary of state, Luis Rivera Marín, has already resigned over the scandal, and Roselló was set to hand power to the justice secretary, Wanda Vázquez, although lawmakers are still figuring out who will replace him.

Amid all the carnage, the outgoing Roselló signed off the Senate-approved Betting Committee Act, which legalises sports wagering in the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico, this week. “By signing this law, we are getting ready to witness the potential it provides to transform Puerto Rico into a vanguard jurisdiction while benefitting the local economy. With this legislation, the island will be able to market itself nationally and internationally as an attractive destination for sports betting events,” he said.

Positive Effect on the Economy

Roselló is public enemy number one in Puerto Rico right now and it did not go down well, but HR 2038 is now law and sports betting can get underway on the island, which has a population of 3.5 million and receives around 3.7 million tourists each year. The bill permits wagering on all professional sports and esports and brick and mortar casinos and racetracks and online. A single commissioner will spearhead the industry on a 10-year term, with a board of seven executives working under him. Puerto Rico still needs to work out how much it will charge for licensing fees, but these details should be ironed out soon.

The outgoing governor has previously said he hopes that sports wagering will deliver $3 billion per year in economic activity by 2021. His plan was to channel tax revenue into pension pots for Puerto Ricans and to fund youth sports groups. “This industry has the potential to convert Puerto Rico into a jurisdiction in the vanguard of allowing the establishment of this new model, which will have a positive effect on our economy,” said Roselló. We have worked on aggressive legislation that aspires at being able to market the island at the international and national levels as an attractive destination for the millions of people who bet on sports events.”

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