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State of the Union: US Sports Betting Update – New Jersey Breaks the $300 Million Barrier Again

DraftKings and FanDuel continue to dominate the nascent New Jersey sports betting industry as both operators enjoyed strong revenue figures in December. The Garden State’s overall sports betting handle dipped slightly to $319 million, down from $330 million in November. There were more NFL fixtures in December, but the slight decline could be attributed to the conclusion of the college football regular season. Total revenue was broadly flat at $21.2 million, and DraftKings and FanDuel helped themselves to a large chunk of that figure.

NFL

The FanDuel sportsbook at Meadowlands was the clear winner out of the land-based sports betting destinations. It shares a home with the New York Giants and the New York Jets, and it is just a few miles from the heart of Manhattan, so it receives a steady stream of New Yorkers each week. Retail revenue hit $3.6 million at the FanDuel Meadowlands sportsbook, ensuring it vastly outperformed its rivals in the state. The closest competitor was the William Hill sportsbook at Monmouth Park, which earned just over $1 million in revenue, and the William Hill book at Ocean Resort in Atlantic City was third with $633,857.

FanDuel and DraftKings Rule the Roost

Total land-based revenue stood at $6.2 million, while digital revenue hit $14.7 million, showing that US sports fans prefer to wager at home or on the go if given the option. FanDuel was also strong in this regard, enjoying digital revenue of $5.5 million. The only online revenue to beat that came from Resorts. Each land-based casino can host up to three online sportsbooks on its license and Resorts has two: DraftKings and BetStars. The revenue of those operators was $6.7 million in December, although a quirk of the reporting means that it is not split out.

However, considering DraftKings was the first sportsbook to launch in the state, and that it is a household name across America due to its daily fantasy sports following, it is safe to assume that the bulk of that revenue went its way rather than to the up-and-coming BetStars. Jamie Shea, senior director of digital sportsbook at DraftKings, confirmed that it seized the lion’s share of that pot when he said: “DraftKings wrapped up 2018 as the clear leader in mobile sports betting. Always looking to deliver more for our customers, we also added casino-style games to our sportsbook app and will continue to build out a true one-stop destination for sports fans in New Jersey and future states.”

It was embroiled in controversy over a sports betting championship it hosted at the weekend, which carried a $2.5 million prize but descended into anarchy due to a technical glitch. It was a dreadful piece of PR for DraftKings, which sincerely apologised to several punters that were left potentially well out of pocket. Rufus Peabody took to social media to say he was “screwed out of a million bucks”, as his bankroll was in play on the Patriots v Chargers NFL game and he could not get it onto the Eagles v Saints game quickly enough due to bizarre rules.

$2.5 million dollars

“Different rules might have saved it from controversy,” said Dustin Gouker at Legal Sports Report. “But those are simply excuses. DraftKings is running sports betting in a regulated market. And the way it ran the contest created an unfair advantage and disadvantage for some bettors. There probably need to be, and will be consequences.”

Yet DraftKings remains a juggernaut, and rival operators would kill for the sort of revenue it is pulling in. Bally’s Wild Wild West took just $19,862 in land-based revenue during December, while its affiliated online operators – mobile sportsbooks from Caesars and 888 – shared a mere $108,892. The PlayMGM sportsbook made a loss, although British bookmaker William Hill made more than $1 million from a digital sportsbook connected to Monmouth Park and another $1 million from one attached to Ocean Resort. It suggests that the Europeans are thriving Stateside – FanDuel is owned by Paddy Power Betfair – as they have the expertise and experience in this field that their American cousins lack.

Rhode Island aiming to introduce mobile sports wagering

When you look at how heavily online is outperforming land-based sports wagering in New Jersey, it is unsurprising to see other states aiming to tap into that. Eight states currently permit land-based books, but just three – Nevada, New Jersey and West Virginia – currently offer digital sportsbooks. Rhode Island, which rolled out land-based sports wagering towards the end of 2018, is hoping to change that as senate president Dominick Ruggiero submitted legislation to permit online sports betting.

Mobile Betting

“The new, in-person sportsbook that opened in November has been very popular, with lines stretching out the doors. It is an entertainment option that many Rhode Islanders enjoy, and visitors from outside the state are also flocking to our gaming facilities to place their wagers on sporting events,” he said. “Expanding to mobile gaming would provide a convenient option for those wishing to enjoy this form of entertainment, and open up the economic benefits beyond the walls of Twin River. I can envision a group of friends from out-of-state spending an evening out in a local establishment where they can both watch the game and place a wager.”

Massachusetts Sees Trio of Sports Betting Bills

Neighbouring Massachusetts is also hoping to launch sports betting in 2019, as three different lawmakers put forward bills on Wednesday. Senator Bruce Tarr wants to create an 11-person study to assess a framework for legal sports betting in the state, which would deliberate for 180 days. Senator James Welch has a more detailed bill, SB 882, which would allow casinos in Massachusetts to offer sports wagering at their properties and online, and it also includes a 6.75% revenue tax. Finally, SB 903 from Senator Brendan Crighton would also allow both retail and online sports wagering, but he wants to see a licence fee of $500,000 per operator, a $100,000 annual renewal fee and a 12.5% tax on revenue. DraftKings is based in Massachusetts and it would be a coup for the operator to target fans in its home state.

Massachusetts - Boston

Massachusetts is compelled to roll out sports wagering to stop its residents heading down to Rhode Island to spend their money at its sportsbooks. The same scenario exists in New York, as is evident in the popularity of the FanDuel Meadowlands sportsbook over the river in New Jersey. The Empire State is taking another step towards sports betting, as Governor Andrew Cuomo declared that he hopes to use revenue from it to help reduce a $3.1 billion gap in its finances. Many states are looking at rolling out a regulated sports wagering industry in 2019 – including Iowa, where William Hill has just signed a partnership deal for a sportsbook with Prairie Meadows Racetrack & Casino, as it expects the green light to be given their soon – and this fascinating industry looks set to keep gathering pace in the months ahead.

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