State of the Union: US Sports Betting Update – New Jersey Grows Handle Again in August
New Jersey operators shrugged off a distinct lack of sporting action in August to post a robust handle of $297.3 million. That represents a 16.8% increase on the amount wagered by Garden State sports fans during the previous month, and a 207.1% uptick on August 2018. It suggests that New Jersey has a great chance of holding onto its crown as the number one market for sports betting in the U.S.
It surpassed Nevada’s sports wagering handle for the first time in May 2019, but the Silver State battled back and regained the lead in June. New Jersey then reported revenue of $251 million for July, while Nevada could only manage $235 million, leaving the Garden State as top dog once again. Last year, Nevada’s sportsbooks brought in $247.6 million in August, so they would need to generate a massive improvement in 2019 if they are to usurp their New Jersey counterparts. Nevada typically releases its figures several weeks later than New Jersey, so we will have to wait and see.
Online Continues to Dominate
Online wagering accounted for 84.9% of the total handle of $297.3 million in the Garden State during August. Operators generated revenue of $25 million, which equates to a hold of 8.5%. FanDuel was the clear winner once again, as it accounted for more than $9 million of that $25 million handle. DraftKings was number two, while William Hill was a distant third and the other sportsbooks earned paltry revenue by comparison.
The New Jersey market is growing increasingly competitive: Bet365 is the latest major European operator to launch there and a rebranded FOX Bet has also started trading. That could reduce the dominance currently enjoyed by FanDuel and DraftKings, but the former DFS pioneers have a great head start and they have opened up a dominant position in the leadings sports betting market in America.
The handle is certain to soar for September now that the NFL season is underway. The Garden State’s best-ever performance came in January 2019, when handle hit $385.3 million, which is some way below the record-breaking $596 million that Nevada posted in May 2019. It will be interesting to see if New Jersey goes past the $400 million or even the $500 million mark for the first time this month. The market is growing increasingly mature and competitive, so that is an achievable goal.
West Virginia Making Progress
Over in West Virginia, things are progressing at a decidedly slower pace. Figures covering for the week ending August 31, 2019, when the state’s first two mobile sports betting apps launched, shows that these apps produced just $25,000 in revenue. Retail sportsbooks at West Virginia’s casinos earned nearly $649,000 in revenue that same week. Yet the handle shot up during the first weekend of NFL action, as mobile app players wagered a total of $1.12 million. “The total handle was up with the start of the football season, as projected, and we expect the mobile app play to grow in future weeks,” said Lottery Director John Myers.
Legal sports betting has also debuted in Iowa, Indiana and Oregon this month in time for the new NFL season. “We’ve had incredibly successful sportsbook launches, and Indiana is continuing that trend,” said Christian Stuart, executive vice president of Gaming and Interactive Entertainment at Caesars this week after it launched a sportsbook at Indiana Grand Racing & Casino. “We look forward to seeing OpenSports further engage our players with the sleek user experience and high transaction volume we’ve come to expect from OpenSports.”
Rhode Island, Nevada, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, West Virginia, Iowa, New York, New Mexico, Arkansas, Delaware, Mississippi, Indiana and Oregon all now offer legal sports wagering, either online, in-person or both. Illinois, Montana, New Hampshire, North Carolina and Tennessee have all legalised sports betting, and sportsbooks will launch in those states soon. The industry is spreading like wildfire across the country, and each state has a distinct set of laws and regulations, so there is now an effort to regulate sports betting at a federal level.
Resurrecting Hatch’s Vision
Utah Senator and former Presidential candidate Mitt Romney has been involved in preliminary discussions about a new federal sports gambling bill, a member of his staff told iGB. Romney, who received 47.2% of the presidential election votes in 2012 during a narrow defeat to Barack Obama, is said to be working with New York Senator Chuck Schumer on a similar bill to the Sports Wagering Market Integrity Act.
That bill was sponsored by Schumer and now retired Utah Senator Orrin Hatch – who was replaced in the Senate by Romney – last year. It proved extremely unpopular among industry insiders, as it aimed to allow Congress to seize control of the burgeoning US sports betting industry. It would have required the US Attorney General’s office to approve sports wagering regulations in any state that wants to roll out a legal industry. It also sought to force operators to use official league data to settle bets until at least 2023 and to create a framework for authorities to clamp down on unlicensed operators, both in America and overseas.
States on a Collision Course with NCAA
Hatch’s bill would have amended the Wire Act of 1961, allowing sportsbooks to lay off bets to other states, while extending the Sports Bribery Act of 1964 to cover extortion and blackmail. It additionally called for a National Sports Wagering Clearinghouse to be created, and that body would scan betting data in real time in search of corruption and any unusual betting patterns. Hatch was outspoken about the need for federal legislation of the sports betting trade, and he found an ally in Schumer.
The bill was introduced in December 2018, but it was not assigned a committee, and many in the industry may have hoped to see the back of it. However, the movement is now set to be resurrected by Romney and Schumer. The states will vehemently oppose it, arguing that they are best placed to regulate their own local markets. Yet the National Collegiate Athletic Association wholeheartedly endorses the legislation.
“We are absolutely supportive of federal regulation,” said its vice president of hearing operations, Naima Stevenson Starks. “It’s fairly daunting to think that every state would have a different set of regulations. Having some minimum standards, we are very supportive of and have been an active proponent of.” This one looks set to rumble on, but in the meantime sportsbooks will mainly be focused on delivering as strong a commercial performance as possible while the NFL season rages on.