A year ago the state of New Jersey finally prevailed in its legal battle with the major sports leagues as the Supreme Court decided to axe PASPA. It paved the way for sports wagering to be legalized across the country and the Garden State was among the first to roll out a regulated industry. It celebrated the anniversary of its triumph this week by reporting more than $300 million in sports betting handle for April. That is the sixth month in a row that the handle has broken through the $300 million barrier and it highlights an industry that is thriving.
“Sports betting without question has provided a major boost to the local economy, and we believe this excitement will translate into increased revenue and tourism throughout the summer,” said Kevin Ortzman, regional president for Caesars Entertainment, which operates two sportsbooks in Atlantic City. April’s handle of $313 million represented a decline on the $372 million figure from the previous month.
However, that is understandable as there was a lot more sporting action to bet on in March. Yet the NBA playoffs were in full swing, The Final Four of the NCAA Division 1 tournament took place, MLB began and The Masters at Augusta captured the imagination, and that was enough to see New Jersey books take revenue of $21 million off the $313 million handle.
Online Dominates New Jersey
Online remains king in the Garden State, accounting for 80% of the handle last month. That follows a pattern witnessed in mature sports betting jurisdictions, where sports fans typically prefer to bet on their mobile devices while at home or on the go. FanDuel has cemented its position as the clear market leader, taking the bulk of the $8.8 million revenue generated online under the Meadowlands licence.
“The FanDuel Sportsbook is the clear number one sports betting operator in New Jersey, a notable achievement just one year since the overturn of PASPA,” said the operator, which is owned by Paddy Power Betfair. “April was our second biggest revenue month since launch, thanks in part to enthusiasm for the NBA and NHL Playoffs as well as the start of baseball season.”
DraftKings accounts for most of the $4.8 million taken online under the Resorts license, ensuring it remains the number two operator in New Jersey by a comfortable margin. It is teaming up with casino operator Caesars to spread its footprint across the U.S., having signed a multi-state pact to run sports wagering at its properties. William Hill is in third in New Jersey. It also boasts a huge presence in Nevada, and it operates in almost every state to legalize sports betting since PASPA came crashing down.
Slow Progress in Pennsylvania
The April figures for neighbouring Pennsylvania do not compare well to those enjoyed by New Jersey’s nascent industry. The Keystone State took $36.8 million in sports wagers during the month, and it is clearly hampered by the lack of an online offering. Rivers in Pittsburgh led the way by taking $8.2 million and holding revenue of $871,573. Next up was SugarHouse in downtown Philadelphia, which took $7.9 million in handle and $781,163 in revenue. Parx in Bensalem was the biggest winner, as it held $907,298 in revenue off $6.9 million handle. Parx also suffered the smaller decline on the previous month, with revenue falling 7.8% as its peers saw declines of more than 30%.
Rivers, SugarHouse and Parx are very much the big three in Pennsylvania, with Hollywood at Penn National a distant fourth. Then Valley Forge was in fifth and Caesars-owner Harrah’s Philadelphia was sixth. Greenwood Gaming, the owner of Parx, also operates the South Philadelphia Race and Sportsbook in Philly’s stadium district and the Valley Forge Race and Sportsbook. Between them they took more than $3 million in handle and revenue of $637,548, so Greenwood is the biggest operator in the state right now. It also leads the way as the largest casino operator thanks to its strength when it comes to slots.
It is now set to launch online sports wagering in June, a move that would significantly accelerate the state’s sports betting industry. It revealed at a relicensing hearing this week that it would begin to test online sports wagering systems this month and then launch its digital offering in early June. Renowned Swedish white-label sportsbook provider Kambi powers Greenwood’s sports betting operations. The firm has plenty of experience in this field as it also provides online sports wagering for the likes of 888 Sport.
Once sports betting Pennsylvania becomes more mature and a competitive online market emerges, it will be interesting to compare it with New Jersey. It has a larger population and GDP than the Garden State, while there are seven major professional sports teams in Pennsylvania, so it has the potential to become the biggest sports betting jurisdiction in the U.S. However, the state demands extremely high licensing fees and revenue taxes, and it will be intriguing to see if this dents Pennsylvania’s progress.
Last year, New Jersey and Pennsylvania were joined by Delaware, Mississippi, West Virginia, Rhode Island and New Mexico in launching legal sports wagering. Before PASPA was axed, only Nevada was permitted to do so. Montana and Indiana finally joined the party earlier this month, meaning 10 of the 50 U.S. states now offer legal sportsbooks. Legislation is underway in the majority of states and the race is on to become the next one to launch.
The two frontrunners are Colorado and Iowa, as bills are sitting on the desks of Gov. Jared Polis and Gov. Kim Reynolds, waiting to be signed into law. Tennessee is also expected to introduce sportsbooks, although it will pass without the governor’s men and it is a “really bad” bill. New Hampshire is also making a later charge as the Senate is poised to pass an amended bill.
Two of the biggest states – New York and Illinois – are wrestling with legislation and there is an appetite in both to introduce sports betting, but proponents are frustrated by a raft of delays. S 153 is working through the various committees in Louisiana, while the House is expected to join the Senate in approving sports wagering in North Carolina. Missouri, Michigan, Alaska, Arkansas, Oregon and the District of Columbia could all roll out sports betting before the end of the year too, as the industry continues to gather steam.