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State of the Union: US Sports Betting Update – New Jersey Welcomes New Sportsbooks

Online sports wagering is becoming increasingly competitive in New Jersey after two new digital sportsbooks were launched this week.

The PlayMGM NJ Sports app went live on Wednesday and PlaySugarHouse launched a sportsbook section the following day. DraftKings’ app had monopolised the online sports betting scene in the Garden State since launching on 1st August, but now it has serious competition to contend with. This is a glimpse of the future for millions of American bettors, who will benefit from rival sites vying for their business with attractive sign-up bonuses and enticing reduced juice offerings.

Sugar Rush

Sugar House is a land-based casino in Philadelphia, owned by Rush Street Gaming. The RSG Group was founded in 1996 and operates various land-based casinos in New York and Illinois, serving more than 10 million customers a year. It has been transferring that gaming expertise into the digital sphere and running an online casino in New Jersey since 2016. When the Supreme Court struck down the Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act of 1992, it moved quickly to extend its desktop and mobile offering to sports betting. The updated site offers wagering on NFL, NBA, MLB, NHL, NCAA, soccer, tennis, golf, cricket, cycling, darts, motor sports and UFC.

Soccer has the most games to choose from and the coverage is pretty strong. In England, it goes all the way down to League Two, which is the fourth professional division, and the coverage is comprehensive. A random game between two small clubs, Crawley Town and Bury, comes with 92 different betting options, including Asian handicaps, win to nil and total goals. It is not quite as detailed as established European operators, but for a new site it is very impressive. That makes sense when you learn that European provider Kambi has supplied the managed sportsbook platform for PlaySugarHouse. Kambi also powers the DraftKings app, and both provide a solid range of betting options. Throughout the year, PlaySugarHouse promises 5 million in-play betting options. The app is downloadable on iOS and Android devices and punters can choose from American, fractional and decimal odds.

RSG has experience of running a sportsbook in Colombia and Richard Schwartz, president of Rush Street Interactive, said: “Being the first US-based gaming operator to launch a regulated online sportsbook outside of the US has been helpful in establishing the SugarHouse online sportsbook and casino. We’ve matured our sportsbook product and validated that players value our proprietary sportsbook loyalty program, including earning points on every single bet.”

Land Casino Tie Ins

Online casinos and sports betting sites have to be tied in with a land-based casino and Sugar House operates on the Golden Nugget licence. Each casino is allowed three online counterparts. DraftKings is on the Resorts Atlantic City licence. The PlayMGM NJ Sport app is naturally tied to Borgata in Atlantic City, as MGM owns that grand dame of the Boardwalk. “We are delighted to launch our new PlayMGM sports-betting app in New Jersey, and believe that the joint venture’s rapid entry into this market puts it in a very good position to take market share,” said Adam Greenblatt, director of corporate development and strategy at MGM. “While time to market is clearly important, we are also focused on our proprietary product development roadmap which will see new features introduced quickly, and without third party technology dependencies.”

The PlayMGM NJ Sports app features a wide range of US markets and selected international sports. The app features a single wallet that enables bettors to view their total account balance and easily use available funds for sports betting, casino or poker products. This has been possible in mature European markets for many years, but it is something of a novelty in the US. Now the challenge for these legal, regulated operators is to seize market share from illegal, offshore betting sites that have been thriving for years.

The Enormous US Opportunity

New research from Nielsen, commissioned by the American Gaming Association, suggests that 71% of Americans currently betting with offshore sites will switch to legal operators. Nielsen surveyed 1,032 adults in May 2018 and 81% of NFL fans claimed that they do not bet, which sparked raised eyebrows from commentators. A choice Tweet from ESPN’s David Purdum read: “New research from @AmerGamingAssn and Nielsen Sports: 81 percent of NFL fans are ‘non-bettors’. I’ve got the under.” The people surveyed may have been shy about admitting to betting on the black market, but of those that said they gambled, 71% said they would switch some or all of their betting to legal apps.

The AGA claims sports wagering will spark renewed interest in sports among younger adults, driving more people into stadiums. “The Nielsen Sports data supports what we’ve long expected: access to legal sports wagering will increase fan engagement in major sport contests and enable a significant revenue generation opportunity for major sports leagues and teams,” said Sara Slane, senior vice president of public affairs. “Expanding access to legal sports betting will bring millennial audiences back to sports broadcasts and stadiums, which is a huge benefit for sport enterprises across the country. However, this potential will only be realised with proper policy frameworks that empower consumers with competitive odds, access to all bets and the ability to tap into modern platforms including mobile. Without this focus on consumers, the illegal market will continue to thrive.”

The AGA said additional research is underway to quantify how much each league can earn from widely available, legal, regulated sports betting. The study suggested that 44% of sports bettors are aged 18-35, the so-called millennial generation, and that affluent males in particular are drawn to it. These are people sports teams want to attract to their stadiums, said the AGA, urging the sports leagues to back the movement to legalise sports wagering across the US. The survey pool of 1,032 people could clearly be a lot wider in the interests of drawing firm conclusions, but it suggests that the industry has an opportunity to grow its reach by broadening its appeal to females and older generations.

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