Nevada sportsbooks took a record-breaking $596.8 million in wagers during March to reassert the Silver State’s market-leading position in the US sports betting industry. It was the largest monthly handle in history, surpassing the previous record of $582.3 million that Nevada books took in November 2018. March Madness was the key driver behind the bumper month of trading, as basketball accounted for $495.1 million of the total handle. It also represented the first time in 15 years that sports betting outstripped Baccarat in Nevada and it points to a healthy future for the state’s sportsbooks.
For years Nevada was the only state permitted to offer regulated sports wagering, but Delaware, New Jersey, Mississippi, West Virginia, Rhode Island, Pennsylvania and New Mexico have all followed suit after the Supreme Court axed PASPA in May, 2018. Last week New Jersey reported sports betting handle of $372 million for March, sparking predictions that it would usurp Nevada as the market leader. But Nevada responded emphatically and showed that its crown is not in immediate jeopardy.
March Madness Leaves Super Bowl in the Shade
However, bettors proved to be considerably shrewder in Nevada than they were in the Garden State. Nevada books held revenue of $32.5 million off the $596.8 million handle, which equates to a win of 5.4%. New Jersey books held a similar revenue of $32 million off a much smaller handle, leaving it with a healthier hold of 8.6%. Yet Nevada will be encouraged to note that competition has not sunk its sports betting market and books will be pleased with the record-breaking March Madness handle.
Betting on the NCAA tournament stood at an estimated $346.6 million in March, and that eclipsed the $145.9 million wagered on Super Bowl LIII. Sportsbooks cannot break down the proportion of basketball bets that went on NCAA and NBA, but anecdotal reports suggest 70% went on March Madness, according to Gaming Control Board senior research analyst Michael Lawton. It is the eighth straight year that Nevada has seen its March basketball handle shoot up and shows what a juggernaut the NCAA showpiece is.
The New Jersey Division of Gaming Enforcement also released statistics from the tournament this week at a sports betting conference in Secaucus. It said that almost a third of the $372 million wagered on sports in the Garden State went on March Madness. The books held 10.2% of that handle, equating to a win of $10.8 million. The NBA playoffs are now raging on and the sportsbooks will hope to see basketball’s popularity remain high in the next couple of months, before the quiet summer trading period.
Online is King in Sports Betting Industry
Around 80% of those bets were placed online in New Jersey and states that only offer land-based wagering feel they are seriously missing out. Rhode Island began taking sports bets at two Twin Rivers Casinos in November 2018, but revenue has thus far been paltry as online and mobile betting is still outlawed. The state has sought to rectify that and a bill called S 37 is working its way through the legislative process in a bid to offer online sports wagering.
“I think in the long run, the numbers are going to be what we thought, but we got a slower start,” Gov. Gina Raimondo the Governor told The Providence Journal. “Maybe we should have known it was going to be slower and forecasted accordingly. I also think the world is changing and actually the money is going to be on the [mobile] phone.” However, a source told Legal Sports Report that he is not expecting mobile wagering to go live until Q4 of 2019, which means it would miss the start of the NFL season. Rhode Island is full of New England Patriots fans and that would surely damage its 2019 revenues.
Midwest Hurtling Towards Sports Betting
Indiana is also in the process of introducing legislation that would create a regulated sports betting industry. A sports betting bill passed through a key legislative chamber in the state last week, but mobile was struck from it. That meant the state would miss out on a huge chunk of revenue, as online and mobile wagering is a lot more popular than land-based betting due to the convenience it offers. However, this week it emerged that lawmakers have added mobile wagering back onto the bill at a conference committee.
More details will be revealed on Monday afternoon and it is looking increasingly likely that Indiana will become the first state in 2019 to legalize sports betting. The bill now heads to the desk of Gov. Eric Holcomb, and after it a week or two in transit he will have seven days to take action. Sen. Jon Ford, one of the original sponsors, has indicated that Holcomb will sign it. The bill includes a 9.5% revenue tax and a $100,000 licensing fee for operators. Iowa and Montana have also advanced sports betting bills this week, while Illinois is wrestling with legislation, as the Midwest hurtles towards a legal sports betting trade.
Tennessee Eyes Pieces of Silver
Sports betting is also on the cards in Tennessee, where bill H 1 cleared the House by a 58-37 vote this week. The state is so convinced by the economic potential of mobile sports wagering that the measure only covers online sportsbooks. Its Senate companion bill, S 16, cleared a major obstacle by getting the green light from the Finance Committee and a floor vote has now been scheduled before it heads to governor’s desk, with the end of the current legislative session looming.
However, the bill has been met with fierce opposition in Tennessee, as Rep. Andy Holt compared sports betting to slavery and crystal meth in a bizarre rant. “Are you willing to sacrifice your principles for a few pieces of silver?” he demanded, likening a legal sports betting industry to taxing methamphetamine sales. However, he was given short shrift by several colleagues, including bill sponsor Rep. Rick Staples. Rep. Andrew Farmer, a criminal lawyer by trade, said: “I’m a little appalled with some of the comments that were made on the floor. I’m never seen one drug addict with their phone in their hands with their fantasy football app out.”