Chris Murphy: Americas Outlook – No drama just business as US systems are go

Chris Murphy – SBC Americas

As US betting approaches the final straight of its first full year in operations,  SBC Americas’ Editor Chris Murphy details that coast-to-coast all critical stakeholders appear to be playing their part in progressing US betting’s agenda –  ‘No drama, just business’ the US really is a new territory for gambling…

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With G2E deals still fresh on the order pad and all eyes now front-facing to the close of 2019, the US sports betting sector continues to grow and develop at a pace that even the most optimistic of industry observers might not have predicted. The pace of change is nothing short of prodigious.

As things currently stand, a full 19 states have either legislation on the books or fully-fledged sports betting on the go. 

Newcomers Iowa and Indiana both got off to a flyer, as bettors in the former placed a total of $38.5m in sports wagers. Figures from the Iowa Racing and Gaming Commission showed that sports betting revenue for The Hawkeye State amounted to $4.96m, with licensed operators having contributed $334,553 in tax in the first month of regulated sports betting. 

Indiana‘s retail sportsbooks enjoyed an impressive debut month that saw them hold their own with more established legal sports betting markets. Fueled by retail sportsbooks most closely to the situated Chicago market, Indiana retail sportsbooks accepted $35.2m in bets in September, producing $8.6m in adjusted gross revenue for the sportsbooks.  

Unsurprisingly, though, it was the Garden State that continued to lead the way, with New Jersey gamblers wagering a record $445m on sports across the state in September, the largest monthly total in New Jersey since legal sports betting began on June 2018. 

In fact, since the legalization of sports betting in NJ, over $4bn has been wagered in both New Jersey’s online and retail sportsbooks, with Atlantic City casinos recording 16 straight months of gaming revenue increases.

While the focus has been acutely trained on the numbers, it’s also important to recognise the relationships that continue to be formed and flourish stateside. Only recently, GAN, a developer and supplier of enterprise-level B2B internet gaming software, services and online gaming content in the US, broadened its existing agreement with FanDuel Group. 

That partnership now sees FanDuel taking GAN’s platform into Indiana for rapid deployment of account services for internet sports betting, following the start of internet gaming in the state earlier this month.

The National Basketball Association (NBA), always eyeing new joint ventures, took a more Antipodean approach by teaming with Australian betting operator Tabcorp as part of a new multi-year media partnership. Under the terms of the deal, NBA TV – the league’s 24-hour television network – will be shown across Tabcorp’s Sky Channel throughout its 4,400 TAB retail and entertainment venues across Australia.

Not to be outdone, National Hockey League (NHL) franchise the Las Vegas Golden Knights penned a multi-year partnership with International Game Technology (IGT) which becomes the latest in a line of suitors to link up.

Elsewhere, the omnipresent Google got in on the act, updating its gambling and games policy to authorize the advertising of sports betting services in Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Montana, Iowa and Indiana. These five states join the likes of New Jersey, Nevada and West Virginia who all permit sports betting via Google’s “limited beta” program launched in June as part of the company’s efforts to keep pace with the rapid spread of legal sports betting services.

US sports betting still faces challenges, the Wire Act being one of them. The US Department of Justice (DoJ) filed a notice of appeal following the decision in June by the United States District Court for the District of New Hampshire to find in favor of the New Hampshire Lottery Commission (NHLC) in the long-awaited ruling on last year’s revised opinion of the Wire Act by the DoJ.

The action was described by iDEA Growth Founder Jeff Ifrah as hardly unexpected, but certainly unwarranted. 

Ifrah said: “We hope that, rather than engaging in a protracted, expensive and ultimately unsuccessful legal fight, the Department will take this opportunity to negotiate a settlement which will focus the Wire Act and DOJ’s enforcement resources on the right targets – the unlicensed illegal offshore Internet gambling operators who do not create jobs or tax revenue in the US and do not appropriately protect consumers.”

And as we head into the New Year and look forward to key events like next year’s Betting on Sports America, there will be more material for debate and conjecture. Paying college athletes for image rights; the stout refusal of New York to allow mobile betting; and increased pressure on stakeholders to beef up their social responsibility quotas. 

All these things and more will add vivid colour and sharp detail to the rapidly developing picture of a market that refuses to stand still… Like time and tide, US sports betting waits for no man. 

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