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NEWS 12 April 2019

Big Question: What have US sports betting companies learned since PASPA?

By Tim Poole

To celebrate the upcoming anniversary of the PASPA repeal, Gambling Insider asked some of the industry’s biggest names the following question:

Nearly one year on from the PASPA repeal, what are the main lessons operators and suppliers have learned about regulated US markets so far?

Below, Gambling Insider Senior Staff Writer Tim Poole gives his own take on the Big Question:

 

You can tell me all about esports, you can talk to me all day about AI and you can wax lyrical about crypto-currencies. But, even if they dominate the future, they certainly aren’t justifying their hype in the present; especially in terms of cold, hard revenue figures.

Talk to me about US sports betting, though, and my ears will prick up. It’s the here and now of the gaming industry and it’s a vertical that has already taught operators and suppliers so much, all the while fascinating analysts like myself.

Get excited – but be patient

No one can look at the state of US sports wagering right now and say it hasn’t made great strides in the last year.

But, playing devil’s advocate, things haven't necessarily moved as quickly as many expected. For all the excitement, we are still in single digits for the number of regulated states and suggestions 25-30 will legalise sports betting within three years – while still perfectly plausible – have received significant enough setbacks.

Despite the power of mobile wagering in New Jersey, Governor Andrew Cuomo swiftly dismissed the proposition of it in New York. Elsewhere, the Department of Justice, and dare we say the Coalition to Stop Internet Gambling, caused great uncertainty with its reinterpretation of the Federal Wire Act (not applicable specifically to sports but enough to slow US gaming in general).

An unfortunate month in February also left critics asking what happened to all the revenue projected in states like Rhode Island, where sportsbooks lost $900,000, and Delaware, where only $22,151 was generated. Yes, the Super Bowl had a massive hand in these figures but that won’t douse the flames of the naysayers.

As mundane as it may sound, the lesson so far has been to remain enthusiastic – but patient. Plenty of onlookers have already revised expectations, as US sports wagering prepares itself for the long road ahead.

Does early-mover advantage matter?

In December, GVC Holdings CEO Kenny Alexander was bullish about the operator’s North American prospects when I spoke with him at length in his London office.

In the resulting CEO Special of the Gambling Insider magazine, Alexander virtually dismissed all the early progress in New Jersey. He went on to promise the market will look very different once GVC’s joint venture with MGM Resorts International, Roar Digital, starts taking its share.

By contrast, 888 Holdings CEO Itai Pazner told me in February he’s not worried by new competition in the US – as the operator has already made its American mark through other verticals. When I spoke to DraftKings CEO Jason Robins at ICE London, he was cautious and complimentary towards his rivals.

Clearly, there are two schools of thought emerging on the early-mover quagmire. We won’t know who’s right until every single one of the big players sets out its US stall.

A favourable climate

What we can definitively acknowledge, however, is the widespread willingness for sports betting to succeed in the US. This is something a UK resident like me can appreciate and understand more than any US-based exec.

No sports betting enthusiast should take anything for granted across the Atlantic, for PASPA’s dismissal truly paved the way for the new gold rush. Regulators like those in New Jersey are massively pro-betting. Even the North American major leagues, which protested against sports wagering and demanded integrity fees not so long ago, are now signing gaming sponsorship deals left, right and centre.

So, for every small legislatorial victory in a new state and every new sportsbook partnership agreed, rejoice. In the UK, by comparison, attitudes towards gaming are quite the reverse.

Despite the progress, it’s clear the offshore market isn’t going away any time soon in North America, especially when major broadcasters and affiliates still promote it at large.

But where there’s a will, there’s a way. In the US, that will has never been greater.

 

Register for free to read how Scientific Games, Kambi and Sportradar answered the Big Question when the May/June edition of the Gambling Insider magazine is published.

RELATED TAGS: Sports Betting
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