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Colorado Sports Betting Enjoys Profitable First Month

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As summer draws nearer, major sports are putting into place plans to return to action.

The NBA is ready to resume play July 31 in OrlandoFlorida. While still needing final approval for it, the NHL appears to have the intention to get players back on the ice around the same time.

Golf is back, while NASCAR and UFC are well underway.

In what would normally be a down time of the calendar year, summer 2020 holds the potential to be significant for legalized sports betting.

On to the Rewind:

Colorado sports betting starts hot in first month

When Colorado sports betting went live May 1, many expected a slow start. After all, the world was in the middle of the coronavirus pandemic, sidelining most sports and closing casinos and retail sportsbooks.

Regardless, online books launched in the Centennial State. And the result is an opening month that is nothing to scoff at.

With six operators live in May, legal wagering in Colorado totaled $25.5 million in handle with an official release from regulators expected June 15.

Several major players helped kick off the state’s regulated industry:

  • BetMGM
  • BetMonarch
  • BetRivers
  • DraftKings Sportsbook
  • FanDuel Sportsbook
  • Fox Bet

While paling in comparison with the likes of New Jersey and Pennsylvania, Colorado’s first month is not at all terrible. As Legal Sports Report noted, Oregon reported $7.3 million in handle during May, though it only features one online operator.

Still, Colorado enjoyed a solid first step, as semi-major events such as The Match 2, UFC, NASCAR, Bundesliga and Korean baseball carried the load.

Certainly, Colorado, as well as other states with legal sports betting, will benefit from the return of major sports. The NBA plans on returning July 31, and the NHL is closing in on a resuming play around the same time.

Is online sports betting on the way in Illinois?

Like many states without legal online gambling offerings, the gaming industry in Illinois has suffered amid the pandemic.

The Land of Lincoln already had plans to integrate online betting, which we expected by 2021. However, Gov. J.B. Pritzker recently issued an executive order that struck down the state’s requirement for in-person registration for mobile wagering.

This means that once operators are approved to operate online, those interested in betting via a mobile device can sign up from the comfort of their own homes.

The state requires in-person registration until the Illinois Gaming Board issues the first of three standalone online-only licenses, which, according to law, cannot be issued until 540 days after brick-and-mortar sportsbooks opened April 9. Pritzker’s latest order does not void the in-person requirement but rather suspends its enforcement.

That said, Illinois does not feature any operators licensed to operate online. Naturally, then, many wonder if Pritzker’s order will expire before the first mobile products go live. In this case, in-person registration returns as a requirement.

Regardless, the governor’s latest move could entice stakeholders to accelerate their negotiations to enter the Illinois online market, thus creating a more aggressive timeline for launching online products.

Potentially, if all things go right, Illinois could begin recouping lost revenue by launching the first legal online sportsbooks.

Welcome back, Las Vegas casinos

At long last, following weeks of closure, casinos in Nevada began reopening on June 4. By sunrise, the Vegas Strip was back open for business.

As a result, the first casinos in the mecca of American gambling made their reintroduction.

The likes of Caesars Palace, the Flamingo, the Cosmopolitan, BellagioMGM Grand and New York-New York, among others, welcomed enthusiastic guests.

The state requires all casino employees to wear protective masks while only recommending the attire for patrons. Many properties conducted temperature checks before admitting guests while also supplying touch-free sanitizing stations and even providing single-use masks.

Even with socially distant slots and limited seating at table games, Vegas made its return and seemingly started its way back to normalcy.

What matters is this becomes another sign that we are closer to reaching the end of the tunnel.

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From Gaming Tables To Masks, Recapping Las Vegas’ Big Reopening Weekend

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As the clock struck midnight on June 4, you could almost feel the electric anticipation of people getting ready to finally visit Las Vegas casinos again.

Casinos on the Vegas Strip opened at 8 a.m. and later on June 4. After a quick temperature check at many casinos, gamblers rushed in to place their first bets inside of a casino in nearly three months. While there were celebrations for the first guests at Caesars Palace and Bellagio, the scene was a bit more relaxed.

There was plenty of excitement to check into hotel rooms and hit table games and slot machines but visitors were cautious at first. That changed as the days continued and more guests arrived in Las Vegas from all over the world — and presumably, as the cocktails flowed.

Michael Trager, a visitor at Caesars Palace from London, told PlayUSA that he wanted to come to the reopening of Las Vegas because “I needed to see the reopening of Vegas. This is historic. In addition, in some ways, this pandemic has caused Vegas to change forever.”

The energy on the Las Vegas Strip

There are more than 100 casinos in the Las Vegas area. Only 30 of those casinos are located on the Vegas Strip and not all of those properties are currently open. Caesars Entertainment and MGM Resorts International operate the majority of casinos on the Vegas Strip and are opening properties in phases.

MGM Resorts opened Bellagio, MGM Grand, and New York-New York with limited capacity. Excalibur will open later this week on June 11. MGM Resorts’ acting CEO Bill Hornbuckle tells the Las Vegas Review-Journal he’d like to open Aria by July 4th weekend. He’d like to continue opening MGM properties every two to four weeks after.

Caesars Entertainment started with Flamingo and Caesars Palace. The company opened Harrah’s and The Linq promenade on June 5 due to overwhelming demand. Caesars expects to open The Linq casino, but not the hotel, next. The properties that are open now can offer more hotels and amenities for guests should customer demand continue to increase.

While the atmosphere on opening day at Bellagio was somewhat subdued, Caesars Palace and the Cosmopolitan were just getting started. Guests from California started to arrive on Friday afternoon and they were much more exuberant. Here’s a quick scene from the casino floor at Cosmopolitan on Friday night into Saturday morning.

To mask or not to mask

MGM Resorts and Wynn Las Vegas are offering complimentary face masks for anyone entering their properties. However, most casinos in Las Vegas are not offering free masks for all guests. Casino employees are required to wear face coverings at all times. Casino operators recommend guests wear a face mask but do not require it.

The video above captures a young crowd almost exclusively not wearing face coverings. This wasn’t the case all day. When the sun was still up on the first days of Las Vegas reopening there were noticeably more guests on and off the Vegas Strip wearing masks.

There was one thing in common with the majority of the guests wearing a face covering: the guests wearing masks tended to be older and more susceptible to catching COVID-19. Dru Chai, a visitor from California staying at New York-New York told PlayUSA that he “felt safe after visiting all three MGM Resorts properties that re-opened on June 4, although my experience was different at Bellagio where there were significantly more people compared to MGM Grand and New York-New York.”

Safety at Las Vegas casinos

The Nevada Gaming Control Board gave casinos a detailed list of health and safety policy requirements for reopening. Casino operators aren’t required to share their health and safety plans although many decided to do so before reopening.

The first thing some guests will notice happens right at the doors to enter a casino. Some casinos in Las Vegas — not all — are taking the temperature of guests upon entry. Checking temperatures is a way to see if a guest might have some symptoms of COVID-19. The process takes a couple of seconds but as casinos become busier, there could be a short wait.

The starkest change guests will see are dealers, and all casino employees, wearing face coverings. Sitting down at the tables and machines is also a different experience. There’s more space for social distancing and it’s noticeable with only three seats at blackjack and similar table games.

Craps is limited to six players while roulette tables only have space for four players. Slot machines have either been rearranged to create more space or there are chairs missing from games that might also be turned off.

Social distancing while gambling seems to be off to a good start at the larger casinos that have more room and open tables. Smaller casinos off the Vegas Strip might have some problems with onlookers. The limited space at the table might make gamblers hover while waiting to hop onto a hot craps game.

Social distancing measures could change in the future. For the time being, gamblers didn’t seem to mind having extra elbow room. Gamblers also didn’t mind playing behind plexiglass barriers at the few casinos that have the extra protective measure.

Chai also told PlayUSA “I was impressed that there were hand washing stations, including free masks, gloves, and sanitizing wipes readily available throughout the casino floor. There was an increased level of security, especially at highly trafficked points of entry.”

Even though there are significant safety precautions today, he wonders how long it will last, saying “it will be interesting to see how social distancing will be regulated when crowds significantly increase.”

Las Vegas is reopening slowly

Social distancing on the casino floor is an attempt to keep gaming spaces capped at 50% of capacity. This is mostly an attempt to keep the spread of coronavirus to a minimum. It also affords casino operators the ability to ease into restart their businesses slowly

Casino restaurants also have a 50% capacity limit. Some eateries remain closed while others have limited hours. This should change in the future but the limits are allowing the casino operators to re-learn how to walk before they run on all cylinders again.

Today’s Las Vegas does not offer the same experience as the beginning of March. In addition to limited bars and restaurants, most of the entertainment options that visitors love in Las Vegas have not returned yet.

Nevada venues can only have gatherings of 50 or fewer people right now. Large shows and residencies might return later this year or next year depending on the venue. Nightclubs aren’t open yet either. Pools are open for guests but don’t expect to see dayclubs and pool parties return anytime soon.

While large shows aren’t open, small lounges like Petrossian at Bellagio still offer their signature piano player to entertain its guests.

Is it time to visit Las Vegas again?

Las Vegas casinos are taking reopening very seriously. The thorough health and safety plans are an indication of the measures they’re going through to keep guests safe. It takes two to tango and guests have to do their part to help reduce the spread of coronavirus.

Many, but not all, casino guests are choosing to go without a face covering since there isn’t a mandate to wear one. The casinos are cleaning surfaces often but that doesn’t mean every surface is germ-free 24-7. While there are sanitizing stations, guests have to use them to do their part.

Anecdotally, those who wear masks are also washing hands often and using sanitizer often. Those not wearing masks might not be washing as frequently.

Wearing masks and cleanliness are personal matters for everyone. The casinos are doing their part and many of the best restaurants are open, albeit with limited menus. Almost every casino employee we’ve come across in the past few days has been happy to be at work and looking to welcome guests back to Las Vegas.

In a strange way, closing down casinos might have led to a way to improve the experience. The great customer service that Las Vegas is famous for is firing on all cylinders and is as good as it has been in years. Casino operators have streamlined and automated many hotel processes so guests can get what they want quicker.

This may not be the same Las Vegas as a year ago but it’s on the way back to being better than ever. It’s just going to take some time to get there.



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From Gaming Tables To Masks, Recapping Las Vegas’ Big Reopening Weekend

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As the clock struck midnight on June 4, you could almost feel the electric anticipation of people getting ready to finally visit Las Vegas casinos again.

Casinos on the Vegas Strip opened at 8 a.m. and later on June 4. After a quick temperature check at many casinos, gamblers rushed in to place their first bets inside of a casino in nearly three months. While there were celebrations for the first guests at Caesars Palace and Bellagio, the scene was a bit more relaxed.

There was plenty of excitement to check into hotel rooms and hit table games and slot machines but visitors were cautious at first. That changed as the days continued and more guests arrived in Las Vegas from all over the world — and presumably, as the cocktails flowed.

Michael Trager, a visitor at Caesars Palace from London, told PlayUSA that he wanted to come to the reopening of Las Vegas because “I needed to see the reopening of Vegas. This is historic. In addition, in some ways, this pandemic has caused Vegas to change forever.”

The energy on the Las Vegas Strip

There are more than 100 casinos in the Las Vegas area. Only 30 of those casinos are located on the Vegas Strip and not all of those properties are currently open. Caesars Entertainment and MGM Resorts International operate the majority of casinos on the Vegas Strip and are opening properties in phases.

MGM Resorts opened Bellagio, MGM Grand, and New York-New York with limited capacity. Excalibur will open later this week on June 11. MGM Resorts’ acting CEO Bill Hornbuckle tells the Las Vegas Review-Journal he’d like to open Aria by July 4th weekend. He’d like to continue opening MGM properties every two to four weeks after.

Caesars Entertainment started with Flamingo and Caesars Palace. The company opened Harrah’s and The Linq promenade on June 5 due to overwhelming demand. Caesars expects to open The Linq casino, but not the hotel, next. The properties that are open now can offer more hotels and amenities for guests should customer demand continue to increase.

While the atmosphere on opening day at Bellagio was somewhat subdued, Caesars Palace and the Cosmopolitan were just getting started. Guests from California started to arrive on Friday afternoon and they were much more exuberant. Here’s a quick scene from the casino floor at Cosmopolitan on Friday night into Saturday morning.

To mask or not to mask

MGM Resorts and Wynn Las Vegas are offering complimentary face masks for anyone entering their properties. However, most casinos in Las Vegas are not offering free masks for all guests. Casino employees are required to wear face coverings at all times. Casino operators recommend guests wear a face mask but do not require it.

The video above captures a young crowd almost exclusively not wearing face coverings. This wasn’t the case all day. When the sun was still up on the first days of Las Vegas reopening there were noticeably more guests on and off the Vegas Strip wearing masks.

There was one thing in common with the majority of the guests wearing a face covering: the guests wearing masks tended to be older and more susceptible to catching COVID-19. Dru Chai, a visitor from California staying at New York-New York told PlayUSA that he “felt safe after visiting all three MGM Resorts properties that re-opened on June 4, although my experience was different at Bellagio where there were significantly more people compared to MGM Grand and New York-New York.”

Safety at Las Vegas casinos

The Nevada Gaming Control Board gave casinos a detailed list of health and safety policy requirements for reopening. Casino operators aren’t required to share their health and safety plans although many decided to do so before reopening.

The first thing some guests will notice happens right at the doors to enter a casino. Some casinos in Las Vegas — not all — are taking the temperature of guests upon entry. Checking temperatures is a way to see if a guest might have some symptoms of COVID-19. The process takes a couple of seconds but as casinos become busier, there could be a short wait.

The starkest change guests will see are dealers, and all casino employees, wearing face coverings. Sitting down at the tables and machines is also a different experience. There’s more space for social distancing and it’s noticeable with only three seats at blackjack and similar table games.

Craps is limited to six players while roulette tables only have space for four players. Slot machines have either been rearranged to create more space or there are chairs missing from games that might also be turned off.

Social distancing while gambling seems to be off to a good start at the larger casinos that have more room and open tables. Smaller casinos off the Vegas Strip might have some problems with onlookers. The limited space at the table might make gamblers hover while waiting to hop onto a hot craps game.

Social distancing measures could change in the future. For the time being, gamblers didn’t seem to mind having extra elbow room. Gamblers also didn’t mind playing behind plexiglass barriers at the few casinos that have the extra protective measure.

Chai also told PlayUSA “I was impressed that there were hand washing stations, including free masks, gloves, and sanitizing wipes readily available throughout the casino floor. There was an increased level of security, especially at highly trafficked points of entry.”

Even though there are significant safety precautions today, he wonders how long it will last, saying “it will be interesting to see how social distancing will be regulated when crowds significantly increase.”

Las Vegas is reopening slowly

Social distancing on the casino floor is an attempt to keep gaming spaces capped at 50% of capacity. This is mostly an attempt to keep the spread of coronavirus to a minimum. It also affords casino operators the ability to ease into restart their businesses slowly

Casino restaurants also have a 50% capacity limit. Some eateries remain closed while others have limited hours. This should change in the future but the limits are allowing the casino operators to re-learn how to walk before they run on all cylinders again.

Today’s Las Vegas does not offer the same experience as the beginning of March. In addition to limited bars and restaurants, most of the entertainment options that visitors love in Las Vegas have not returned yet.

Nevada venues can only have gatherings of 50 or fewer people right now. Large shows and residencies might return later this year or next year depending on the venue. Nightclubs aren’t open yet either. Pools are open for guests but don’t expect to see dayclubs and pool parties return anytime soon.

While large shows aren’t open, small lounges like Petrossian at Bellagio still offer their signature piano player to entertain its guests.

Is it time to visit Las Vegas again?

Las Vegas casinos are taking reopening very seriously. The thorough health and safety plans are an indication of the measures they’re going through to keep guests safe. It takes two to tango and guests have to do their part to help reduce the spread of coronavirus.

Many, but not all, casino guests are choosing to go without a face covering since there isn’t a mandate to wear one. The casinos are cleaning surfaces often but that doesn’t mean every surface is germ-free 24-7. While there are sanitizing stations, guests have to use them to do their part.

Anecdotally, those who wear masks are also washing hands often and using sanitizer often. Those not wearing masks might not be washing as frequently.

Wearing masks and cleanliness are personal matters for everyone. The casinos are doing their part and many of the best restaurants are open, albeit with limited menus. Almost every casino employee we’ve come across in the past few days has been happy to be at work and looking to welcome guests back to Las Vegas.

In a strange way, closing down casinos might have led to a way to improve the experience. The great customer service that Las Vegas is famous for is firing on all cylinders and is as good as it has been in years. Casino operators have streamlined and automated many hotel processes so guests can get what they want quicker.

This may not be the same Las Vegas as a year ago but it’s on the way back to being better than ever. It’s just going to take some time to get there.



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Is Horse Racing The ‘Original Sports Bet’ With Long-Term Appeal For Gamblers?

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Alex Waldrop is as optimistic about the current and near-future state of the pari-mutuel industry as a president of the National Thoroughbred Racing Association could be after the Triple Crown has been postponed, reshuffled, altered.

But with the Kentucky Derby moved from the first Saturday in May until Sept. 5, the traditional Triple Crown-capping Belmont Stakes shortened and pushed back to June 20 and the Preakness Stakes now the finale on Oct. 3, Waldrop sees a chance for horse racing to sustain some of the sports betting interest it absorbed during the COVID-19 shutdown.

Horse racing is uniquely qualified in the endeavor of enduring after decades of decline, and Waldrop believes it’s poised now to establish a new foothold.

PlayUSA spoke to Waldrop about this old-school sport will gallop into a digital realm of modern sports betting.

What has helped horse racing raise its profile since the major four sports were forced to shutter in March?

Waldrop: A couple of the things that we have done probably the strongest over the last couple of months is the fact that we have been on two national cable channels, FOX Sports and NBC Sports on Saturday afternoons, which has given us visibility, which we don’t ordinarily get beyond TVG, which is the primary television channel for horse racing.

 It’s available widely, but not widely on cable, generally on streaming live on the internet. But FOX and NBC Sports have both been showing us. In fact, NBC Sports has been taking TVG and rebroadcasting it on their own channel through all of their subscribers, nationwide. FOX Sports has done the same for some of the same tracks. Churchill Downs has exclusively on Fox.

So you have big platforms now that are showing racing that’s giving us visibility to people who don’t ordinarily watch racing horse racing as a sport. And then just [last week] we rolled out a new marketing strategy, a new marketing awareness campaign that is going to be focusing not just on television but also on digital and social media.

 And we have our [advance-deposit wagering] platforms, those online platforms which allow people to watch and wager every day. But certainly, now that opportunity is at a premium because many sports bettors don’t have that opportunity. From what I can tell, it raises our profile.

How have race tracks gone about conducting race cards safely while much of sports is shut down?

We’re doing it in a safe and responsible manner because we can social distance on these expansive back stretches. We’re not allowing fans in the stands. We’re protecting anyone who has to work on a daily basis there with all the hygiene protocols and social distancing protocols.

And the horses themselves, fortunately, the primary athletes, are not susceptible to the virus, so they can compete safely. And, we, of course, have to be mindful of the jockeys themselves.

Besides just being available, what has made horse racing an attractive option for bettors recently?

One of the things we have noticed, one of the other things that has gone up significantly, is the average field size, more horses per race, which we also think is a big factor here because that makes for a much more attractive betting interest. Bettors like full competitive fields because it means that the payouts will be better, on balance. And so as average field size has gone up, we’ve seen that handle increase, which is frankly what we had always known, that field size is important, hard to parse out exactly how important, but it’s very important.

How important is it to exploit the exposure the Belmont Stakes should get on June 20 before other major sports return?

It was disappointing to lose our normal season, if you will. Horse racing season is really the lead-up to and including the Triple Crown. And it’s never good to lose that traditional season because that’s the one time of year when we were top-of-mind. The ability to come back now, later, is great. For the Belmont to be on a day when it’s the only game in town, literally, that’s also great. We’ll see how that field shapes up. It’s going to be a different race, a shorter race.

Is Monmouth Park’s foray into fixed-odds wagering in July potentially a game-changer for horse betting in a growing sports betting market? 

Well, it’s certainly going to be for a guy like [Monmouth operator] Dennis Drazin, who’s as creative as anybody in the business. We’ll see how that picks up across the country with other operators.

How crucial is bridging the two systems between sportsbook wagering and commission-based pari-mutuel wagering?

You have to have a high tolerance for risk. Horse racing thrived more than a century ago because of the commission-based structure that it had, which really for the operator removes that operator from the process, provides an element of security and also of integrity, but also makes it difficult for some of these operators to go back into this world where every wager they have to set a price.

They’re used to letting the people that set the price and that works. And while in theory, it seems great, we know that there are sports bettors out there, there are horse players out there that are really annoyed by the fact that they think they have one price when the horse goes out of the gate and then by the time that the race is over them, the price has dwindled some because of the late-changing odds on the board, which are not because of past posting, we call it, not because people are betting after the race starts, but it’s because we’re collecting wagering from some 2,000 sites around the country and that can’t be done instantaneously. It takes some time to collect all those wagers.

Then generally that late money is going to change the odds and smart guys wait until the very last to bet and so when that price goes down, it is sometimes the inclination of folks to think there’s some kind of shady dealing going on and in fact there are people out there just as smart as they are who figured it out and just put bet a little bit later than they did.

No one wants to think someone else had the same brilliant notion, especially if it came in late, right?

Right. Nobody wants that smart money. That’s why they love Derby day. That’s why people love the Triple Crown – bettors do – because there’s a lot of folks in the pools that aren’t as savvy as the everyday player.

Because dabblers with a julep in their hands are betting colors and their favorite horse names?

Yeah, so you get these massive win pools or just massive pools that are just there for the picking for the guy who can figure out exactly what’s going to happen. It makes for a great day of wagering, but day in and day out, it’s tough because there’s so much information available about our sport now. And so it’s hard to define that one nugget that the other guy’s not going to get and focus on.

We run the National Horseplayers Championship, NHC, which is conducted in Vegas every February. We deal with the best of the best because we name the horse player of the year and give that person an Eclipse Award. And, so, we see firsthand how savvy these guys are. They’re men and women. I say guys, I don’t mean to exclude women. Certainly there are many women who enjoy horseplaying as well. And so there’s a lot of folks that love our business and we’re trying to get more to understand the unique challenges.

Fixed-odd wagering is part of that. It’s hard for me to say right now just exactly how quickly that would catch on and to what extent that will take up what percentage of the handle. It’s hard to tell right now.

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DraftKings Sportsbook Lands Partner For Michigan Sports Betting

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A major player in the world of legal sports betting has found an entrypoint into Michigan.

DraftKings Sportsbook announced it has partnered with Bay Mills Indian Community, a tribe in the Upper Peninsula that operates two casinos in the state.

As a result, ahead of Michigan launching online sports betting, DraftKings gains an avenue to its eighth state to offer legalized online wagering.

DraftKings pads state sports betting portfolio

The daily fantasy sports giant began its quick rise to power in 2018 by making its debut in New Jersey. It has since taken over as a dominant force in the Garden State and has aggressively expanded as other states passed legislation to regulate wagering.

Since its New Jersey origins, DraftKings Sportsbook has started operations in the following states:

  • Pennsylvania
  • West Virginia
  • Indiana
  • New Hampshire
  • Iowa
  • Colorado

In addition, DraftKings boasts branded retail sportsbooks in Colorado, Iowa, New Hampshire, New Jersey, Mississippi, and New York.

DraftKings, which recently started to offer DFS in Michigan, became a publicly traded company toward the end of April and has become quite successful as stocks have risen from $17 to $41 during that stretch.

The company certainly has high expectations for Michigan sports betting, as stated by Ezra Kucharz, chief business officer for DraftKings, in the press release.

“The Great Lakes State presents a number of gaming opportunities and we look forward to collaborating with Bay Mills to provide residents with the best-in-class experience DraftKings is known for.”

Bay Mills gets into the swing of sports betting

As indicated, DraftKings will operate a branded brick-and-mortar sportsbook at Bay Mills Resort & Casino, the longest-running casino in Michigan.

The Bay Mills tribe stood as one of 15 partnerships available for sportsbook operators and actually became one of the later land-based properties to land such a partner.

That said, while late, Bay Mills gained quite an asset in DraftKings.

After all, competing properties boasted renowned sportsbooks as FanDuelWilliam HillFox Bet, BetMGM and PointsBet.

With DraftKings, Bay Mills wields a powerful tool as the company features a wide customer base and great familiarity. For good reason, Bay Mills has expressed excitement for the next step.

“We are excited about our new partnership with DraftKings,” Bryan Newland, tribal chairman for the Bay Mills Indian Community, said in the release.

“Expanding on what entertainment options we can offer at Michigan’s longest operating gaming facility is always our goal. Our new on-site DraftKings Sportsbook will be one more great reason for Michiganders to vacation with us in the Upper Peninsula.”

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When Will The NBA Return? Here’s The Latest Proposed Schedule

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The sports world came to a screeching halt three months ago. As the coronavirus pandemic rapidly spread, a prominent player in the NBA tested positive for COVID-19.

After that player, Rudy Gobert, tested positive on March 11, the game between his Utah Jazz and Oklahoma City Thunder was postponed. Before the day ended, the NBA scrapped the remainder of the scheduled season with hopes of resuming it at a later date.

For weeks, uncertainty abounded as to whether the 2019-20 season would ever conclude — if the season would have a champion at all.

Now it appears we will, as the NBA will pick up play starting July 31 with an NBA Finals champion decided by October 12. As such, NBA betting will certainly become more active at legal sportsbooks across the country.

NBA plan to monitor, prevent coronavirus

The NBA’s board of governors approved the league’s proposal — by a whopping 29-1 margin — June 4 to resume the season in Orlando, Florida, with 22 of 30 teams expected to take part.

Adam Silver, commissioner of the NBA, and the league’s advisory/finance committee pitched the idea to teams to play at the Walt Disney World Resort, a plan that would include 13 Western Conference teams and nine Eastern Conference franchises.

Per Adrian Wojnarowski, Senior NBA Insider for ESPN, the NBA and the National Basketball Players Association remain in negotiations regarding safety protocols and competition.

That said, players and coaches will need to maintain proper social distancing when out golfing or eating at restaurants. Beyond that, the NBA intends to conduct uniform, daily testing on campus at Disney. Any positive tests would result in those individuals to be quarantined and treated while the league continues to test other members of that team as play continues.

Disney employees must maintain similar protocols and will not be allowed in players’ rooms while hallways will be monitored to avoid crowding.

How the NBA will look in Orlando

Invited teams will start training at team sites in July before moving on to full training camps in Orlando. As noted, the format includes 13 teams from the Western Conference and nine from the Eastern Conference.

The list includes the top eight teams in each conference as well as any team that was within six games of eighth place when the season paused:

Western Conference Eastern Conference
Los Angeles Lakers Milwaukee Bucks
Los Angeles Clippers Toronto Raptors
Denver Nuggets Boston Celtics
Utah Jazz Miami Heat
Oklahoma City Thunder Indiana Pacers
Houston Rockets Philadelphia 76ers
Dallas Mavericks Brooklyn Nets
Memphis Grizzlies Orlando Magic
Portland Trail Blazers Washington Wizards
New Orleans Pelicans
Sacramento Kings
San Antonio Spurs
Phoenix Suns

As Wojnarowski reported ahead of the NBA announcement, teams will compete in eight regular-season games that will lead up to a play-in tournament featuring the eighth- and ninth-seeded teams in each conference. Such a scenario would only occur if the ninth seed finishes the regular season within four games of the eighth seed.

Should this situation arise, the No. 8 team would only need to win once to advance, while the No. 9 would need back-to-back victories.

NBA betting odds

As players get ready to report to training camps in anticipation of the resumed season, legal sportsbooks across the country have reposted futures odds for this year’s champ.

Certainly, not all lines will be the same, but the trend at the top will all look similar in terms of favorites:

  • Milwaukee Bucks
  • Los Angeles Lakers
  • Los Angeles Clippers

As for the full field of 22 teams, here are the odds as of June 5 courtesy of FanDuel Sportsbook and DraftKings Sportsbook.

FanDuel Sportsbook DraftKings Sportsbook
Milwaukee Bucks +240 Los Angeles Lakers +250
Los Angeles Lakers +270 Milwaukee Bucks +250
Los Angeles Clippers +340 Los Angeles Clippers +333
Houston Rockets +1200 Houston Rockets +1300
Boston Celtics +2000 Boston Celtics +2200
Toronto Raptors +2400 Toronto Raptors +2200
Denver Nuggets +2500 Denver Nuggets +3000
Miami Heat +2700 Miami Heat +3000
Philadelphia 76ers +2700 Philadelphia 76ers +3000
Utah Jazz +2900 Utah Jazz +3300
Dallas Mavericks +3600 Dallas Mavericks +4000
Brooklyn Nets +6000 Brooklyn Nets +8000
Indiana Pacers +10000 Indiana Pacers +10000
Oklahoma City Thunder +10000 Oklahoma City Thunder +10000
New Orleans Pelicans +12000 New Orleans Pelicans +12500
Memphis Grizzlies +21000 Portland Trail Blazers +17000
Portland Trail Blazers +21000 Memphis Grizzlies +25000
San Antonio Spurs +21000 San Antonio Spurs +25000
Orlando Magic +25000 Orlando Magic +30000
Phoenix Suns +25000 Phoenix Suns +30000
Sacramento Kings +25000 Sacramento Kings +30000
Washington Wizards +25000 Washington Wizards +30000

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In Post-Shutdown US, Will A Bigger Value Be Placed On Legal Online Gambling?

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In May 2018, the US Supreme Court repealed the Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act, opening the door for state-sanctioned legal sports betting.

That was just two years ago, but doesn’t it feel like much longer? It feels as if legalized wagering (outside Nevada) has existed as long as the traditional casino.

There’s no doubt that perceived longevity stems from the country embracing and expanding sports betting with such vigor that it seems as if decades of industry growth has been crammed into a brief window.

Indeed, legalized sports betting in America has grown rapidly over the past two years, particularly online. Without question, it will follow the same trend over the next two years. And the acceptance of online gaming — sports betting, casino and poker — will help states capitalize even more.

Sports betting has had rapid-fire expansion in US

Less than a month after SCOTUS repealed PASPA, Delaware became the first state to accept a legal wager outside Nevada. New Jersey followed soon after and quickly became a power player that now keeps see-sawing back and forth with Nevada for the most lucrative sports betting state.

Its operator-friendliness fueled the fire, and the state’s readiness to allow online gaming resulted in some 84% of $4.6 billion in legal wagers placed over the internet in 2019. Not to be outdone, online casinos and poker have perked up in 2020, as the two verticals have combined for nearly $210 million this year.

Since the PASPA repeal, 18 states and Washington, D.C., have gone live with legalized wagering with 13 of them featuring some variation of online betting. They have combined for more than $20 billion in handle since May 2018, a total that expects to grow exponentially in the near future.

More states appear ready to offer legalized sports betting

Four other states have enacted wagering legislation and await launch. And 16 states have active legislation, a total that seemingly continues to increase with each passing day.

All told, all but 12 states in the country are at least exploring regulated betting.

In late 2019, expansion began out west. Since that time, Oregon and Montana joined Nevada as states with legal sports betting. After Washington passed legislation to do the same, Colorado launched online wagering in May 2020. Then, a big domino fell, as California introduced a bill that, theoretically, would appeal to cardrooms and tribal casinos — though the jury is still out on how successful that compromise will become.

Back east, activity abounded as Virginia and Tennessee targeted summer launches for their respective sports betting industries while Louisiana and Ohio pushed legislation forward.

This all came after Michigan and Illinois introduced retail wagering and as the nation’s capital debuted its mobile platform.

Even before summer officially starts, the nation is abuzz with legalizing wagering, many of which are including the online aspect.

That vertical holds significance, and it is one that states still considering legalization or that already have operational industries need to consider implementing.

Pandemic sheds light on value of online gambling

Without question, the coronavirus pandemic has sent shockwaves around the world. It has hit both the US retail and online gambling industry hard.

Across the US, hundreds of properties were forced to shutter for the better part of two months. Only recently have they begun to reopen. Major sports leagues and organizers elected to suspend and cancel seasons and events, such as the NCAA tournament, the Masters and the Kentucky Derby.

The pandemic caused an experience no one wanted, but one that added more proof to the value of legalized online gambling.

Land-based casinos take a big hit

Consider Michigan and Illinois, two states that unfortunately went live with legalized retail sports betting just before the coronavirus pandemic — and two states that legalized but have yet to launch online platforms.

The Michigan Gaming Control Board announced revenue numbers for the first four months of 2020, and they were not pretty: reflecting a 39.2% drop compared with the same timeframe of 2019. Similarly, the state pocketed $24.2 million in taxes from its three commercial casinos — nearly $16 million less than the first four months of last year.

Land-based casinos that were closed hurt Michigan. And the same went for Illinois, where the state’s Casino Gaming Association estimated that casinos lost $100 million during the shutdown since mid-March.

Certainly, states in similar situations felt the same blow.

Online gambling shoulders the load elsewhere

While online sports betting provided just a drop in the bucket compared with previous months, what with sports being sidelined, other verticals have picked up the slack.

Only three states offer legalized online casinos and four have online poker. Those areas have seen massive spikes in recent weeks.

In April, New Jersey watched as monthly online sports betting revenue dropped nearly 90% year over year. Again, a byproduct of few sports on which to wager.

The state’s online casinos, though, saw their numbers skyrocket. In March, for example, New Jersey operators collected a whopping $64.8 million to set a state record. Online poker also peaked, coming in at $5.1 million in April. Nearby Pennsylvania experienced a similar trend.

Sports betting handle in the Keystone State plummeted 65% from March to April. And while land-based casino revenue dropped 51% from February to March, online operators combined for a state-record $43.1 million in April. Of note, online poker drew $5.3 million to set a US record for single-month revenue — beating New Jersey’s April total.

Of course, these totals will not make up for the massive losses properties have taken in recent months, but obviously they ease the blow.

Experts weigh in on the need for online gambling expansion

For years, stakeholders and some lawmakers have advocated for online expansion. The common argument against this move has long been the fear of cannibalizing land-based casinos; the fear that a mobile product would prevent potential customers from visiting brick-and-mortars.

Really, though, digital platforms will create more footfall.

“If you produce a good online experience, they’re going to be much more associated to your brand … than if not,” Max Meltzer, COO of Kambi, said during a recent teleconference. “I just think there’s more of an educational piece, and I think COVID’s done a bit more of a kick-start to that.”

Yaniv Sherman, head of commercial development for the online gambling company 888 Holdings, told the Associated Press that the coronavirus pandemic “has highlighted the need for revenue diversification. “The future is around online growth, and it’s right now, not in 5 or 10 years. We hope to get additional states on board.”

Matt King, CEO of FanDuel, agreed with that sentiment and even went further with it.

“When legislatures return in earnest, we firmly believe the number of states ready to consider accelerating mobile sports betting and online gaming legislation to drive tax revenue will expand substantially,” King told ESPN. “And we also see the industry recognizing this is a unique moment in time, and working more collaboratively to set aside minor differences and get bills across the finish line. Across the board, it’s a time for pragmatism, and we see that producing a real opportunity for significantly expanding the map.”

More states could consider expanding online

Over the next two years, online expansion will accelerate, as estimated by Chris Krafcik, a managing director with Eilers & Krejcik Gaming. “Both activities provide states, whose economies have been massively disrupted by the outbreak, the opportunity to capture new revenue immediately in the form of upfront license fees, and over time through taxes.”

While sports betting and other forms of online gambling reflect a minute percentage of most states’ budgets, that small portion — as well as other forms of online gambling — is much preferred to nothing.

The perception of online gambling has shifted, assured Meltzer during a recent teleconference. The “real trailblazers” have shown an understanding that moving online will generate more revenue and even attract more foot traffic at land-based casinos.

“I think people should be grasping onto the fact that, either way, however you want to run it, there’s a huge opportunity to generate revenues,” Meltzer said. “If I was having a strong coffee with someone … I’d certainly recommend to consider the revenues, just to consider what it can do in terms of retaining staff and growing an environment to attract more customers into your casino. That’s regardless of size. Regardless of size, there’s a model out there that can work for you. That’s my strong belief.”

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When Will NHL Return? There’s A New Plan In Place

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The Chicago Blackhawks are returning to the playoffs! Well, them and 24 other teams when the National Hockey League (NHL) resumes play. Much like other major sports leagues, the NHL has been on hiatus since March but a return is possible by late July.

Commissioner Gary Bettman recently announced the ‘Return To Play Plan’ which will abandon the rest of the regular season and transition directly into the playoffs. This is great news for fans who have been patiently waiting for hockey’s return and those looking for NHL betting.

This is also exciting for teams like the Arizona Coyotes (74pts), Blackhawks (72pts), and Montreal Canadiens (71pts), who narrowly squeaked in.

Although Bettman and the NHL have agreed on what hockey would look like when it returns, the NHL Players Association (NHLPA) has not formally approved the return nor has an exact date been set.

The NHL’s eventual return

During a live broadcast on May 26, Bettman laid out a few plan specifics and stressed the importance of precautions and safety measures.

“The health and safety of our coaches, players, and essential support staff — are paramount,” Bettman said. “However, we will not move forward with the plan — until we are approved to do so.”

Cornerstones of the Return To Play plan include:

  • Fans, players want NHL to resume
  • Guidance from civil and medical authorities
  • NHL-NHLPA partnership and cooperation
  • Health and safety are priorities

A phased rollout for NHL

For awards purposes, the 2019-20 NHL regular season has been complete. Additionally, the plan includes several complex details on the NHL draft order that are still being worked out.

But when it comes to post-season play, Bettman was very specific. Each conference (East and West) will be assigned a hub city, with “secure hotels, arena, practice facilities, and in-market transportation” to be announced at a later date.

Other restrictions include:

  • Teams will be limited to 50 personnel
  • All will undergo a comprehensive system of testing

Phase 2, which will begin in early June, allows teams to return to practice facilities for on and off ice training. Phase 3 which will be no earlier than July 1, will allow for formal training camps to start.

The final phase is when teams report to designated hub cities to resume play. Again, timing and locations are still TBD.

“This is all determined by developing circumstances, things are evolving rapidly,” Bettman said.  “We want this choice to be made with the best available information at the time.”

Bettman said should everything go as planned, the NHL will play early summer and into the fall.

Potential site locations for NHL games

As announced, the NHL playoffs will take place at two hub cities. Bettman and the NHL did provide a list of candidates which include major metropolitan areas like Chicago and Los Angeles. One interesting city, at least from a sports betting perspective is Las Vegas.

Considerations include:

  • Chicago, IL
  • Columbus, OH
  • Dallas, TX
  • Edmonton, AB
  • Las Vegas, NV
  • Los Angeles, CA
  • Minneapolis/St. Paul, MN
  • Pittsburg, PA
  • Toronto, ON
  • Vancouver, BC

NHL post-season format

As stated, the postseason will look entity different this year with 24 teams — 12 in the East and 12 in the West — having the chance to hoist the Stanly Cup trophy.

The top 4 teams in each conference will play a round-robin (mini-tournament) to determine seeding (1-4).

Top teams in the Eastern Conference:

  • #1 Boston Bruins
  • #2 Tampa Bay Lightning
  • #3 Washington Capitals
  • #4 Philadelphia Flyers

Top teams in the Western Conference:

  • #1 St. Louis Blues
  • #2 Colorado Avalanche
  • #3 Vegas Golden Knights
  • #4 Dallas Stars

While the top four teams in each conference are busy deciding seeding, the remaining 16 teams (eight in each conference) will battle it out in a qualifying round. This will be a best-of-5 to advance to the next round of the playoffs.

It’s at this stage where things get tricky. The NHL has yet to determine if the next round, following the round-robin games and the qualifying round, will be a best-of-5 or a best-of-7.

The one concrete fact is, the Stanly Cup Finals will be a best-of-7.

NHL betting implications

While hockey is not the most popular sport to bet on, it’s a bit more lucrative than Russian table tennis. According to research from the American Gaming Association released in 2018, the NHL was projected to receive $65 million in additional revenue from gambling. This was on top of the $151 million generated from fan engagement, bringing the league’s estimated total revenue to $216 million.

The four-month hiatus has netted little to no money from gambling, with most sportsbooks only offering futures bets.

But now, even though exact dates have not been released, major operators like DraftKings, FanDuel, and William Hill are beginning to release odds for the first set of games.

Currently, the hometown Chicago Blackhawks are +135 against the Edmonton Oilers (-167) over at DraftKings Sportsbook.

FanDuel Sportsbook and William Hill have yet to release individual game odds but team futures are still available.

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Las Vegas Casinos Prepare For June 4 Reopenings

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After what seems like months of quarantining, states across the country have started allowing businesses to reopen. Closed since mid-March due to the coronavirus pandemic, casinos have begun resuming operations.

Normalization is well underway. But that does not mean we can stop being safe and smart. If anything, we need to emphasize it more.

On to the Rewind:

Las Vegas casinos ready to reopen

After weeks of closure, casinos in Nevada have received the go-ahead to begin reopening.

Gov. Steve Sisolak announced last week that brick-and-mortars in the Silver State can resume operations starting June 4 as part of his “Roadmap to Recovery” plan.

As a result, a number of properties appear ready to take advantage of that authorization.

Many aim to open immediately, including:

  • Caesars Entertainment: Caesars Palace, Flamingo, Harrah’s
  • MGM Resorts: Bellagio, New York-New York, MGM Grand
  • Station Casinos: Red Rock, Green Valley Ranch, Palace Station, Santa Fe Station, Boulder Station, Sunset Station
  • Boyd Gaming: The Orleans, Gold Coast, Suncoast, Aliante, Cannery, Sam’s Town, Fremont, California, Jokers Wild

Many casino ownership groups have spent that past month piecing together new health and safety plans, ones that meet requirements set forth by the Nevada Gaming Control Board.

These guidelines include limiting business to 50% capacity and enforcing social distancing on casino floors.

California sports betting bill emerges

Among states where it seems unlikely legalized sports betting will lay roots, California is high on the list. While that might remain the case, the Golden State has pushed forth a bill that provides a compromise for retail and online sports betting.

Six months after Sen. Bill Dodd and Assemblyman Adam Gray introduced constitutional amendment bills, lawmakers last week completed the legislation with additional details.

Included is the authorization for legalized wagering at tribal casinos and racetracks. And while cardrooms were omitted, those establishments would be allowed to offer designated player games that have generated contention from tribes.

This move comes as lawmakers seek additional revenue during a financially difficult time created by the coronavirus pandemic and as they attempt to limit $14 billion in proposed cuts from the governor.

The sports betting bill would result in a 10% tax on gross revenue for retail betting and a 15% tax on mobile betting while also requiring a $5 million initial licensing fee and $1 million annual fee for online sportsbooks.

California faces a budget deadline of June 15, though this bill has until June 25 to receive approval and land on the November ballot. Dodd told Legal Sports Report that he expects the Senate Governmental Organization Committee to vote on the bill June 2.

That said, lawmakers face a challenge from tribes, who might not be as accepting of this bill, specifically as they relate to cardrooms. The proposed legislation would effectively legalize designated-player games after tribes have long attacked what are now illegal operations.

As one spokesman told LSR: “The notion of authorizing cardrooms to conduct Nevada-style games is an absolute non-starter that repeals tribal gaming rights.”

DC sports betting launches without apps

Legalized sports betting soft-launched in the nation’s capital. Yet even as it gets off the ground two months after it initially intended, wagering in Washington DC faces quite the uphill battle.

The Gambet DC product starts with a web browser-based product only, as its iOS and Android apps are not expected to go live until early June.

Sure, with limited sports on which to wager, a slow rollout of such platforms is not incredibly terrible. The odds, though? That’s another story.

Out in Big Sky Country, Intralot powers Sports Bet Montana, which debuted earlier this year with miserable odds. Apparently, the group did not learn much, as it did the same in DC.

For example, many of the opening week point spreads for NFL games feature -118 lines on both sides. Even UFC Fight Night odds via Intralot cannot even compare with more favorable lines at other legal US sportsbooks.

Sports betting in Washington could expand soon. Along with this official lottery platform, stadiums, arenas and sports bars are qualified to offer legalized wagering. (William Hill, for example, will power the retail sportsbook at Capital One Arena.)

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When Are Major Horse Racing Events Scheduled To Return?

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If it’s not already trademarked, Alex Waldrop should consider it.

“We were the original sports bet. We’re still here. And we’re still going strong.”

And with COVID-19 keeping sports contested by humans off their fields of play, the chief executive officer of the National Thoroughbred Racing Association earnestly hopes one of the United States’ original sporting passions can extend a moment it has inherited since major professional and college sports went dormant in mid-March.

While new-age virtual games such as eSports and iRacing have also had their moment, horse racing — for one of the first times since its slow decline in popularity began decades ago — has so far had the bandwidth to satisfy a national appetite for betting markets.

Horses can’t contract the novel coronavirus that has led to more than 100,000 deaths in the US. Expansive track facilities and a relatively small amount of humans needed to conduct the sport has allowed track operators to hold meets that were generally an online wagering enterprise and devoid of spectators anyway.

So while Russian table tennis has found a novelty following and a virtual NFL Draft flared and faded, the national pari-mutuel industry has so far surged. While national handle figures for May are not yet available, April revealed that horse racing had made some hay.

According to Waldrop, pari-mutuel wagering handle was down 24 percent from April 2020 as compared to April 2019, “but that is remarkable,” he told PlayUSA, “because we had a 72-percent decline in the number of races and race days. That tells you that we had much less racing product out there for horse players to bet on, but they were betting a lot more.”

The average wagering per race day, he added, was up 176 percent to $7.5 million. That was with a small collection of tracks including Gulfstream Park, Fonner Park, Oaklawn Park, Tampa Bay Downs and Will Rogers Downs. Now larger venues are about to open with social-distancing restrictions and governmental sign-off.

“Larger tracks, like Churchill Downs, Santa Anita has been back and operating for the last week or so, Maryland starts this weekend, [New York] starts sometime in early June,” Waldrop added, “so the major race tracks are about to crank back up and we should see an increase in the number of races and race days, which hopefully will translate into recovery, putting handle back to where it was or above last year.”

Attempting to maintain this momentum, the Breeders’ Cup and Jockey Club on Thursday launched a national campaign specifically targeted at sports bettors that are bolstering its coffers.

And at Monmouth Park in New Jersey, where a horseman’s lawsuit was the first maneuver in the campaign that eventually made legal sports betting a national possibility, track operator Dennis Drazin is about to unveil the device he has long seen as the bridge from sports bettors to horse players: fixed odds wagering.

Even with the Kentucky Derby rescheduled for just the second time since 1875 and its signature Triple Crown scrambled and delayed, horse racing is generating promise.

When will horse racing hubs open nationally?

California
Del Mar: July 18-Sept. 7
Santa Anita: underway through June 21

Florida
Gulfstream: underway through Sept. 27
Tampa Bay: underway through May 30, then Monday and Wednesday in June after an extension was granted by the Florida Department of Business and Professional Regulation.

Kentucky
Churchill Downs: underway through June 27; Sept. 1-5
Ellis Park: June 28-Aug. 30
Keeneland: July 8-12

New Jersey
Monmouth: July 3-Sept. 27 (not yet approved by state of New Jersey)

New York
Belmont Park: June 3-July 20.
Saratoga (NY) – July 16-Sept. 7

When are the Triple Crown races in 2020?

Belmont Stakes
June 20 (moved back two weeks and from final leg to opener)

*Note: The longest race of most thoroughbreds’ careers will not be on the resume for this crop of 3-year-olds. To alleviate injury concerns in a disjointed approach to the Triple Crown, stewards have reduced the race distance from 1 ½ half miles to 1 ⅛ miles. The Belmont goes from the longest to shortest Triple Crown race for this season. The Kentucky Derby is 1 ¼ miles and the Preakness 1 3/16. … The purse will drop from $1.5 million to $1 million because no spectators will be allowed.

Kentucky Derby
Sept. 5 (originally May 2)

Preakness Stakes
Oct. 3 (originally May 16, second leg)

Horse industry launches national campaign to retain sports bettors

The “Still. Running. Strong.” campaign, launched in conjunction with the NTRA, TVG network, which is an affiliate of the FanDuel Group; the Kentucky Thoroughbred Association and Thoroughbred Owners and Breeders Association will attempt to leverage “broadcast, digital, and social media elements,” according to a release to exploit heightened exposure even with the Triple Crown delayed more than six weeks. NBC Sports and FOX Sports have already filled programming gaps with live racing, providing a natural entry point for the effort.

A focal point of the digital and social media campaign is legal online horse betting, centered around educational materials at a new America’s Best Racing website.

“We’re going to be turning sports bettors, because we know there are lots of sports bettors out there that are desperate for content. They’re not able to bet right now. There’s not enough sports,” Waldrop said. “But horse racing is still going strong. And we have our ADW platforms, those online platforms which allow people to watch and wager, do it every.

“Certainly, now that opportunity is at a premium because many sports bettors don’t have that opportunity. It raises our profile. That’s the purpose of the awareness campaign. It’s the oldest form of sports betting.”

Horse racing getting a leg up as human sports shelter in place

Johnny Avello would have preferred that horse racing’s renaissance as a betting market was spurred by something besides COVID-19.

As head of sportsbook for DraftKings, he fully comprehends the impact of the pandemic shutting down the sports that would normally have comprised the vast bulk of his sports betting and daily fantasy sports company’s offerings. But even as a Las Vegas transplant, the product of Poughkeepsie, N.Y., longs for his annual pilgrimage to the Saratoga summer meet, and with MLB, the NBA and NHL still in the planning stages of a return to play, Avello hopes horse racing can capitalize on the opportunity. Because so far, he told PlayUSA, that’s worked well for the industry at large at a crucial time.

“Horse racing was getting dinged pretty good there with all those deaths of horses at San Anita, and I was really frightened for the game, especially in California,” he said. “California racing has been such a great product for many years. You’ve got Del Mar and then you got Santa Anita and then they go to the fairs during the summer.

“But I was concerned and I thought that this could be a good thing for horse racing because it could isolate them and as long as things went well, which they pretty much have, with the isolation, people could just concentrate on betting on horse racing because it was one of the few games that they were very familiar with.

Crucial, Avello said, is that the Belmont Stakes, traditionally the final leg of the Triple Crown, but now the opener, has the weekend of June 20 relatively to itself in terms of other major events.

“Talk about isolation. There won’t be a lot of sports going on, most likely,” Avello said. “So, I think that race is going to get a lot of exposure.

“And as we move forward here, you’ll have the Belmont, you’ll get a couple other races in between. You’ll have the Travers, which is normally in the end of August, probably going to shift the dates there and that’s probably going to be a prep for the Kentucky Derby. Hopefully, some younger people have gotten involved lately. Let’s hope that momentum continues. I can’t say it will for sure, but I’m hopeful that it will.”

Another reason horse racing and betting are still thriving

Though the disruption of the one annual period when horse racing becomes at least a passing mainstream interest represented a loss for the sport, Waldrop said, horse racing still holds an industry-wide advantage on professional team sports. Though its classics have been impacted, it’s daily business has been able to restart quicker despite local shutdowns.

“It’s never good to lose that traditional season because that’s the one time of year when we were top of mind. The ability to come back now, later, is great,” Waldrop said. “For the Belmont to be on a day when it’s the only game in town, literally, that’s also great. We’ll see how that feels shapes up.

“Our awareness campaign is really focused mostly on sports bettors than the casual fans who generally learn about us on national television. But it’s all about converting people from casual fans to fans who’ve watch and wager.”

DraftKings has a license to offer pari-mutuel wagering through its association with the Scarlet Pearl sportsbook in D’Iberville, Miss., but couldn’t capitalize on the rush because the state hasn’t legalized mobile and online wagering.

A report released last week by Infiniti Research claims that the “horse and sports betting market is poised to grow” by $139.52 billion, progressing by a nine-percent compound annual growth rate through 2024.

The first day of the delayed Churchill Downs, contested without fans posted a 183% increase in handle as compared to the same night, one replete with customary Louisville opening festivities, in 2019, according to WDRB television.

The home venue of the Kentucky Derby wasn’t the only park awash in interest. The handful of tracks open and running without fans – Gulfstream Park, Fonner Park, Oaklawn Park, Tampa Bay Downs and Will Rogers Downs exploded by 129 percent through the first few weeks of the meet.

At Santa Anita, the total handle for nine races on May 15 was $11,207,076, a 61-percent increase from an eight-race card on the same date a year ago.

While an increase of interest is a boon for the tracks, it has hardly been a financial windfall, with tracks being hit with the type of financial loss the major pro leagues could face with fanless games. The reason: tracks receive only a percentage the handle their tracks generate via simulcast and away from their betting windows.

The boom is also being experienced internationally with a Swedish government minister noting that “horse betting has exploded” during COVID-19 while debating regulations on the online casino industry there.

Horse racing resurgence amid COVID-19 shutdowns

Various sports and events have experienced an increase in exposure during the novel coronavirus pandemic. There was the wildly popular virtual NFL Draft, eNASCAR and eSports.

That horse racing — a vestige of America’s 17th-century agrarian past — and eSports, a digital vanguard of our presumed gaming future, were key among them created a fascinating spectrum for sports’ ecosystem. Both became focuses because they happened to be left standing for differing reasons when college and professional team sports were forced to go dormant. eSports can be conducted in relative confinement even though large arenas are being erected to present the spectacle of events like the Fortnite World Cup, pre-pandemic. Horse racing, which has fallen into a sad state of decline, where the Kentucky Derby is generally the only event to resonate with the general public, didn’t have many fans to turn away.

A collection of tracks remained open during the shutdown, notable among them Oaklawn Park, which hosted an expanded Arkansas Derby on the day the Kentucky Derby was originally scheduled.

In a perverse sign that business seemed to be as usual, the Bob Baffert-trained Charlatan, a runoff winner in one of the two races that comprised the event is said to have tested positive for illegal substances.

Can fixed-odds wagering bridge gap from sportsbooks to horse tracks?

Drazin knows their frustration. He’s absorbed it through their emails and voice messages: Dabbling horse player bets a filly at Monmouth Park at long odds. Filly wins. Dabbling horse player is surprised to find a pedestrian payout waiting at the window. Late money had come in on her, the odds plummeted. The payout decreased.

That quickly, a winning bettor and potential repeat customer had a bad experience.

Standing at the nexus of sports betting and pari-mutuel wagering, Drazin has long advocated for fixed-odds wagering as a means to appease those dabblers and perhaps retain sports bettors disinclined to accept that a lot of late money generated online and as smart as theirs ruined a payday. And their fun.

“They bet the horse at 7-1, then it’s 5-1, at the gate and 8-to-5 and by the time it breaks out of the gate it’s 3-to-5,” Drazin said. “They say ‘What happened?’ And that’s not because there’s anything improper going on, it’s just all these wagers that are made by computer and otherwise the last minute being added to the pools. But I don’t think it gives the public a good feeling. I think the public would feel better if they’d bet at 2-to-1 and they got 2-to-1. So I think that will help bring some people back to racing.”

So in February, the New Jersey Thoroughbred Horsemen’s Association and Darby Development LLC, which operates Monmouth Park, entered a 10-year deal with BetMakers Technology Group to facilitate fixed-odds wagering for that track. The Australian company will initially offer just win, place and show bets.

Fixed-odds betting has been credited with stimulating the horse racing industry in Australia and is expanding worldwide, but has been resisted in the United States because of the differences in takeout structure between sportsbooks and pari-mutuel pools. Tracks often hold up to 20 percent of handle to feed pools, while sportsbooks take less. Proponents of fixed-odds horse wagering assert that players will make up for the shortfalls with their increase volume of wagering.

“These are issues that happen not just on a state by state basis, but really on an operator-by-operator basis. People are moving cautiously in the sports betting arena,” Waldrop said. “It’s too early to tell whether the fixed-odds wagering will gain traction.

“It should, it absolutely should. It provides some certainty to players, the kind of certainty they’re used to getting in the sports betting arena. But I can’t predict how quickly that happens. The revenue factors that have to be considered. The risk factor is not an element for parimutuel because you’re basically commission-based wagering and how to convert a sports wager into DraftKings offered fixed-odds betting on the Haskell Invitational card at Monmouth Park last year.

Any vendor with a skin in a New Jersey sportsbook, Drazin said, is eligible to contract for fixed-odds horse wagering. Waldrop said that TVG, whose parent company is Flutter Entertainment, is also “looking at” fixed-odds wagering.

Horse racing provides boost to sports betting, needs a residual effect

It was once ironic that the campaign that ultimately led to the possibility of legal sports betting in the entirety of the United States began with a horsemen’s association lawsuit in New Jersey. All those new consumers would have even less reason to turn their attention to an afternoon program at Monmouth Park. But now there’s a symmetry.

The horse racing industry collectively hoped after the repeal of the Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act in 2018 that newly cultivated sports bettors would turn the occasion dollar toward the flagging pari-mutuels industry, and for now, they have. While the industry faces the same sustainability questions as eSports and Russian table tennis markets once the “big four” return, the present is heartening.

“We love it,” Waldrop said. “We love it.”

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