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Gambling News

Disappointing News For New York And DC Sports Betting

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The quarantine continues. Day… something. We’ve lost count.

Though sports are sidelined and casinos are trying to assess reopening plans, the NFL Draft remains on as scheduled (though continuing on as a virtual draft).

We have persevered through trying times, and rest assured, the light at the end of the tunnel is out there. The following stories reflect just that.

On to the Rewind:

Cybersecurity threat forces SBTech-related shutdowns

Online gambling sites powered by SBTech received quite the scare recently.

cybersecurity threat forced the tech provider to inform clients it had been targeted as part of an attempted ransomware attack, which involves hackers seeking company data and code. SBTech, though, assured that no customer data was compromised.

Partner of brands such as Oregon LotteryBetAmericaGolden Nugget and Resorts Atlantic City, SBTech contacted a third-party group of cybersecurity experts as well as law enforcement agencies to investigate the incident. SBTech-related products operate in six states:

  • Arkansas
  • Indiana
  • Mississippi
  • New Jersey
  • Oregon
  • Pennsylvania

Before its partners can relaunch their sites and sportsbooks, SBTech will need to receive clearance from respective state regulators. Any other year, the timing would be brutal as the likes of March Madness and the Masters tournaments would be well underway. Not to mention playoff pushes in the NBA and the onset of MLB.

However, the coronavirus pandemic has forced the suspensions and cancellations of schedules and events.

No online sports betting in New York… again

Stop us if you’ve heard this before: New York sports betting will move forward without online sportsbooks.

State lawmakers finalized the New York state budget. The glaring omission: Gov. Andrew Cuomo elected not to expand the state’s sports betting industry.

The timeline for lawmakers proposing mobile wagering was expedited due to the coronavirus pandemic. Rather than having an opportunity to include betting expansion in Senate and Assembly budget proposals, the legislature aborted one-house budgets and went straight to negotiations with Cuomo.

The governor did not include online betting in his executive budget, essentially sealing the fate for expansion in the final budget.

Cuomo has expressed constitutional concerns regarding online sports betting. He has noted that gambling via mobile devices should not be allowed, while also pointing out such expansion would result in limited state revenue.

While lawmakers will certainly continue advocating for online expansion, Cuomo did, in a way, expand New York sports betting. The state will no longer require casinos to limit sports betting to designated lounges.

DC sports betting launch delayed

The targeted launch date for sports betting in Washington, D.C., has come and gone. And the country’s capital is still without legalized wagering.

The Office of Lottery and Gaming announced that DC sports betting is officially delayed until sports in the US return to action.

Powered by Intralot, the lottery’s sports betting product aimed to debut by March 31. Of course, professional leagues, the NCAA and other major leagues and organizers have since suspended schedules and even canceled events due to coronavirus. As uncertainty abounds regarding the return of sports, decision-makers in the nation’s capital made an audible.

Nicole Jordan, director of marketing and communications for the lottery, said her team is “revising our sports wagering launch strategy based on the current state of world events” and added that the lottery is “prepared to launch the platform when it is safe for the sports world to return.”

Per Jordan, and as reported by Legal Sports Report, the sports betting app and website have been tested and approved. Without the pandemic, GambetDC, as the product is named, would have launch April 1.

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Gambling News

Disappointing News For New York And DC Sports Betting

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The quarantine continues. Day… something. We’ve lost count.

Though sports are sidelined and casinos are trying to assess reopening plans, the NFL Draft remains on as scheduled (though continuing on as a virtual draft).

We have persevered through trying times, and rest assured, the light at the end of the tunnel is out there. The following stories reflect just that.

On to the Rewind:

Cybersecurity threat forces SBTech-related shutdowns

Online gambling sites powered by SBTech received quite the scare recently.

cybersecurity threat forced the tech provider to inform clients it had been targeted as part of an attempted ransomware attack, which involves hackers seeking company data and code. SBTech, though, assured that no customer data was compromised.

Partner of brands such as Oregon LotteryBetAmericaGolden Nugget and Resorts Atlantic City, SBTech contacted a third-party group of cybersecurity experts as well as law enforcement agencies to investigate the incident. SBTech-related products operate in six states:

  • Arkansas
  • Indiana
  • Mississippi
  • New Jersey
  • Oregon
  • Pennsylvania

Before its partners can relaunch their sites and sportsbooks, SBTech will need to receive clearance from respective state regulators. Any other year, the timing would be brutal as the likes of March Madness and the Masters tournaments would be well underway. Not to mention playoff pushes in the NBA and the onset of MLB.

However, the coronavirus pandemic has forced the suspensions and cancellations of schedules and events.

No online sports betting in New York… again

Stop us if you’ve heard this before: New York sports betting will move forward without online sportsbooks.

State lawmakers finalized the New York state budget. The glaring omission: Gov. Andrew Cuomo elected not to expand the state’s sports betting industry.

The timeline for lawmakers proposing mobile wagering was expedited due to the coronavirus pandemic. Rather than having an opportunity to include betting expansion in Senate and Assembly budget proposals, the legislature aborted one-house budgets and went straight to negotiations with Cuomo.

The governor did not include online betting in his executive budget, essentially sealing the fate for expansion in the final budget.

Cuomo has expressed constitutional concerns regarding online sports betting. He has noted that gambling via mobile devices should not be allowed, while also pointing out such expansion would result in limited state revenue.

While lawmakers will certainly continue advocating for online expansion, Cuomo did, in a way, expand New York sports betting. The state will no longer require casinos to limit sports betting to designated lounges.

DC sports betting launch delayed

The targeted launch date for sports betting in Washington, D.C., has come and gone. And the country’s capital is still without legalized wagering.

The Office of Lottery and Gaming announced that DC sports betting is officially delayed until sports in the US return to action.

Powered by Intralot, the lottery’s sports betting product aimed to debut by March 31. Of course, professional leagues, the NCAA and other major leagues and organizers have since suspended schedules and even canceled events due to coronavirus. As uncertainty abounds regarding the return of sports, decision-makers in the nation’s capital made an audible.

Nicole Jordan, director of marketing and communications for the lottery, said her team is “revising our sports wagering launch strategy based on the current state of world events” and added that the lottery is “prepared to launch the platform when it is safe for the sports world to return.”

Per Jordan, and as reported by Legal Sports Report, the sports betting app and website have been tested and approved. Without the pandemic, GambetDC, as the product is named, would have launch April 1.

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Gambling News

Good Sports Betting News For Esports And The NFL Draft

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The coronavirus pandemic has sent shockwaves across the gaming world.

As it has been well-documented, the majority of — if not all — casinos in the US have closed their doors. Sports leagues suspended games, canceled seasons and postponed major events.

Operators have scrambled to unearth ways in which to at least partially make up for lost revenue.

Enter, esports betting. And on the horizon, NFL Draft betting. The silver lining has shown itself.

On to the Rewind:

Esports betting gets green light in Nevada

The entertainment world has had a void for several weeks due to the coronavirus. No games. No sports. No avenue for legalized sports betting.

Gaming regulators in two states, however, have signed off on esports betting.

The Nevada Gaming Control Board approved wagering on the Counter-Strike ESL Pro League at each of the state’s sportsbooks. How many more events receive the green light in Nevada — or in any other state, for that matter — obviously depends on how much action is drawn.

Another state has dipped its toes into the esports betting waters.

Like Nevada, New Jersey requires operators to request approval from the Division of Gaming Enforcement before taking bets on esports. The Garden State saw its first esports betting action late last year by allowing bettors to place wagers on the League of Legends World Championship Final.

As Rahul Sood, CEO of esports betting operator Unikrn, told Legal Sports Report, state regulators “are willing to move quickly” to approve esports betting — especially if “real” sports continue to be sidelined.

Oregon sports betting fleeced by SBTech

Before Oregon sports betting launched in late-2019, the Oregon Lottery projected confidence and optimism that the state’s regulated industry could flourish.

Alas, it appears as if the lottery underestimated the costs of having partner SBTech in its corner.

A monthslong court battle ultimately ended with SBTech releasing details of its contract with the Oregon Lottery. And as it turns out, the sports betting provider has billed its partner for at least $2.9 million, causing the lottery to potentially lose $5.3 million over the first nine months of the 2020 fiscal year.

This despite the Scoreboard betting app helping generate a net revenue of nearly $6 million.

As Legal Sports Report detailed, “Managed Service Fees” have led to most of the SBTech-related costs. Among them:

  • SBTech gets 16% of net revenue and minimum monthly payments of $300,000 for the first six months and $350,000 thereafter
  • After 36 months, the “Minimum Managed Service Fee” increases to 17%

Certainly, this all becomes convoluted and even confusing to many, so consider the following: At full maturity, Oregon sports betting revenue gets handcuffed by SBTech costs. For example, as laid out by LSR, in a $5 million month of gross gaming revenue, SBTech would receive more than $1 million.

NFL Draft still on, NFL Draft betting still a go

Wrapping up the Rewind on a positive note is a conscious effort. With pro sports still sidelined, the news of the NFL Draft still expecting to go on as scheduled provides some much-needed joy.

While all events originally planned for Las Vegas have been scrubbed, the draft will still take place. As such, draft betting is still alive and well at legal sportsbooks.

Details of how the event will play out are reportedly still being worked out. For now, though, we can keep April 23-25 scheduled.

At many sportsbooks, operators are accepting bets on a variety of draft-related topics:

  • No. 1 overall pick
  • Order of first three picks
  • Over/under players selected by team and conference
  • Round of first kicker selected
  • Round of first punter selected

Far and away, LSU QB Joe Burrow remains the favorite to go No. 1 overall (FanDuel Sportsbook lists him at -3500) to the Cincinnati Bengals. Perhaps, though, the unexpected could happen, like Ohio State DE Chase Young taking the top spot. That’s good for a +1400 payout with FanDuel.

From esports to the NFL Draft, not all is lost for bettors.

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Gambling News

Good Sports Betting News For Esports And The NFL Draft

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The coronavirus pandemic has sent shockwaves across the gaming world.

As it has been well-documented, the majority of — if not all — casinos in the US have closed their doors. Sports leagues suspended games, canceled seasons and postponed major events.

Operators have scrambled to unearth ways in which to at least partially make up for lost revenue.

Enter, esports betting. And on the horizon, NFL Draft betting. The silver lining has shown itself.

On to the Rewind:

Esports betting gets green light in Nevada

The entertainment world has had a void for several weeks due to the coronavirus. No games. No sports. No avenue for legalized sports betting.

Gaming regulators in two states, however, have signed off on esports betting.

The Nevada Gaming Control Board approved wagering on the Counter-Strike ESL Pro League at each of the state’s sportsbooks. How many more events receive the green light in Nevada — or in any other state, for that matter — obviously depends on how much action is drawn.

Another state has dipped its toes into the esports betting waters.

Like Nevada, New Jersey requires operators to request approval from the Division of Gaming Enforcement before taking bets on esports. The Garden State saw its first esports betting action late last year by allowing bettors to place wagers on the League of Legends World Championship Final.

As Rahul Sood, CEO of esports betting operator Unikrn, told Legal Sports Report, state regulators “are willing to move quickly” to approve esports betting — especially if “real” sports continue to be sidelined.

Oregon sports betting fleeced by SBTech

Before Oregon sports betting launched in late-2019, the Oregon Lottery projected confidence and optimism that the state’s regulated industry could flourish.

Alas, it appears as if the lottery underestimated the costs of having partner SBTech in its corner.

A monthslong court battle ultimately ended with SBTech releasing details of its contract with the Oregon Lottery. And as it turns out, the sports betting provider has billed its partner for at least $2.9 million, causing the lottery to potentially lose $5.3 million over the first nine months of the 2020 fiscal year.

This despite the Scoreboard betting app helping generate a net revenue of nearly $6 million.

As Legal Sports Report detailed, “Managed Service Fees” have led to most of the SBTech-related costs. Among them:

  • SBTech gets 16% of net revenue and minimum monthly payments of $300,000 for the first six months and $350,000 thereafter
  • After 36 months, the “Minimum Managed Service Fee” increases to 17%

Certainly, this all becomes convoluted and even confusing to many, so consider the following: At full maturity, Oregon sports betting revenue gets handcuffed by SBTech costs. For example, as laid out by LSR, in a $5 million month of gross gaming revenue, SBTech would receive more than $1 million.

NFL Draft still on, NFL Draft betting still a go

Wrapping up the Rewind on a positive note is a conscious effort. With pro sports still sidelined, the news of the NFL Draft still expecting to go on as scheduled provides some much-needed joy.

While all events originally planned for Las Vegas have been scrubbed, the draft will still take place. As such, draft betting is still alive and well at legal sportsbooks.

Details of how the event will play out are reportedly still being worked out. For now, though, we can keep April 23-25 scheduled.

At many sportsbooks, operators are accepting bets on a variety of draft-related topics:

  • No. 1 overall pick
  • Order of first three picks
  • Over/under players selected by team and conference
  • Round of first kicker selected
  • Round of first punter selected

Far and away, LSU QB Joe Burrow remains the favorite to go No. 1 overall (FanDuel Sportsbook lists him at -3500) to the Cincinnati Bengals. Perhaps, though, the unexpected could happen, like Ohio State DE Chase Young taking the top spot. That’s good for a +1400 payout with FanDuel.

From esports to the NFL Draft, not all is lost for bettors.

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Gambling News

5 Positive Gambling News Stories To Read Right Now

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Amongst the backdrop of a global pandemic and the uncertainty currently plaguing the casino industry, there are a few bright spots to be had. Yes, a majority of casino properties across the US have shut down for a minimum of two weeks, all professional and collegiate sports are on hiatus, and social distancing is begin fed to the masses.

But you have read enough of that. To break up the bad headlines, here are some slivers of good news to enjoy:

#1 Some casino corporations are still paying employees

Over the years, there have been some truly dark moments in the casino business — and with most casinos closed nationwide, we are perhaps currently witnessing the darkest. But there are also moments where the industry puts its best foot forward.

Just look at the two historical cities known for gambling: Las Vegas and Atlantic City. Some of the big-name casino operators have decided to continue to pay employees and help ease the financial burden associated with properties shutting down.

Wynn Resorts started first and it seems they are going above and beyond most other casino companies. Wynn is paying both full and part-time employees plus paying estimated tips for 30 days.

Caesars Entertainment is offering two weeks’ pay to all employees across its vast network of properties around the US. Eldorado Resorts (who Caesars is currently merging with) also announced it would compensate all employees with their standard rate of pay for two weeks.

MGM Resorts International is paying furloughed employees (part-time and full-time) for two weeks, with benefits through June 30.

Borgata Hotel Casino & Spa and Hard Rock Hotel & Casino Atlantic City are more properties that are extending pay and benefits for a few weeks to aid their employees.

This is just a small glimpse of how casinos in various states are helping their employees in an industry that employs thousands of people.

Research by the American Gaming Association (AGA), says property closures will directly impact 644,000 casino and resort employees or 98% of the total US casino workforce.

Casinos have no playbook to reference, no industry standards to fall back on. One day they are operating and the next, ordered to close. It’s good to know some companies are taking the necessary steps to ensure their employees are taken care of in a time of crisis.

#2 Sports betting apps are still live in Nevada

Despite the complete shutdown of the Las Vegas strip, casual and expert bettors can still use Nevada online and mobile sports betting apps. (There was confusion for a while regarding the apps, regarding whether they would remain if the physical casino component closed.)

Although the betting menu may be limited, some people may find it comforting to know a finite amount of odd, diverse, sports are still chugging away.

Unfortunately, there is a caveat to this. In Nevada, you must register for an online account in-person. With properties closed, this means no new customers can sign up. Sportsbooks also require that you fund your account in-person. So if you find yourself on a string of bad bets, and hit that zero balance mark, you’re out of luck.

William Hill, however, announced updates to its app allowing for electronic deposits. Whether other sports betting operators follow this path is yet to be known.

#3 Strong February for East Coast sportsbooks

It may be the last good month for sports betting for a while, but damn was it a great high point. Pennsylvania operators reeled in a whopping $10.8 million in revenue off of $329.8 million in bets.

Neighboring New Jersey saw similar results with sportsbooks generating $17 million in revenue off of $494.8 million in bets. The percentage of bets placed online (88.2%) was also up from January and accounted for $436.5 million in bets.

These numbers will before forever linked to pre-quarantine times and while the numbers may not directly affect you, the consumer, they are a bright spot as the sports betting industry goes more and more mainstream.

#4 Maryland sports betting is moving along

In the fall, Maryland residents will have the chance to vote on if sports betting should be legalized. The issue will be placed on the November ballot and if approved, will give the legislature the go-ahead to craft suitable legislation.

One of the key issues holding back a full-blown sports betting bill was the lack of representation of women and minority-owned businesses. The issue directly mirrors what happened in neighboring Washington, D.C. Instead of sports betting licenses only being held by major companies, bars and restaurants (some of which are owned by women and minorities) can apply for a class-B license to operate sportsbooks.

Regardless of when sports betting comes to Maryland, the issue is being discussed and moving in the right direction.

#5 Virginia sports betting may soon be a reality

Lastly, Virginia sports betting is a governor’s signature away from becoming a reality. While the bill is limited and includes no betting on colleges in Virginia and no prop bets on any college sports at all, it does represent bi-partisanship and brings sports betting to the Commonwealth.

Not all sports betting bills are perfect. Some bills restrict who can and can’t operate a sportsbook. Others limit the types of wagers you can place, provide no responsible gaming protection or limit betting to retail only.

The common thread, however, is providing customers a legal and safe way to bet on sports. And in doing so, slowly chipping away at the illegal market.

In due time

The gaming industry may be in crisis mode right now. But in time, slot machines will be plugged back in. People will hover around a craps table once more. Sportsbooks will switch on tv screens. Casino resorts will welcome back their employees and their guest.

We will usher in the post-COVID-19 gaming world but we must remain optimistic that that day will come sooner rather than later.

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Gambling News

Betting News For Oscars & West Virginia, Plus Casino Responds To OJ’s Lawsuit

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What a time it is to be alive.

It’s the week of Super Bowl LIV, and legalized sports betting permeates the country.

A week after that, the Academy Awards takes place.

Of course, not everyone can celebrate as much as we do. Just ask OJ Simpson. More on that in a minute.

First, let’s get to the PlayUSA Rewind.

Oscar betting comes to Indiana

For the second straight year, New Jersey regulators gave the go-ahead for sports betting providers to accept wagers on the 2020 Academy Awards.

Now, a second state has done the same.

Despite only operating for a few months, Indiana has launched markets for Oscars betting. The Indiana Gaming Commission signed off on the wagering expansion. Since then, DraftKings Sportsbook has introduced odds for all 24 categories it currently offers in New Jersey.

It would seem appropriate for FanDuel Sportsbook also to integrate Oscars betting, and it appears it will do so as FanDuel has petitioned the IGC for approval.

All this said, Sara Tait, executive director of the IGC, told The Times of Northwest Indiana that the commission can opt “to change course” should “circumstances arise that undermine the integrity of certain activities.”

Original West Virginia online sports betting provider could return

West Virginia became one of the pioneering states to launch legal online sports betting in the US.

Yet the two casinos that were at the forefront have not offered regulated wagering since March 2019. Soon, though, both Wheeling Island and Mardi Gras could come back online.

As West Virginia Lottery Director John Myers told the Charleston Gazette-Mail, both properties “have some target dates” to relaunch sports betting operations. “Our understanding is it’s going to happen a lot sooner than it has been.”

Recall in late-2018 when Delaware North, owner of the two casinos, introduced to West Virginia the BetLucky sports betting app, developed alongside tech providers Miomni and EnterG.

Mere months after going live with the wagering platform, however, BetLucky was shelved. A dispute stemming from pricing and intellectual property ultimately led to the shutdown, which resulted in retail books at Wheeling Island and Mardi Gras also closing their doors.

Delaware North has since cut ties with Miomni and is searching for a new sports betting partner. The gaming company aims to rejoin the online wagering market in West Virginia, potentially joining FanDuel SportsbookDraftKings Sportsbook and BetMGM.

OJ Simpson too tarnished to defame

The man known as “Juice” has long been in the spotlight, from his football career to his fall from grace with that whole “trial of the century” thing. Oh, and the “robbery at gunpoint” thing.

Now, all that time spent in courtrooms and prison has made it impossible to defame Pro Football Hall of Fame running back OJ Simpson, according to attorneys for a Las Vegas casino.

The former Heisman Trophy winner sued The Cosmopolitan of Las Vegas after being escorted off the property in 2017. His legal team argues that hotel staff then spread rumors that Simpson was prohibited from returning to the Cosmo and that he was publicly intoxicated.

However, attorneys for the Cosmo told a judge that OJ Simpson could not have his reputation defamed by said accounts because it was already tarnished.

Simpson, obviously, was involved in one of the most high-profile homicide investigations and trials in history, which involved the deaths of his ex-wife and her friend in 1994. Later, Simpson was jailed following an armed robbery case in 2007.

Attorneys for the Cosmo argue that Simpson “is a well-known public figure” and that reports of the former running back’s behavior at the Cosmo could not have led to “tangible damage to his reputation.”

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Gambling News

Barstool Sports News, NV Betting Stays On Top & More

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This is the holiday season of legalized sports betting.

The Super Bowl followed by the Oscars. A new football season, that of the XFL, kicks off. Before you know it, conference basketball tournaments are tipping off and March Madness will arrive.

New states will debut regulated sports betting industries within the next few months, others will introduce legislation to legalize wagering, while others will continue to bolster their existing verticals.

With such rapid expansion, stakeholders are champing at the bit to pad their portfolios.

Speaking of which, let’s get to the Rewind.

Big bet on Barstool Sports

A gaming giant out of Pennsylvania is expanding its reach. And not in the traditional sense.

Penn National Gaming landed a deal to acquire a 36% stake in the well-known media platform Barstool Sports. Penn National will reportedly shell out a cool $163 million in cash and stock. The deal is expected to close in the first quarter of 2020.

In return, Barstool – widely known for its male-centric and often controversial content – becomes the recognizable brand longed for by Penn for its online casino app and mobile sportsbook. All told, Barstool Sports will serve as Penn National’s exclusive gaming partner for up to 40 years.

Penn National intends to leverage the Barstool brand for online table games as well as an online sportsbook. According to Legal Sports Report, the first Barstool Sportsbook could crop up in West Virginia in early 2020.

Penn National boasts 14 retail sportsbooks nationwide, which could increase to 20 by year’s end.

Nevada sports betting soars again

The hits just keep on coming for Nevada sports betting.

Despite growing competition throughout the country, Nevada continues to set state records. In 2019, the first full year of state-sanctioned wagering outside the Silver State, Nevada exceeded $5 billion in handle for just the second time. Its total of $5.3 billion represents a 6.2% increase from the previous year’s total.

As a result, revenue for the year also set a record, a total of $329.1 million that reflects a 9.3% spike.

This all comes courtesy from a strong December, during which Nevada sportsbooks combined for $571.1 million in handle and $36.3 million in revenue.

While certainly justified for celebrating, Nevada will definitely have its hands full moving forward. After all, New Jersey just closed out a $4.6 billion year – its first full calendar year with legal sports betting.

Regardless, Nevada has proven that the growth of state-sanctioned wagering will have no effect on its industry.

Super Bowl betting bigger than ever

Ahead of Super Bowl LIV, the American Gaming Association announced that about 26 million American adults would wager on the Big Game. According to AGA projections, a jaw-dropping $6.8 billion would stem from Super Bowl betting.

Bill Miller, president and CEO of the AGA, noted why, and it’s no secret. The country boasts 14 states with legal sports betting in operation.

The AGA survey estimated that nearly 4 million Americans would visit a retail sportsbook to bet on the Super Bowl. Some 5 million would wager via legal and illegal online sportsbooks. And, of course, millions more expected to participate in office or family pools or lay money down with local bookies.

Compared with 2019 estimates, the AGE calculated a 25% increase in visitation to regulated retail operations and a 19% jump in legal online sportsbook visits.

And there is no sign of this pace slowing, as Miller believes that legal sports betting will operate in as many as 30 jurisdictions by 2021.

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Sports Betting

From Sports Betting News To The Wire Act, US Gambling’s 2019 Year In Review

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Thanksgiving has passed, which means it’s time to start preparing for the end-of-year holidays. A time to set out resolutions for the New Year and plan to do better. But before we say goodbye to 2019, we are going to take a look at the top gambling news stories of the year.

As the year ends, we are replete not just with turkey, but with good news. All is well, and all news shows the US heading in the right direction as more and more states introduce legal sports betting and online gambling.

But 2019 didn’t start that way. In fact, the year began with an existential threat to US online gambling that rumbled on until late summer.

So, to begin our list of the top 10 stories of 2019, let us go back to the misery that followed the Department of Justice’s reinterpretation of the Wire Act.

#1: The DOJ’s revised opinion of the Wire Act threatened states with legal online gambling

The Department of Justice (DOJ) plays a Jekyll and Hyde role in the history of US online gambling. Back in 2011, it launched an attack on online gambling that saw online poker virtually exit the US. Black Friday changed lives, but almost as soon as it happened, the DOJ resumed the guise of Dr. Jekyll and issued a new opinion of the Wire Act.

The new opinion allowed states to enact their online gambling legislation. New Jersey, Delaware and Nevada got straight at it and soon had online poker up and running.

Then, after a few years in the shadows, Mr. Hyde returned and the DOJ issued another revised opinion of the Wire Act. This time it was not so good. It threatened to reverse all the gains of the previous seven years. There was a real prospect that existing state-regulated online poker and casino games would have to stop.

The roll-out of sports betting in states like Pennsylvania suddenly appeared to be in doubt. Regulators issued warnings to operators that they must comply with the new interpretation but without explaining how to achieve this contradictory position.

Fortunately, in June, the Federal District Court in New Hampshire decided that the first revised opinion was the right one. The industry breathed a collective sigh and then took in a deep breath as the DOJ appealed the decision.

For now, the DOJ’s threat has disappeared. However, much like the denouement of a B-rated horror film, just as the dust settles, there is always the chance that the evil Mr. Hyde will return.

#2: The merger of Caesars and Eldorado

Caesars is a huge brand in US gambling. Its iconic Las Vegas properties are almost the defining cultural symbols of the gambling industry. But Caesars got too big for its boots and went bankrupt in 2015.

Restructuring brought the company back by 2017, but it was still weak. Then came the Supreme Court decision that paved the way to legal sports betting.

Big shareholders started to agitate for a sale or merger, realizing that even multibillion-dollar companies were too small to take advantage of the new opportunity.

Eldorado owns casinos in a bunch of states, but it too was a bit player in a game that had suddenly gotten huge.

On Nov. 15, shareholders approved a merger of the two companies, which will keep the name Caesars Entertainment. Sensibly, Eldorado’s CEO will be the boss of the new team. He will have a company big enough to play nationwide and globally. The great gambling icon is saved.

#3: New Jersey DGE allows betting on the Oscars

It was a one-off in 2019, and it was trivial. But it was one of the most imaginative acts ever undertaken in the US by a gambling regulator.

New Jersey’s Division of Gaming Enforcement (DGE) gave permission for the state’s casinos to take bets on the 2019 Oscars.

The Oscars aren’t a sport; there isn’t a game involved. The Academy Awards is only a big show with a big audience. If the DGE can take this purely business attitude to allow betting for fun, then New Jersey’s future as a gambling hub is assured.

It is hard to imagine any other state gaming regulator taking the same decision. Possibly the Nevada Gaming Control Board, which has led the way on allowing bets on esports, but even for them, the Oscars are probably a step too far.

#4: Super Bowl 2019

There was something special about Super Bowl LIII. And it wasn’t just that the Patriots were going for their sixth victory.

This was the first time that fans outside of Nevada could legally bet on the game. To be clear, something like 95 percent of the total money wagered on the match was bet illegally. But in New Jersey, on Feb. 3, honest fans could put their money on the table in a safe and legal environment for the first time.

What was really funny was that the fans beat the bookies. New Jersey DGE figures showed that $34,894,900 was wagered on the game, but fans won $39,469,147. A $4.5 million victory for the sports betting fans, a record that might be harder to beat than the one now held jointly by the Patriots and the Steelers.

The old soaks over in Nevada could still smile. The more experience bookmakers in sin city recorded $145,939,025 and made a nice profit of $10,780,319.

Their smiles weren’t quite so wide as you might expect. For the first time in 11 years, Nevada took in less handle on this year’s Super Bowl than the previous years. New Jersey bookies may have made a loss, but it looks like they took some early market share from Nevada. Time will tell what happens with the Super Bowl in 2020.

#5: New Jersey takes more sports bets than Nevada

May brought some fun statistics. For the first time, the monthly sports betting handle in New Jersey was higher than in Nevada.

A few weeks later, June brought the anniversary of the first legal sports bet in New Jersey and the DGE numbers showed that a total of $3.2 billion was wagered in Year One.

For years, Atlantic City has played second fiddle to Las Vegas. Now that it can also offer legal sports betting, the impact of a population more than three times that of Nevada is showing through.

Nevada’s tourist traffic provides a massive boost to its numbers, but New Jersey gets tourists, too and size matters. Nevada’s population of fewer than 3 million was inevitably going to lose its crown to New Jersey’s nearly 9 million.

#6: States launching online sports betting

There was a wonderfully steady drip of announcements throughout 2019 of new states launching their online sports betting offerings. Although each could make a top 10 story of their own, to summarize:

  • Pennsylvania: The first mobile app went live from SugarHouse Sportsbook PA in May. BetRivers, Parx and FanDuel Sportsbook PA all went live in the next two months.
  • Indiana: Oct. 3 was the go-live date for DraftKings and BetRivers. Indiana deserves a special mention for the speed with which it went from legislation to launch.
  • Iowa: The first sportsbooks in the state went live in August 2019. Unusually, Iowa managed to get retail and online sports betting live at the same time. Unfortunately, for the first 18 months of operation, you can only sign up for an online account by going to a casino.
  • West Virginia: WV briefly had online sports betting in late 2018. A contractual dispute took BetLucky offline, but just in time for the start of the NFL season, FanDuel Sportsbook and DraftKings launched.
  • Rhode Island: In March, Gov. Gina Raimondo filled a gap in the sports betting legislation by signing a new law to allow mobile sports betting. The first online bets using the William Hill platform were placed in the fall.
  • Oregon: Straight from the state lottery, the Scoreboard app went live in October.

#7: States legalizing sports betting

While states with legal sports betting were getting the product into the market, several states passed laws but didn’t launch by the end of the year.

These states include Illinois, Montana, New Hampshire, North Carolina and Tennessee. Arkansas voters approved legal sports betting in a referendum and started in July 2019. Sadly, they will only allow mobile sports betting inside a casino, just like Mississippi.

Michigan half passed sports betting legislation, getting a majority in the House, but no further progress in the Senate, so far.

Maine is in the same position. There is a bill passed, but action is still required in early 2020.

New York played with adding online sports betting to its existing sports betting laws but failed to resolve the bickering between Republicans and Democrats that is making cross-party cooperation all but impossible.

Finally, Colorado voters approved sports betting legislation via referendum with launches expected in early 2020.

Despite the hiccups, it was an excellent year for online sports betting, setting the stage for a lot of new launches in 2020.

#8: The merger of Flutter and The Stars Group

In choosing which stories should make the top 10, it’s easy to go for the ones that got the most views during the year. The merger of the Flutter Group and The Stars Group was not table talk in houses throughout the land. And, it didn’t get lots of views from outside the industry.

But it will probably have a much more significant impact on US gambling than most events of the year.

Flutter, previously known as Paddy Power Betfair, was already a gaming behemoth after its two big-name brands merged in 2015. The Stars Group became a serious gaming player when it joined with Sky Betting and Gaming in 2018.

The two rivals’ corporate marriage will create the largest iGaming group in the world. And, it’s not even close.

Both companies are active in the US iGaming space and this merger could put them on track to be the largest player in US sports betting within a few years.

#9: Online poker launches in Pennsylvania

PokerStars Pennsylvania launched on Nov. 4, a little later than hoped. I’m not talking about how long it took Pennsylvania regulators to approve them, and I’m not talking about how long it took them to get their act together to partner with Mount Airy Casino.

No, online poker launched in New Jersey in November 2013, a little while later than Nevada and Delaware. Since then, no other states have had regulated online poker until now.

Back then, there was an expectation that other states would quickly jump on the iGaming revenue bandwagon, but nobody did.

It took a Supreme Court judgment to get state-regulated sports betting legalized, and another year and a half before the first state launched online poker. That’s six years later than expected.

Even now, the states that are legalizing sports betting seem to have a blind spot when it comes to poker. Sure, sports betting tax revenues are massive compared to poker, but why not play tag-a-long?

The idea that sports betting is more skillful than poker, or less likely to lead to problem gambling is obvious nonsense. There is simply no rational reason to allow online sports betting and deny online poker.

Thank you, Pennsylvania. On this, you have achieved a level of sanity denied to your peers. On the other hand, your 36% tax on sports betting.

#10: The dog that didn’t bark

The biggest story of the year is the one that didn’t happen. After 18 months of legal sports betting in various states, there was no big, bad news story.

No regulated sports betting provider went bankrupt, leaving customers without access to their funds. No significant sports betting cheating scandals affected the industry deeply. No casinos closed because they couldn’t compete with online gaming. No research reports suggested that the introduction of state-regulated sports betting and online gaming was creating an epidemic of online gambling.

In fact, all the dire predictions of the opponents of online gambling and legal sports betting have, so far, proved unfounded.

Of course, in human affairs, anything that can go wrong will. There will be regulatory failures, corporate failures and sheer human malice. But all of these things can be dealt with inside a legally regulated system.

Finally, US gamblers are being allowed in out of the cold. And that is seasonal good news of the best sort.

Happy holidays.

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