Operators in Nevada, where sports betting has been regulated for decades, will undergo a different challenge to that of any other market in the coming years. The market in Nevada is saturated with incumbent operators (casinos) with both live and online sportsbook offerings, so potential new market entrants and product launches isn’t a factor to consider. Instead, maintaining revenues as new regulated markets open up that may give bettors choice as to where to wager will be the greatest concern. The days of travelling to Nevada to place bets on events like the Super Bowl may be coming to an end.
Sportsbooks in Nevada are currently booming, with revenue reaching a record $248.8 million in 2017. However, as there was virtually no regulated competition to the Nevada sportsbooks during that time, it may be the case that protecting this revenue is the priority for operators, as opposed to growing it.
One way they can do this is by focusing on their online platforms. Betting on mobile accounted for 29% of Nevada operators’ sports betting revenue in 2015 and this has been projected to reach 51% by 2020; operators may struggle to hit these targets though if legacy apps aren’t updated to compete with new out-of-state competitors.
One hurdle that stands in the way of Nevada achieving this target is the account verification process. Currently, customers that want to gamble on sports online have to open their account in person at the casino and provide verification documents such as their social security number on-site. Other states such as New Jersey allow players to open and verify accounts online, creating a user experience gap between these new products and those on offer in Nevada.
Some Nevada casinos including MGM Resorts, Caesars Entertainment and Wynn have already lobbied Nevada Gaming Control Board for full online registration, arguing that improvements in online and mobile verification technology make the current face-to-face system unnecessary. However, this position is yet to be endorsed by the Nevada Resorts Association and the Nevada Gaming Control Board is yet to take any action following the meeting, which took place in October.
Outsiders might be surprised to hear that despite leading the charge in challenging PASPA, it wasn’t New Jersey that took the much-anticipated first regulated sports bet post-PASPA. That honour fell to Delaware, who had its legislative ducks in a row in time to launch a regulated market on June 5.
Prior to the repeal of PASPA, Delaware actually had a monopoly on sports betting on the East Coast; parlay bets had been permitted in casinos since 2009. In that context it may be less surprising that Delaware was able to get off the ground quicker than other states that wished to regulate sports betting immediately.
But despite this willingness to be the first state to embrace sports betting and implement post-PASPA legislation, that doesn’t mean online European operators will be enthused at the prospect of entering the market. The state’s three casinos co-own the only licence in the state, meaning that there is a lock-out of all new providers wanting to offer sports betting in the state unless they partner with one of these operators.
And currently consumers don’t have it great either. Despite online poker and casino being legal, sports betting is currently restricted to on-premises at the casino; retail site and online betting is not regulated under the current legislation. Indications are that lawmakers do have the appetite to create a mobile betting market, but that the details are yet to be ironed out.
In contrast with surging betting activity in New Jersey, where online sports betting is permitted, the betting handle in Delaware actually fell in October, which may provide ammunition to operators wishing to convince state policymakers to take action to ensure that the market doesn’t get left behind.
As the principal advocate in the case to repeal PASPA, it is of no surprise that New Jersey was one of the first states to regulate sports betting and had in fact been planning to do so for some time; attempts by former Governor Chris Christie to pass sports betting legislation in 2012 and again in 2016 had failed on the grounds that the bills violated PASPA, before the New Jersey Sports Betting Act by his successor in June 2018.
It was Governor Phil Murphy himself who placed the first bet in the state at Monmouth Park racetrack on June 11 (a $20 wager on Germany to win the World Cup), with the Borgata Hotel Casino & Spa taking bets 30 minutes later.
DraftKings took the first online sports bet in New Jersey through its sportsbook app (with payments processed by Paysafe) on August 1, with MGM, the Golden Nugget, Caesars, 888 and BetStars joining the market online in quick succession. And this has paid dividends; $184m was gambled through online sportsbooks in September, a steady increase on the $95m wagered in August, generating $24m in net revenue for operators.
Mississippi repealed its own state law preventing sports betting in 2017, in preparation for being one of the first states to regulate following the repeal of PASPA. The Mississippi Gaming Commission announced it operating rules for the state’s 28 casino licence holders in June, and Mississippi took its first sports bets on August 1.
Any current gambling licence holder under the Mississippi Gaming Control Act 1990 can apply for a licence to offer sports betting on its premises; 30 casinos currently have a licence and approximately two thirds already offer sports betting.
Further legislation will be required to regulate offsite mobile betting, but, in the meantime, geofenced mobile betting is planned to be up and running before the end of the year, meaning that bettors will be able to place wagers on their phone whilst within the boundaries of a casino.
Former Nevada Gaming Control Board Chairman Mark Lipparelli, who oversaw Mississippi’s exploration into legalised online gambling, has voiced his opinion that Mississippi needs mobile sports betting if it is to see anywhere near the revenues expected in states which do offer mobile betting, such as New Jersey.
Another state that had amended its state legislation to permit sports betting before the repeal of PASPA is West Virginia, the fifth state where a sport bet was taken on August 30 when the Hollywood Casino at Charles Town Races opened its sportsbook.
The five locations in the state that already offer gambling are all permitted to offer sports betting; Mountaineer Casino, Racetrack and Resort and The Greenbriar Resort and Casino have joined the Hollywood Casino in already taking sports bets, and the Mardi Gras Casino intends to do so before the end of the year.
Mobile sports betting is permitted under the current legislation; and will be critical to growth in the state. Revenues to date haven’t matched the pre-launch expectations, in the main because of the delay in getting mobile sportsbooks to market; West Virginia sportsbooks were actually down $400,000 after the first two weeks in the month of November.
It has been reported that the remaining casino, Wheeling Island Hotel-Casino-Racetrack, will wait until it has its sportsbook app ready to launch before it accepts any bets; another indication that mobile betting is significant to the overall market strategy in the state.
The Greenbrier’s sportsbook is operated in partnership with FanDuel, which may lead it to being the first state to take bets through a mobile sportsbook in the near future.
DraftKings also has applied for a licence for its sportsbook, but will need to find a partner in the state in order launch in West Virginia.
Sports betting was given the green light in Pennsylvania alongside daily fantasy sports and certain types of internet lottery games in October 2017, which came into force immediately following the repeal of PASPA.
However, despite the head start the market has been slow to get out of the gate; the first bets were taken in mid-November and many casinos are yet to roll out their sports betting operations. No sportsbook apps are yet to launch.
Legislation permitting mobile casino, poker, and sports betting is already in force and gaming operators are expected to begin offering such wagering to Pennsylvania residents in 2019.
New Mexico is yet to pass any new legislation with regard to sports betting, but since October 16, the Santa Ana Star Casino and Hotel has been taking sports bets under the terms of its tribal compact with the state which allows for "any or all forms of Class III Gaming under the Indian Gaming Regulatory Act."
The eighth state to pass gaming legislation, with the first sports bets taking place in late November, is Rhode Island, the first state in the potentially lucrative region of New England to do so.
The Twin River Casino in Lincoln has partnered with William Hill and IGT to offer in-casino sports betting and is planning to offer the same service in its other casino located in Tiverton before the end of the year.
Separate legislation regulating mobile betting was drawn up but not passed at the same time as the sports betting bill; -this doesn’t appear to be on the lawmakers’ agenda currently, although there does appear to be some appetite to move towards a fully modernised online betting product, especially if neighbouring states Connecticut and Massachusetts include mobile betting in any tabled legislation in 2019.
“We wanted to start small and make sure we have the operational system down pat in the casinos before we explore online or mobile,” Paul Grimaldi, spokesman for the state’s Department of Revenue, told Reuters when the bill was announced.