Sports Betting - Update Nevada Reigned Supreme in 2019, But Can It Hold Onto Its Crown?

Written by Chris Monti

Sports Betting - Update Nevada Reigned Supreme in 2019, But Can It Hold Onto Its Crown?

Nevada narrowly held onto its status as the leading state for sports betting when it took a handle of $571.1 million in December. That was $13.3 million higher than the handle achieved by its closest rival, New Jersey, allowing the Silver State to finish the year as top dog. Football was the most popular draw at Nevada sportsbooks in December as it accounted for almost 60% of the action, while basketball accounted for a further $171.6 million.

That strong performance helped drive Nevada to a record handle for 2019. Its sportsbooks took a total of $5.3 million in wagers, which is a 6.2% increase on the previous year. Revenue also grew 9.3% to hit a new record of $329.1 million. Football was the most popular sport at Silver State sportsbooks in 2019, with a handle of $1.9 billion, followed by basketball at $1.7 billion and baseball at $1.1 billion. Handle for all sports increased year-on-year, although parlays decreased slightly.

Pretender to the Throne

New Jersey gave Nevada a run for its money throughout 2019. It actually surged ahead of the Silver State during a few months in the quiet summer period, but Nevada finished top of the pile in September, October, November and December after the new NFL season began. New Jersey ended 2019 with a handle of $4.6 billion, which is an impressive performance for a market that is a long way from maturity.

Its handle was $92.7 million smaller than that of Nevada in September, but it closed the gap to $56 million the following month. In November, Nevada posted the highest monthly handle on record – $614 million – but New Jersey was just $51.4 million behind. In December the difference between the two states was reduced to a mere $13.3 million, suggesting that New Jersey could retake the lead in January and perhaps end 2020 as the new king.

Online wagering really took off in New Jersey during 2019 and it now accounts for around 85% of the handle. Nevada is a lot more reliant on retail wagering at the sportsbooks in Las Vegas, which are popular among visitors to the state. If it maintains its upward curve in 2020, the Garden State could usurp Nevada once and for all. It has a far larger population and Atlantic City is also a big tourist destination.

New Rivals Gather Pace

Yet Pennsylvania could overhaul both of them. It has a larger population and GDP than New Jersey and it has seven pro sports teams – four in Philadelphia, and three in Pittsburgh – while the onerous tax and licensing regime has not proved too onerous thus far. Handle grew to a record $342.5 million in Pennsylvania last month, which is interesting against a backdrop of month-on-month declines in New Jersey and Nevada.

Pennsylvania is currently the largest state with legal online and retail sports betting. However, Illinois is a similar size, and it will soon usher in a new era of sports wagering, although leading operators FanDuel and DraftKings will be barred for the first two years. This is a so-called “bad actor” punishment for them offering DFS to Illinoisans when it was technically illegal, but critics say it is an attempt to allow local operators to seize control of the market before FanDuel and DraftKings are finally allowed to launch.

New York is the biggest state to allow sports betting, but online remains outlawed and it is confined to retail wagering at a few upstate casinos. The legislative process is moving slowly in the Empire State and Gov. Andrew Cuomo left online wagering out of his budget for the next fiscal year. That will leave Nevada, New Jersey and Pennsylvania to vie for the role of market leader while Illinois finds its feet in 2020, and it looks set to develop into a fascinating battle.

Super Bowl Fever Sets In

Sports betting operators are gearing up for an extremely busy week, as Super Bowl LIV takes place in Miami on Sunday. It will pit the most devastating QB in the business against the most ferocious defense in the league, and it will be interesting to see the 49ers attempt to limit the threat posed by Patrick Mahomes.

The American Gaming Association estimates that 26 million Americans will place a bet on the big game, an increase of 3 million on last year. It arrived at that conclusion after surveying 2,200 adults across the country on January 21-22 and then upweighting their answers to cover the whole population. It predicts that Americans will wager $6.8 billion on the Super Bowl, but legal sportsbooks will only see a fraction of that.

Illegal Sports Betting Industry Remains Rampant

The AGA said 4 million Americans would visit a legal brick-and-mortar sportsbook to bet in person on the game, a 25% increase on 2019. Nearly 5 million will bet online, either via a legal site or an illegal offshore sportsbook. The rest will wager with an illegal neighbourhood bookie, in a pool or squares contest, or casually with family and friends. The big challenge in 2020 for legal operators is seizing as much market share as possible from illegal bookies.

“With 14 operational markets and another seven close behind, Americans have never before had so many opportunities to wager on the Super Bowl in a safe and legal manner, and clearly, they are getting in on the action,” said Bill Miller, president and chief executive of the AGA. “With increased visitation to legal sportsbooks, we are successfully drawing bettors away from the predatory illegal market.

“I have absolute confidence that Americans didn’t start betting on sports when PASPA was overturned. What makes this year’s Super Bowl remarkable is that more fans than ever before will have the reassurance that the integrity of their bets on the big game will be preserved. The continued expansion of legal sports betting—to the detriment of the illegal market—truly benefits all stakeholders, from enhanced fan engagement for teams to added tax revenue for state and local economies.”

More than $17 billion has been wagered legally on sports since the Supreme Court struck down PASPA in May 2018, the bulk of it in Nevada and New Jersey. Fourteen states now offer regulated sports betting, with six more states and the District of Columbia poised to open legal markets in the coming months after passing legislation to that effect. There is active legislation underway in 15 more states, and many more are expected to legalize sports betting in 2020, creating a domino effect across the country.

  • William Hill Casino

    $500 Risk Free Bet

    To be eligible for this Promotion, all eligible Patrons must place their first real money sports wager via the William Hill mobile app or desktop site, within 7 days of opening a William Hill NJ Account. If their Qualifying Wager is graded as a Loss the Participant will earn a one-time Free Bet token equal to the lessor of: 1) The full value of the Qualifying Wager or 2) $500 (“Free Bet(s).
  • 888 Sport

    $500 Welcome Bonus

    Player must be at least 21 years old, located in New Jersey, has completed the full registration process with us.888sport.com, makes a first deposit equal to or greater than $10 and may be entitled to a Welcome Bonus of 100% up to $500 on the players first deposit at us.888sport.com.
  • Unibet Sportsbook

    Play Now

    Join Unibet Sportsbook today and once you add funds, we'll insure your first cash bet - get up to $500 back if you don't hit a winner. Make your first cash bet on any event. If your first settled cash bet loses, you will receive a refund to your account equal to the amount of your losing wager (up to $500). Your first cash bet ($10 or over) will qualify. You will receive the refund within 72 hours.
  • Sugar House

    100% Up To $250 Deposit Match Bonus

    Player must create a new account, make a first deposit up to $250 to get a Deposit Match Bonus. Use code 250MATCH.
  • FanDuel Sportsbook Review

    $500 Risk Free Bet

    New Sportsbook Customers Only NJ. Join FanDuel Sportsbook today and make your first bet. If you lose, we'll give you a refund of up to $500 in site credit (within 72h). Your first bet will qualify (If you have multiple selections on one betslip, it will be the first selection you made)
  • Draft Kings Sportsbook

    Get a deposit bonus up to $500!

    Join Draft Kings today and with your first deposit of $5 or more, you will receive a free $3 ticket to play in any $3 paid contest. A user’s first deposit (min. $5) made between 5/13/20 – 8/17/20 qualifies the user to receive up to $500 in bonus funds in the form of site credits that can only be used on DraftKings. Bonus amount is equal to 20% of that deposit amount, not to exceed $500 (the user must deposit $2,500 to be eligible to receive the maximum possible bonus amount of $500).
  • Caesars

    $300 Free Bet

    Make your first deposit using SPORTS300 and we will match your first sports bet up to $300! Cash bet must have minimum odds of -200. On Parlay wagers, each legs must have odds of -200 or greater.
  • Bet America

    Bet $50 Get $50 [code: BET50]

    Join BetAmerica today for an exclusive Bet $50 and Get $50 using code [BET50] on your next sports bet. Register today and enjoy our Freeplay contests where you can use your sports and casino knowledge to win $1000's in prizes every week.

Latest news