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Sports Wagering Handle Smashes Through the $2bn Barrier

Sports Wagering Handle Smashes Through the $2bn Barrier

An action-packed sporting calendar ensured that licensed US sportsbooks took a record handle of $2.1 billion in August. The figures are now in for each state with legal sports wagering, and they show that New Jersey was the clear market leader. Operators in the Garden State reported a handle of $668 million in August, while Nevada players wagered $474.5 million and Pennsylvania was third with $300 million. Indiana remains in fourth place at $169 million, but Illinois is hot on its heels. 

The legal sports betting sector is only just starting to gather pace in Illinois. The first land-based sportsbook opened in March, but the sporting calendar was swiftly decimated due to the Covid-19 pandemic. Mobile sports wagering then began in June, as a few sports leagues returned to action, but it was hamstrung by a legal requirement that forced players to register in-person at land-based sportsbooks. That was deeply unappealing during the age of Covid, and the total Illinois sports betting handle stood at just $61.9 million for March, June and July combined.

However, Illinois finally scrapped the in-person registration requirement on August 21, allowing players to simply register online. There was a great deal of MLB and NBA action for sports fans to bet on during August, and the handle hit $140 million, according to the

Illinois Gaming Board

. That represented a 166.7% increased on the $52.5 million brought in during July. It has already overtaken Colorado, and the handle should soar again in September, allowing Illinois to leapfrog Indiana and move into fourth place. 

BetRivers Enjoys Strong Trading

Chicago-based operator BetRivers accounted for $117.6 million of the August sports betting handle in Illinois. However, it is unlikely to hold onto that dominant position for long. FanDuel, the market leader in New Jersey and Pennsylvania, went live with its online sportsbook on August 28. DraftKings is also now live in the state, while William Hill and PointsBet also launched in September. 

That increased competition should help Illinois enjoy a far larger handle when it reveals its September trading figures. The NFL season is now underway, college football is up and running, and online registration is permitted until at least October 17 courtesy of an executive order from Gov. J.B. Pritzker. Illinois has a similar population and GDP to Pennsylvania, and it is larger than New Jersey and Nevada on both counts, while it has plenty of pro sports teams in Chicago, so it could soon challenge for top spot. States have not yet released their September trading figures, but New Jersey should make an announcement in the next week or so.

Across the country, sports betting operators held onto revenue of $119.4 million in August. That represented the second highest sports betting yield in history. Online casino gaming generated $145.3 million during the month, and retail gaming generated $3 billion. “Nine states showed signs of continued recovery in August, with reduced year-over-year revenue declines compared to July,” said the American Gaming Association. “Eight states reported gaming revenue approaching last year’s level, despite continuing to operate with limited capacity, game availability, and non-gaming amenities.”

BetMGM Gathers Pace

Local operators like BetRivers have struggled to compete with experienced British bookmakers in the nascent US sports betting market. William Hill built up a market leading position in Nevada and then quickly expanded across the country after the Supreme Court struck down PASPA. London-listed Paddy Power Betfair purchased FanDuel to front its US operations and became the clear market leader in New Jersey, Pennsylvania and elsewhere. Paddy Power Betfair rebranded as Flutter Entertainment, and it is now flourishing. William Hill has just agreed to a $3.7 billion takeover bid from Caesars Entertainment. 

One British operator that has flown somewhat under the radar is GVC Holdings, which owns Ladbrokes, Coral, Bwin and Sportsbetting. It launched BetMGM, a joint venture with MGM Resorts, and it is now live in eight states. GVC released a trading update this week, in which it claimed that BetMGM now has a 17% share of the US sports betting market. It said that the business is “tracking ahead of expectations” and it now expects full-year net revenue in the U.S. to hit somewhere between $150 million and $160 million.

BetMGM has signed partnership and marketing deals with a number of sports teams in the past quarter, including the Denver Broncos and the Detroit Lions, and it also became the official betting partner of Nascar and the PGA Tour. It looks capable of emerging as a serious rival to FanDuel, William Hill and DraftKings. GVC stock climbed 3% in the wake of

the update

“GVC is primed for further growth,” said chief executive Shay Segev. “In the US, BetMGM continues to go from strength to strength as we roll out into new states, integrate further with our partners’ customer propositions and deliver innovative products and features. With a market share of approximately 17% across our live markets, we are making great progress towards being the leading operator in the US.”

Louisiana, Maryland and South Dakota Could be Next

It is now more than two years since the Supreme Court axed PASPA, allowing 49 states to join Nevada in legalizing sports betting. Arkansas, Colorado, Delaware, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York, Michigan, Mississippi, Montana, Oregon, Pennsylvania and Rhode Island have all launched legal sports betting industries since then. Some only permit retail sportsbooks, such as New York, but most allow online sports wagering. New Mexico casinos are also offering licensed sports betting on tribal land. Tennessee, North Carolina and Virginia have all legalized sports betting, and they are pending launch. 

The next three states to take the plunge could be Louisiana, Maryland and South Dakota. Voters in those states will be able to decide whether sports betting should be legalized when they go to the polls for the presidential election on November 3. The chances of legalization appear to be high in Louisiana and Maryland, while South Dakota has a reasonable chance of allowing sports betting in the city of Deadwood. “We know that sports wagering is happening in South Dakota,” said 

Mike Rodman

, executive director of the Deadwood Gaming Association, as he implored residents to legalize it. “It’s happening illegally.”

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