US Sports Betting Update – leading sportsbooks refuse to take bets on leagues in Russia and Belarus
Popular online sportsbooks DraftKings, FanDuel and PointsBet have stopped accepting bets on games taking place in Russia and Belarus. The ban is a response to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, which has sparked Europe’s worst humanitarian crisis in decades. Belarus, a Russian ally, provided the springboard for the invasion from the north, so it has been included in sweeping western sanctions. Hundreds of American, European and Asian companies have ceased business operations in Russia, and now sportsbooks have joined the rush to it into an international pariah.
PointsBet began the trend when it announced on Twitter: “Effective immediately, PointsBet is no longer accepting bets or posting lines for Russian and Belarus based professional sports leagues and events, including all KHL events.” Kontinental Hockey League (KHL) is widely regarded as the second strongest hockey tournament in the world, after the NHL, and it was where the likes of Artemi Panarin, Nikita Gusev, Sergei Bobrovsky, Ilya Mikheyev and Nikita Zaitsev got their big breaks.
The Russian Premier League is also reeling after its last remaining team in European competition, Spartak Moscow, was kicked out of the Europa League. German managers have resigned from their roles at Russian Premier League clubs in protest, while the Russian national team has been ejected from World Cup qualifying, UEFA has ended its sponsorship deal with state-owned energy giant Gazprom, Manchester United has ended its deal with Russian carrier Aeroflot and oligarch Roman Abramovich has put Chelsea up for sale. Aside from hockey and soccer, Russian table tennis has been popular among US bettors, particularly in Colorado, but wagers will no longer be possible at DraftKings, FanDuel and PointsBet.
No Direct Commercial Relationships with Russian Leagues
“As of today, we will no longer offer betting on sports leagues and events in Russia and Belarus, such as the KHL,” Tweeted DraftKings. “DraftKings has no direct commercial relationship with any Russian or Belarusian league, team or sports organization. Our customer experience team is prepared to answer questions from any customers impacted by this change.” FanDuel also told LSR that it has ceased betting on events in Russia.
The responses to DraftKings’ Tweet were naturally droll. “If this doesn’t bring about world peace, I don’t know what will,” wrote one user. Another member of the Twitterati, with tongue firmly in cheek, asked if this means the war is now over, and a third replied: “Not yet. Gotta wait for Putin to try to place his same game parlay only to get denied before he pulls back the troops.”
Flutter Entertainment Shares Price Tanks
FanDuel owner Flutter Entertainment has seen its share price plummet by more than 16% this week after it reported disappointing financial results for 2021. The gambling giant, which also owns TVG, FOX Bet, PokerStars, Betfair and Paddy Power, posted an 11% fall in 2021 earnings. The situation in Ukraine has also affected its short-term outlook. “Since completion of our merger with The Stars Group, Flutter has materially reduced its exposure to the Russian online market,” said the firm in its financial report. “In 2021, Russia accounted for £41m in contribution. In addition, Ukraine represented a contribution of £19m.”
On a global basis, EBITDA was £1.24 billion ($1.65 billion), down from a record £1.4 billion ($1.86 billion) in 2020. The company’s profit came from Europe and Australia, as it is still making a loss in the United States. Flutter Entertainment held onto its position as the largest sports betting company in the USA, with a 40% share of the market. That is down from 42% in September, but still impressive considering the fierce competition from the likes of DraftKings, BetMGM and Caesars. It made a loss of £243 million ($323.5 million) in the US in 2021, as it is spending so heavily on bonuses. However, Flutter expects to turn that into a profit in 2023, echoing sentiments from rival BetMGM.
Super Bowl Handled Soared for FanDuel
FanDuel took 8 million bets on Super Bowl 56, up from just 4 million the previous year. “It was a real watershed moment for FanDuel, really breaking through to the mainstream in the US,” said chief executive Peter Jackson. “In the US, we delivered over $1.9 billion in revenue, leveraging our differentiated product proposition to remain the number one sportsbook in the market with a 40% share.”
FanDuel also has a 20% share of the online casino gaming market in the USA. It is live in Connecticut, Michigan, New Jersey, Pennsylvania and West Virginia. Combined with its 40% share of the online sports betting channel, that gives it an overall share of 31% of the total US online gambling industry. “Despite our scale we retain a challenger mindset; this year we launched a number of new features to our market‐leading same game parlay product, maintaining our competitive advantage in sports,” added Jackson. “I’m also pleased to see the progress on our path towards profitability; FanDuel sportsbook and gaming business delivered positive contribution in 2021 for the first time, a significant milestone for the brand.”
888 Holdings Hit with Large Fine
Shares in 888 Holdings were also deeply in the red this week after the business was fined a record $12.5 million. The UK Gambling Commission found that the business has failed to protect vulnerable bettors, and warned it could strip 888 of its license entirely if the company does not improve. It follows a $10.4 million fine handed out for the same offense in 2017. 888 has operations in the USA, including Sports Interactive Sportsbook, so the UK Gambling Commission’s warning could gain attention from US regulators.
“Today’s fine is one of our largest to date,” said Gambling Commission chief executive Andrew Rhodes. “All should be clear that if there is a repeat of the failures at 888 then we have to seriously consider the suitability of the operator to uphold the licensing objectives and keep gambling safe and crime-free. Consumers in Britain deserve to know that when they gamble, they are participating in a leisure activity where operators play their part in keeping them safe and are carrying out checks to ensure money is crime-free.”