2019’s Top Sports Betting Headlines
Sports betting in the U.S. is spreading like kudzu, with no let-up expected soon. Here’s iGamingPlayer’s list of the top sports betting headlines for 2019.
In 2018, the U.S. Supreme Court opened the floodgates to legal sports betting—and the flood continues. Here’s iGamingPlayer’s list of the top sports betting headlines for the year:
- More States Jump on the Bandwagon. In 2019 alone, a number of U.S. states OK’d some form of legal sports betting, and more are on track to join the throng, with just a few abstentions.
Seven states went live in 2019, including Iowa, Arkansas, Indiana, New York and Oregon. The last to climb aboard was New Hampshire; two days after Christmas, Governor Chris Sununu placed the Granite State’s first wager, betting $82 on the Patriots to win the Super Bowl. New Hampshire is the second state in New England to offer sports betting. Rhode Island was out in front, launching in 2018.
Some states are legal but not launched. At the starting gate are Montana, North Carolina, Illinois, Tennessee, Colorado, Michigan and the District of Columbia. All are hoping to be up and running by Super Bowl LIV or March Madness.
From sea to shining sea, other state governments are poised to pile on, including Maine, Connecticut, Kentucky, Minnesota, Maryland, Missouri, Louisiana, Oklahoma, Hawaii, and most points in-between.
And of course, a handful of holdouts have no pending legislation—Alaska, Idaho, Nebraska, Wisconsin, Wyoming and Utah.
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- PA Sports Betting Passes $1 Billion Mark. In December, Pennsylvania marked its first year of legal sports betting by surpassing $1 billion in total wagers, online and retail. That milestone followed more than $316 million in handle for November. Leading the way, surprisingly, was the comparatively smaller FanDuel sportsbook, a Valley Forge Casino.
Handle had jumped every month since April, and in leaps and bounds starting in August, when it rose from July’s $59 million to $109 million. The NFL season accelerated sports betting handle, which rose from $194.5 million in September to a record $316.5 million in November. More than 84 percent of wagers were made online, mostly through mobile devices.
Next-door, meanwhile, New Jersey booked more than $3 billion worth of sports bets in its first full year.
- New York Shoots Itself in the Foot. Last summer, sports betting finally became a reality in the Empire State, but sans lucrative mobile betting.
“Right now, New Jersey is cleaning our clock when it comes to sports betting,” said state Senator Joe Addabbo, who has vowed to renew his push for mobile betting this year. “I’m glad we’re breaking grounds on sports betting, but it would’ve been nice to have the mobile component. It’s a baby step.”
Across the bridge in New Jersey, sportsbooks are cleaning up, with more than 80 percent of sports bets placed on a mobile device, and many coming from New York City-area residents crossing the state line. FanDuel says a quarter of its registered accounts in the Garden State belong to New York residents.
- NFL to Staff, Players: You Bet, You Lose. Pro sports leagues once fought tooth-and-claw to keep sports betting illegal in most states, but are now happily cozying up with the new industry. But the word is out to players of the nation’s most watched sport, pro football. With the recent suspension of Arizona Cardinals’ Josh Shaw, the NFL is again warning league personnel and players that they’re prohibited from “placing, soliciting, or facilitating any bet on any NFL game, practice or other event.” Break the rule, and they could be outta there.
Shaw, a bit player on the Cardinals’ injured reserve list, found out the hard way not to gamble on national league games—and unwittingly became the poster boy for this bad behavior. In the aftermath of his bet on a three-team parlay in Las Vegas (it included his own team) Shaw was suspended from the league through 2020, and the league sent a memo to all employees reaffirming that gambling on football is grounds for termination.
“All NFL personnel are prohibited from placing, soliciting, or facilitating any bet, whether directly or indirectly through a third-party, on any NFL game, practice or other event,” the policy states. “This includes betting on game outcome, statistics, score, performance of any individual participant, or any other kind of ‘proposition bet’ on which wagering is offered.”You can bet there will be lots of scrutiny of players, coaches, and other officials and staff in all sports at all levels.
- NCAA Will Let College Athletes Make a Buck. Thanks to a new rule approved October 29 by the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA), as early as January 2021 college athletes will be able to profit from their name, image and likeness, just like the big boys.
“We must embrace change to provide the best possible experience for college athletes,” NCAA board chairman Michel Drake told ESPN. “Additional flexibility in this area can and must continue to support college sports as a part of higher education. This modernization for the future is a natural extension of the numerous steps NCAA members have taken in recent years to improve support for student-athletes, including full cost of attendance and guaranteed scholarships.”
Despite relaxing those rules, the NCAA is still battling for federal legislation that would prohibit betting on collegiate and amateur sports, and right now, the rules are all over the map. New Jersey, for instance, bans bets on any high school game. It also doesn’t allow gambling on contests involving an in-state college or an intercollegiate event held in the state. Indiana also banned betting on high school sports. But the state’s regulations allow wagering on a wide array of college sports. Betting on in-state teams is available. Oregon officials have decided to exclude college games and limit betting options to just professional sports.
- Blockbuster Deals Abound. Last fall, Paddy Power Betfair merged with PokerStars to create the world’s largest online betting and gaming company. Paddy Power became Flutter Entertainment in a deal that signals a wave of online gaming and sports betting in the U.S.; Flutter CEO Peter Jackson said the merger will “turbocharge” the company. Flutter is sure to get a boost stateside thanks to a partnership with Fox Sports and FanDuel. Meanwhile, The Stars Group enhanced its UK operations with the purchase last year of Sky Betting & Gaming in a $4.7 billion deal.And in late December, sports-betting behemoth DraftKings went public in a deal with SBTech that created a new firm valued at about $3.3 billion. Those entities were scooped up by Diamond Eagle Acquisition Corp.; the combined group will trade as DraftKings Inc. in a move that positions the second-place David closer to its Goliath, FanDuel.
All in all, it was a remarkable year for sports betting in the United States, and 2020 could even surpass it for big deals and more legal markets. For all the latest, stay tuned to iGamingPlayer.com.