EPISODE 217 | LSR Podcast

Will Adelson’s NBA Entry Lead To Texas Sports Betting?


30 min
Video preview

Will Adelson’s NBA Entry Lead To Texas Sports Betting? | Sports Betting News | LSR Podcast 217

The Adelson family is making a major move into professional sports by buying controlling interest in the Dallas Mavericks, and the play likely means revived discussion of casinos and sports betting in Texas. Plus, California joins the list of states looking into the legality of fantasy sports, Unibet pulls the plug in North America, and North Carolina pushes back its launch date again.

Full transcript

Matt Brown (00:11):

Hello and welcome to episode number 217 of the LSR Podcast. My name is Matt Brown, joined each and every week by the brightest minds in all of the gaming industry. With me, I have the man, the myth, the legend over there behind LSR, Adam Candee. You can follow him on the Twitter machine @AdamCandee, two E’s, no Y. I am @MattBrownM2 over on the Twitter machine, if you hate yourself.


We are going to talk Unibet, we are going to talk North Carolina. We’re going to talk about what’s going on in California in the overall daily fantasy sports industry. But Adam, as a reminder to everyone, this is absolutely free. And everything we do, absolutely free. So go ahead, subscribe, rate, review to any of the little stuff that you’re doing, whether this be the video side of things or the audio side of things.

Adelson family making major move into professional sports


Kick things off here with some pretty big news, and pretty big news that really goes across the entire landscape of everything that you and I cover and everything that we do. Because it is big sports news, it is big, potentially sports gambling news, it is potentially big casino news. There’s all kinds of stuff going on here with the fact that the Adelson family, yes, formerly of the Venetian Palazzo, whatever, of course they sold that, but they still have the Las Vegas Sands Corp. that they owned, which has a ton of money because they have all those casinos over in Macau and whatnot. And so they still have a ton of cash, and they’re going to use some of that cash, Adam, to buy the majority stake in the Dallas Mavericks.

Adam Candee (01:35):

Matt, it’s impossible to find the right starting point for this story. I will go as far back as around 2016 or so, I think is probably a good place to get this thing kicked off, when the Adelson family was deeply involved with the NFL and the then-Oakland Raiders franchise to bring the Raiders to Las Vegas. And anybody who didn’t follow that story closely, Sheldon Adelson is the driving force behind why the Raiders ultimately moved to Las Vegas. Because the public funding package that was approved at the Nevada State Legislature, $750 million, was a product of a lot of political lobbying and arm twisting from Las Vegas Sands and from Sheldon Adelson, who was one of the most powerful political figures in the history of the state of Nevada. So the interest has been there for quite a long time for the Adelson family to have professional sports as part of its portfolio. Now, of course, Sheldon Adelson has passed. His widow, Dr. Miriam Adelson, is the one running the show now for Las Vegas Sands.


So when this story first came through, my first thought was, “Oh, they’re probably buying the A’s from John Fisher,” right? They’ll finally get their local professional sports franchise. And then I saw what it actually was with the Dallas Mavericks and thought, “Oh, this makes perfect sense.” Because this is not the first time that we’ve heard about the Adelsons having an interest in being involved in the state of Texas. Now we’ve heard them wanting to be involved in gambling in the state of Texas. They have wanted to bring casino gambling to Texas, and that actually kicked up last year. In 2022, Las Vegas Sands started a PAC in Texas that contributed more than $2 million to candidates across the state, including some who would be more friendly than Greg Abbott and Dan Patrick have been to gambling in the state. And ultimately their push for casino gambling didn’t go anywhere in the last state legislature. That doesn’t mean they’re done trying though.


And you know who else had expressed a pretty strong interest in bringing casino gambling to the state of Texas? Someone who told our Mike Mazzeo in an email that sports betting was less interesting to him than casino? That was Mr. Mark Cuban. And Mark Cuban has also shared the interest of the Adelson family in having casino gambling as a much larger part of an entertainment complex within the Dallas area. In fact, what Mark Cuban talked to Mike Mazzeo about months ago was the idea of making Dallas more of a tourist destination, making this entire area more of a place to bring people in when it’s not just a matter of coming in for a Cowboys game or for something else. He talked about the fact that it’s not necessarily a tourist destination on the level that a Las Vegas is a tourist destination, and the Adelson family clearly has some background in terms of that.


So there are lots of connections here that bring up interesting points for us to talk about, Matt. I’ll give it back to you before we get deeper into the layers on this because I know you know plenty about it as well.

Matt Brown (04:52):

Yeah, it’s pretty interesting. The Adelson family comes out with a statement. It was what I figured when I read it, which was basically like, “Hey, look, we want to get more involved in the community. We want to be more involved in all this. We tried the whole partnership thing with Cuban, and we couldn’t get anything pushed through. And so, hey, we’re going to come in, and we’re going to actually be a part of the community, not just a partner. We’re going to be in there.” Again, they are going to be the majority owner here of the Mavs, though Mark Cuban does continue to be the basketball operations manager of the team. Best of both worlds for Cuban. I mean, makes $2 billion and still gets to run the team, which is all he wants to do anyway. I mean great on him. Guy’s a good businessman. So there you go.


Yeah, I mean, look, like you said, this has been in the works for a long time. Cuban has wanted to build a new stadium in Dallas. As part of the new stadium, he wanted to make it this entertainment district like you’ve heard about in all these other places, where you have these new stadiums get built where you go in and it’s not just, “Oh, we’re only going to a game.” You go early because there’s several bars and several restaurants and a couple of shops and you can do whatever. Well, as part of his thought is, “Let’s add a casino to that. Why not? Let’s add a casino to that and have a casino be a part of that entertainment complex.” And I think it’s a great idea. You and I both are somewhat optimistic that maybe something could get done in Texas. There was at least a little bit of steam last time through.


Now I think that the Adelson family looked at it and said, “If we’re not actually part of Texas,” Texas being so prideful and all the things like that, “We’re outsiders coming in just trying to partner with one of the guys that actually is part of the community.” I think they think that they have a better shot if they are truly actually in the community, and they own something in the community and they’re going to be paying out people and creating jobs and all the things like that. Whether it’s going to work or not, Adam, I don’t know. I’ll let you handicap something like that. But I think from just a business aspect, and certainly knowing the people of Texas and how prideful Texas is and their people and their own and all the things like that, I think them coming in and actually owning a piece of something as opposed to just being an outside partner probably does increase their chances, at least a little bit, from an influential standpoint.

Adam Candee (07:10):

There’s no question about that, Matt. And whether it’s the ethnocentrism that you mentioned or whether it’s just a straight matter of dollars and cents and being respected by more of the political establishment in Texas, it’s something that gets them closer to their goal. I don’t think there’s any question about that.


That PAC that I mentioned, the Texas Sands PAC, gave $75,000 last year to Governor Greg Abbott. We know that they also were interested in a race that had to do with a primary that Dan Patrick was deeply involved with. So there’s both the, on the surface be part of the community piece that you mentioned, and I think there’s also the very direct political piece here, where Las Vegas Sands is trying to build more of a political profile when it comes to its donations throughout the state of Texas and getting more legislators friendly to their effort.


Now, your point about sports betting individually last time, what we saw was the bill did get through the House and then it died a very quiet death in the Senate, where Lieutenant Governor Dan Patrick is the president of the Senate and wields what is an outsize amount of influence over the legislative body, as an executive branch member for the overall picture of what state legislatures look like throughout the country. He is a very influential figure, not only as the president of the Senate, but as one of the de facto leaders of his wing of the Republican Party. So it makes it more challenging for, I would say, Patrick and Abbott, to push aside the idea of sports betting as an individual piece. Because I think what’s going to happen here is instead of sports betting being out front and storming the beaches, I think what we’re going to see is that casino is what ends up having to be out front in this entire conversation.


I think sports betting has a much more viable chance in Texas if it’s tagging along with casino, with an effort that both Cuban and Adelson are both strongly behind, than if it’s coming out as something that is trying to travel individually. Because that is something that I think we have found time and time again, that some places it takes more than just the idea of online sportsbooks to get something moving.

Matt Brown (09:21):

And Adam, one last thing that I think whenever you’re talking about just how maybe this does change the tides just a little bit as far as how much resistance they’re going to meet. Cuban been playing along with everything, just kind of like been … When he’s asked about it, yeah, he’ll comment on it and all this stuff, but he certainly hasn’t been out there really, really going after stuff. And now, granted Sheldon has passed, but now you have people, not only one of the most influential voices within the state because he’s one of the most influential voices in the entire country in Mark Cuban, but now you have people that at least in the past, again, Sheldon has passed along, but are willing to spend an outsized amount of money to try to get what they want done, done. And if that means get you out of the way, then that means get you out of the way. So there’s also now that that comes into play here a little bit as well.


We know Sheldon Adelson did not want online gaming. He spent hundreds of millions of dollars preventing that from happening. And that’s the reason it didn’t happen for as long as it happened. Because Sheldon Adelson had a mission to make sure it wasn’t going to happen, and he had the bank account to make sure that it wasn’t going to happen. So that was a deal that really delayed this for the longest amount of time. And I don’t know if Miriam has the same kind of business acumen and stuff that Sheldon does, but I’m sure that the people that were running the business when Sheldon was around learned a lot from him. And I can only imagine, and this is me, opinion only, I can only imagine that if they want this done now, it comes with a little bit more sense of urgency than it did before. Because it is an endless amount of money in which they used to were willing to spend to make sure that they got something done come hell or high water. So now Cuban-Adelson teamed up together is a pretty powerful force.

Adam Candee (11:14):

I imagine most of the people who are listening to our podcast are pretty familiar with the history of Sheldon Adelson also when it comes to the federal government and UIGEA and the Wire Act. If you’re not, read up, because that informs what has been a massive switch in the way that this has been approached. In fact, soon after the passing of Sheldon Adelson, we heard Las Vegas Sands express more of an interest in at least exploring the online gaming vertical then it ever had while he was still alive.


So you look at the fact that you’ve got Cuban, you’ve got Adelson, you’ve previously had Jerry Jones, you have Tillman Fertita who owns Golden Nugget and the Houston Rockets. And by the way, Tillman Fertita, a massive donor to Dan Patrick over the course of time. And you start to see those waves swelling a little bit higher. And the need, I would say, for at least a discussion about what a compromise option could look like. Because you have some highly, highly influential interests who are interested in getting something done one way or the other, for one of the largest states in the country that does not have access to legal gambling.

Matt Brown (12:24):

And if you’ve ever driven along I-10, or if you’ve driven along I-20 and you pass through Lake Charles, Louisiana, or you pass through Shreveport, Louisiana, and you look and you go, “Man, those casinos seem pretty big to be in Shreveport, Louisiana.” Or, “That casino seems pretty nice to be in Lake Charles, Louisiana.” It’s because it’s funded by Texas. Because everyone from Dallas goes over to Shreveport and everyone from Houston goes over to Lake Charles. And that’s the only reason those casinos are as nice as they are and as big as they are and look as good as they do, because otherwise they would be little dumpy shacks in Lake Charles and in Shreveport. So again, money funneling, this is the sports betting aspect of it, but from a casino side of things, money just funneling, funneling out of that state each and every weekend because they go and they do staycations over there. I mean, they go and do little vacations over there and gamble and stuff in those little towns.


So even more reason, I mean we didn’t even get to the financial part of it all, but I mean even more reason, I mean you’re going to get tax dollars out of this. You’re going to create jobs out of this. There’s going to be more money within the state of Texas as well.

Adam Candee (13:27):

No, there’s no question at all about it. I think there’s a whole other discussion that you and I could get into about Mark Cuban choosing to sell only a few years after saying that he thought sports betting was going to double the value of sports franchises. Of course, a $3.5 billion valuation, $2 billion sale, still pretty nice overall when it comes to the Dallas Mavericks considering his investment of less than $300 million. It does raise an interesting point there as to what his involvement will be moving forward, whether it comes to the casino piece, whether it comes to the sports betting piece. Because obviously with him stepping away from Shark Tank and making this sale, you have myriad speculation as to what the future looks like for Mark Cuban.

Matt Brown (14:16):

Super interesting story. Of course, this is very fresh. Any details that come out, we will continue to report on all of that. The only thing that we have gotten is CNBC did get an email from Cuban that said, no, he is not running for president. So we shall see. That was the speculation right off the bat that he was going to run for president. He said he is not. His family would kill him.

Adam Candee (14:36):

Hey, we have had a casino owner president before in this country. It wouldn’t be the first time.

Matt Brown (14:42):

This is true. This is true.

California joins list of states looking into legality of fantasy sports


All right, so let’s head over to California. And this is, you want to talk about stuff that could really shake up business models and whatnot; California, if you guys are unaware, no sports betting over there, but can do whatever you want to from a DFS angle. And they were one of the few states out there that when there was all this stuff going through, decided not to get any sort of formal thing on the books about DFS. And Adam it got looked at years and years ago, nothing really came of it. And then now here we are, and this is now front and center in California.

Adam Candee (15:17):

So here’s what we have going on. And you mentioned the 2015 effort when now-Vice President Kamala Harris was the attorney general, no opinion ever came out of that. But we have the same situation with a state level-legislator asking the California Attorney General’s office to look into an issue, an opinion, about daily fantasy sports. And, sorry to have to bring up trigger memories for a lot of people here, but whether it’s a game of skill or a game of chance. We’re back to the old questions that have been going on forever and ever when it comes to daily fantasy sports. Our Sam McQuillan followed up on a report by Gambling Compliance. Want to give Matt Carey over their credit for being first on this story; $200 million in annual entry fees in California, just on DFS. Think about what is being wagered on sports betting illegally, what is being wagered with bookies offshore, et cetera, et cetera, et cetera. No timeline for this investigation, but in the past it’s been reported that it’s nine to 12 months for the attorney general’s office to take a look.


This comes at the request of state Senator Scott Wilke, and in the letter that he sent to the attorney general, this is a quote, “Although the participant may utilize their knowledge of a particular sport in choosing their ‘team’ of players, how well those players perform during a game is completely out of participants’ control. As such, daily fantasy sports appears to be a game of chance not otherwise permitted by the laws of California.” Now to be clear in this discussion, we are talking about everyone. Much the same as in Florida, we were talking ultimately about everyone. Whether it’s DraftKings and FanDuel, whether it’s PrizePicks, Underdog and the ilk of the pick’em games that have been pretty widely scrutinized over the course of 2023 and said to be against state law by a number of states in the US. This could ensnare everyone ultimately.


However, when it comes down to it, we know that DraftKings and FanDuel have a robust sports betting and iGaming business throughout the country, throughout Canada for some as well. And PrizePicks and Underdog are pretty reliant on some of these larger states like Florida, like California, for their base of operations right now. It would not be at all a stretch to say that an adverse ruling in California would deal a pretty significant business blow to the future of the companies that are trying to offer these pick’em games as daily fantasy sports as opposed to sports betting.

Matt Brown (17:54):

Yeah, it could be, I’m not going to say catastrophic, but it’s pretty close to as catastrophic as humanly possible. I mean me personally, I’ve been out of the DFS game for a while as far as playing seriously obviously, but I know a lot of very big players that live in California. We’re talking about these super high-volume guys, the guys that are pumping in just thousands and thousands and thousands of entries every single week into the industry. And as you mentioned Adam, if they’re doing that from a DFS standpoint, it’s not as visible I think from the PrizePicks and Underdogs, whether they’re doing that on those sites. But one would assume, one would guess. It’s certainly a very easy transition over to all of that. So I can only imagine those whales would be extremely missed when it came to anything going on in California.

Adam Candee (18:48):

Yeah. And really, this does go back to the fact that if the price for DraftKings and FanDuel of being able to push very strongly Underdog and PrizePicks and their like out of a market is for DraftKings and FanDuel to have to turn off their DFS, that has become a drop in the bucket to what their overall business is. If that’s the cost of doing business, I think they would probably play along quite willingly.

Matt Brown (19:17):

You and me both. I think if it was the choice of like, “Oh, let’s just flip the switch off,” it would be like, “Yeah, let’s flip switch off. No problem. We’ll just do that.”

Unibet pulls the plug in North America


All right, so listen, we live in this era right now where yeah, there are still new players coming into the market. We just talked about ESPN BET launching. We know Fanatics is still kind of in its infancy. We said, hey, 365 seems to kind of be starting to ramp up, but it’s not always going to be that Adam. And that’s where we are with this. We know there was the sale of PointsBet, we figured there was going to be M&A stuff going on, but this is just one of the people that has a good business outside of the states say, “Maybe the states isn’t for us.”

Adam Candee (19:58):

Yeah. Talking about Kindred and their US facing brand Unibet, the parent company announced in its third quarter earnings that it’s pulling out of the North American market. They’re going to cut 300 jobs as part of that, and they believe that will save 50 million a year. Now the Unibet brand was active in six states — Arizona, Indiana, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, and Virginia, as well as Ontario — so five states and a province. The Unibet brand was essentially one that they tried to pull back from sports betting a year ago and focus more on iGaming. But the adoption of iGaming has not advanced at a rate that I think a company that was struggling in one vertical is going to be able to just turn to another vertical and be able to survive going after that, just not coming quickly enough.


So ultimately they underwent a strategic review starting last April, and this is the result of that review. The quote says that, “The long-term outlook for Kindred in North America has changed. The competitive nature of the market means significant resources needed to close the gap to market leaders, and at our current capacity that is untenable.” And so Matt, we’ll end up asking the same questions that we always ask when it comes to these bit operators, and I say bit operators in terms of what their market share has been in the US. Does this market share just naturally bleed out to another legal sportsbook? Does it go back into the black market? We don’t really know ultimately what happens there. But we do know that another one of these larger gambling brands from overseas that tried to make entry into the US market just was not able to keep up with the amount of capital being pumped into the two biggest, and really the four biggest companies.

Matt Brown (21:45):

Yeah. Our friends just today a little bit earlier before we recorded this, our friends over at Eilers, speculating that maybe the whole company actually might be for sale, that it could be ripe for some acquisition for that overseas brand. And there have been several United States-facing companies that have talked about expansion, that have talked about getting outside of just the borders of the United States. And some of them already, obviously Flutter being one of them, that is certainly ingrained over there. But there’s the MGMs and the DraftKings of the world and stuff who certainly have aspirations of looking beyond just the United States’ borders. And maybe, that’s at least the speculation, maybe this could be somewhere that they could look. Because as we mentioned, there is a viable business over there. We’re talking hundreds of millions of dollars in revenue, just outside of the United States.

Adam Candee (22:36):

Yeah. I think we can look at two places very clearly when it comes to this. First of all, I think it would be natural to look at DraftKings, now that DraftKings has gotten itself back into a better capitalized position than it was a couple of years ago. We were hearing rumors about certain purchases when it came to DraftKings that ultimately we didn’t think made a lot of sense. I mean at the price point, yes, PointsBet would’ve made plenty of sense if they ultimately decided to do that. But of course that ultimately goes to Fanatics. The other place that you mentioned there, BetMGM, look, we know that BetMGM has made multiple offers to try to buy Entain. We know DraftKings has made offers to try to buy Entain. Maybe this ends up being a lower cost entry point. That’s obviously not as valuable as Entain, but it would be one way for them to get into some of those other markets where they’ve expressed an interest in the past.

Matt Brown (23:31):

Yeah, it could be interesting. Of course will follow up on that if anything does come around from all of that. But Unibet, RIP Unibet. You probably didn’t have an account anyway, so I’ll just leave it at … That’s how we say with some of these, the MaximBets and stuff of the world, we’re like, “RIP, MaximBet. You probably didn’t know it existed.” So it’s kind of like, Unibet, RIP. You probably didn’t have an account.”

North Carolina pushes back its launch date again


Anyway, let’s close things out here with some probably fairly troubling news for our friends over in the Carolinas.

Adam Candee (23:59):

By the way, still upset that I did not take MaximBet up on its invitation to the Super Bowl party in LA a couple of years ago. Just what could have been.

Matt Brown (24:08):


Adam Candee (24:09):

What could have been.


So in North Carolina what we’re looking at here is a delay until probably closer to March Madness for the online launch in North Carolina. Now the window for them to be able to launch sports betting began in early January of 2024 initially and ran through June of 2024. And it looked like, prior to the budget process a couple of months ago in North Carolina, that that launch on the early side was going to be ready to capture the NFL playoffs and the Super Bowl. And then, someone got involved. We still don’t know who got involved. We can speculate pretty well on who would’ve had the interest to lobby in the budget process to change a settled and signed bill to now include tethering to certain professional sports organizations, as opposed to getting your license directly through the state. But that is ultimately what happened.


That change in particular has slowed this market down pretty noticeably. They were closer to being able to launch in January when it was just going to be the state doing licensing process. And now you’re talking about all of the brands that want to be part of online gaming in North Carolina, they’re going to have to go and partner with what is deemed to be a qualified entity, which could be a professional sports franchise, which could be a golf course, which could be a racetrack. We think those are probably the more likely places to have been the sources of where this would’ve come from in the first place.


But now looking like regulators said yesterday, March is the earliest that this would launch. Remember the law requires them, as I mentioned a minute ago, they got to be up by June one way or the other. But March Madness is the last large acquisition opportunity up until the NFL launches again in August. So you kind of need to get this done from the operator perspective by March Madness, to at least allow one major acquisition opportunity in the first quarter of the year, and to make this a more profitable enterprise for the companies and of course a more business savvy enterprise for the state to get some tax revenue in.

Matt Brown (26:18):

Hey, friends over in Charlotte, Winston-Salem, Raleigh-Durham, all of you guys. Greensboro, what other North Carolina city do I know? I don’t know another one. Anyway, that was pretty good though, Adam. You know where you can bet on sports?

Adam Candee (26:31):

Geography Matt is back. He’s back in force.

Matt Brown (26:34):

Listen, listen. You had a bad NFL season, I get it. You had to get rid of your coach in the middle of the year, I get it. But you can come and you can have some fun in Las Vegas. And that is the home of the Super Bowl as well. That’s the closest you guys are going to get to it this year is coming over into Las Vegas. Come on out here, celebrate with us. You can have the Super Bowl in the background. You don’t even have to go, but you’ll be able to bet on it legally. Stay in one of these awesome hotel rooms out here. Eat at one of the five diamond restaurants. It’ll be fantastic. And then you can go back out there and you can bet on March Madness on your own, in your own state, but since they’re not going to be up for you guys in time, come on out here, we’ll have you in Nevada.

Adam Candee (27:11):

And maybe invite Bryce Young to come with you, because that’s the closest he’s going to get to the Super Bowl this year. Maybe you do a little charity and maybe try to get Bryce’s head right and make Carolina more fun for sports next year.

Matt Brown (27:25):

Absolutely. So we will open you guys with open arm. Come on out here, it’ll be amazing.


So Adam, it’s a pretty interesting, certainly this is one of the more interesting pods we’ve done in a little bit because of that news coming out of Texas. And listen, yeah, this is not anytime soon type situation. This is not like we’re sitting here saying, “Oh man, the pressure cooker’s on, it’s going to be done in six months.” That’s not what we’re saying at all. But it certainly lays the groundwork now to where I am fairly confident in saying something is getting done one way or another. I mean it’s either going to be, there’s going to be legalized gambling in Texas, or there are going to be new lawmakers in Texas. I can tell you this, something is going to get done one way or another, because there is now a lot of power and influence and money that is going to be behind trying to get something done in that state.

Adam Candee (28:16):

Ask anyone within Nevada politics over the last 20 plus years what the political influence of the Adelson family looks like. And they will tell you quite clearly about the scope of ability to change elections and office holders that that family has. We’ll talk more about this as we get to end of year and start doing look-backs on 2023, lookaheads to 2024. But when you look at the four biggest states in the country, there’s some level of action going on in all of them. In New York, there’s absolutely going to be another push for an iGaming bill this year. In California, we just told you about the potential attorney general opinion on DFS. You already heard about Florida when it comes to the commission down there looking into daily fantasy sports. And you of course have the relaunch of Hard Rock Bet that is still potentially tied up in court depending on how things play out with West Flagler. And now we just talked about Texas.


So for those who were thinking that five and a half years in that the velocity of news might slow down, no, it’s more just concentrated in a few places.

Matt Brown (29:18):

It’s going to be awesome. We will of course keep you up to date. Adam and team over there at legalsportsreport.com, go and read all of the words that they are putting down on the site over there. It’s the best place for you to get all of this stuff that we’re talking about and more commentary and everything like that. Legalsportsreport.com. If you haven’t already, hit that subscribe button for me and Adam, do appreciate that support as well.


For Adam, I’m Matt. Talk to you guys next week.

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