[toc]I already ran through my top five stories to watch in 2018 in the sports betting and daily fantasy sports industries in the US.
Not shockingly, there are plenty more stories to watch in the space. A lot of it depends on how the New Jersey sports betting case goes in the US Supreme Court, but here are some more storylines we’ll be tracking and some pr
Who will position themselves for US sports betting?
The list of people companies watching to see if the sports betting market opens up in the US is a long one. A non-exhaustive list of who will be impacted:
- Gaming companies
- Media companies
- Sports data companies
- European bookmakers
- Sports leagues
- Tribal gaming facilities
- State lotteries
- Horse racing tracks
Many of them will be taking steps to prepare for a world where sports betting becomes more widely legal, pending the outcome of the SCOTUS case. Some started acting already. Another far from exhaustive list:
- MGM Resorts International is already doing tire-kicking in some states where it has casinos.
- Scientific Games is acquiring NYX in a move that seems to presage its entrance into future regulated markets.
- Tribes are trying to figure out where they fit in on sports wagering.
- The NBA says it wants a federal framework for sports betting.
- Even DFS site DraftKings has hinted at wanting to be in the sports gambling business.
The steps aimed at the future US market have been somewhat subdued to this point. But dominoes could start falling in a hurry — both before and after a SCOTUS verdict in Christie vs. NCAA.
Will sports betting head online in the US?
The US has been a slow adopter for online gambling recently. Although legal online wagering for horse betting is common, states have been slow to take other forms of gambling to the internet and mobile devices. Just four states will have legal online casinos and/or poker in 2018; a few more have online lotteries.
Where will sports betting take place online? It’s already in Nevada sports betting. Pennsylvania legalized online sports betting at the tail end of 2017, with a change in the federal ban. And New Jersey will almost certainly have online sportsbooks alongside its NJ online casino and poker industries.
Beyond that, online sports betting might face a tough road ahead, although it’s getting a look in Michigan to start 2018.
Will Congress act on sports betting?
NBA Commissioner Adam Silver says there’s “a lot of interest” in the topic of sports betting in the US Congress, and the possibility of his aforementioned federal framework.
Is that true? That’s anyone’s guess, at this point. But drumming up interest in what would represent a massive expansion of gaming at the federal level unseen in decades seems like a longshot.
That’s especially true in 2018, which is an election year for Congress. There’s also been little will to do much legislatively other than the massive tax reform package that Republicans passed at the end of last year.
Rep. Frank Pallone (D-NJ) also has active legislation that would repeal the federal ban — leaving sports betting to the states — and there have been calls for hearings on the subject this year.
The proof is in the pudding how much interest there is in tackling PASPA, no matter how SCOTUS rules. But a law being passed in 2018 would appear to be a fairly large underdog.
Can anyone else rise up in fantasy sports?
For years, it’s been DraftKings and FanDuel in DFS. And closing the gap for any other operator has been nearly impossible.
That’s probably not going to change in a huge way in 2018. There’s at least a chance that Draft — acquired in 2017 by Paddy Power Betfair — asserts itself as a true No. 3 in the space. But getting to DraftKings/FanDuel type numbers this year would be difficult.
Short of that, a company organically competing with the “big two” doesn’t seem likely. Yahoo — which has kept its DFS platform functioning for the past two-plus years — continues to just bide its time in the DFS space. It hasn’t shown the will to do much other than tread water.
Will the dynamic change in 2018 for the DFS industry? We’ve been waiting for that possibility for several years, and it hasn’t happened yet.
How much more will the envelope be pushed in DFS/sports betting?
Has a ceiling has been hit in salary-cap DFS in the US? DraftKings and FanDuel will tell you “no.” But while there could still be some incremental growth in DFS, the heady days of 2015 and forecasts of huge future numbers are behind us.
Nowhere can that be seen better than DraftKings no longer identifying itself as a DFS site. (It’s a “sports-tech media and entertainment platform,” we’re told now.) The “big two” have rolled out easier versions of their contests aimed at attracting more casual users. Contests offered by the likes of Boom Fantasy and the aformentioned Draft are hoping they catch on.
What we do know: the use of DFS as a psuedo-sports betting product is going to continue in both regulated (see here) and unregulated (see here) markets, no matter what happens with PASPA. How much they are leveraged is a story worth watching this year.