EPISODE 237 | LSR Podcast

Why Does NCAA President Wish Sports Betting Stayed In Vegas? | Sports Betting News


22 min
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Why Does NCAA President Wish Sports Betting Stayed In Vegas? | LSR Podcast 237

The new president of the NCAA made an interesting comment about the legalization of sports betting in the United States this week at a conference. Also, the crew talks about what the legislative prospects look like for Texas in 2025 and an analyst’s thoughts on what tiers sports betting operators fall into in the US.

Full transcript

Matt Brown (00:15):

Hello, and welcome to episode number 237 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 my friend and yours, Adam Candee. You can find him on the Twitter machine @AdamCandee, two E’s, no Y. If you hate yourself, you can follow me @MattBrownM2. We are found on all of your favorite podcasting platforms, so please go ahead and subscribe, rate, review. We do appreciate all of that.


Adam, we’re going to talk a little bit about is anybody actually behind DraftKings and FanDuel? We’ll talk a little bit about what we think may or may not happen in Texas, but let’s kick things off here with someone who probably has other things he should be worried about, like I don’t know, making sure his organization exists beyond a couple of years from now. But hey, why don’t we start talking about sports betting being a problem.

New NCAA president made an interesting comment

Adam Candee (01:06):

Matt is referencing Charlie Baker, the president of the NCAA, who actually was in Las Vegas earlier this week speaking at the National Association of Collegiate Athletic Directors Conference. And let’s be clear, that is who he was talking to and what he was saying was red meat for this particular group. But he gave a quote at that conference that said, “I wish sports betting had just stayed in Las Vegas.”


He went on to further discuss the fact that the NCAA is working to ban college player props in the wake of some of the issues that we’ve seen in the last couple of years within collegiate sports. Talked about the success they’ve had in doing it in four states thus far, and certainly sounded like someone who’s going to be interested in continuing that push state by state for bans on player props at the college level. We’ve talked about that on this podcast. I think there’s room for reasonable debate when it comes to that subject, and probably room for a reasonable compromise in terms of what really needs to be offered in terms of player props on collegiate athletes.


The quote, however, about, “I wish sports betting had stayed in Las Vegas,” it’s interesting to me, Matt, because the NCAA in the wake of the PASPA decision under Mark Emmert, first was moving a little bit slowly when it came to sports betting. Then underwent a significant revamp of its rules in terms of how athletes would be punished for sports betting. And then we saw that the NCAA, within that same timeframe, was willing to allow the Final Four to come to Las Vegas, was willing to allow major championships to be there in a way that had never been allowed before.


And you can question the wisdom of that if you so choose, but the NCAA in some ways appeared to be perfectly happy to move toward Las Vegas, toward the place that Charlie Baker is saying he wish sports betting had stayed. They seem to be perfectly willing to do that. What we’ve seen now is that with Charlie Baker coming in in the last year, his approach toward sports betting certainly seems more measured at the very least. And now it seems like this is probably about the most aggressive quote that I’ve seen from someone at the NCAA level against sports betting since the PASPA decision.

Matt Brown (03:37):

Yeah. I look at this, Adam, and like you said, I mean, look, he’s speaking to his audience out there and all of this stuff, but at the end of the day, we’re looking at an organization that has much, much bigger issues and much, much more to focus on than sports betting and what sports betting may or may not be doing to the NCAA.


I mean, you and I, like we mentioned, there are plenty of different topics that we could have real nice rational discussions, not, “I’m over here and you’re over here,” no, there’s probably an answer somewhere in the middle. It’s probably a gray area type thing right now. But we look at this, Adam, and I guess maybe it’s just something else to talk about outside of the fact that, I mean, the NCAA is like on its last limbs here. They are no longer more powerful than the conferences themselves. I think you would agree with that as well. If you asked me right now, if the Big Ten and the SEC decided to get together and flip the middle finger to the NCAA, where are fans and fandom and TV rights and all that, where are they going to reside? They’re going to reside with the conferences. They’re not going to reside with the NCAA. No one cares, no one cares about the NCAA at this point at all anymore.


So it’s just funny to me I guess when we know that there is money to be had and money to be made in the sports betting thing, that you would be tackling something that if the SEC and the Big Ten decided, “All right, fine, cool, we’ll just break off and we’ll go sign a deal with sportsbooks X, Y, and Z, and we’ll do whatever,” and all of a sudden they’re like … I don’t know, to me, I don’t know if he thought this through completely all the way when it comes down to it because it’s a slippery slope there, my friend, because you’re on thin ice as it is anyway.

Adam Candee (05:19):

There’s a lot coming down the pipe for the NCAA here in the next few years, and some of it could be good, some of it could be bad. I’m not talking about whether or not the organization itself continues to survive because I think there’s always going to be a place for a governing body of collegiate sports in some way. But when we start talking about it and we start talking about the powerful of the powerful, as you mentioned, the Big Ten, the SEC, and whether they decide to form some sort of super league in which college football in particular breaks out into its own organization, there are going to be those who question, OK, now what is the role of the NCAA when it is not governing that particular championship?


And we already know the College Football Playoff is broken away from the NCAA and is its own entity, but then in an era in which transfers have been opened up in an era in which players are now able to be compensated for name, image and likeness, you’re talking about the NCAA looking at two of the functions that it regulated very heavily for decades, being, if not obsolete, certainly changed in a significant way.


Now, sports betting could still be one area in which the NCAA maintains some sort of regulatory structure and regulatory power, and they have modernized their rules. As I mentioned earlier, the penalties for betting on sports for collegiate athletes make a lot more sense now than they did a couple of years ago. But when it comes to the ability for, as you mentioned, a conference, a super league, whatever it is, to develop a relationship that comes with sports betting in some level of sponsorship, that’s not out of the question. It’s certainly I would say going to be dealt with kid gloves after we saw the haphazard way that a handful of universities went about having partnerships with sportsbooks and were in some cases being compensated on a per-head basis for bringing in customers via channels used by the college. I think it’s going to be done in a much smarter way if it ever happens again. And I say smarter in terms of more responsible, just something that makes more sense and does not put underage people at risk.


But could the NCAA get in the way of that if it were the big conferences, a super league of some sort trying to do that? I think the more time goes on, the more you have questions about that.

Matt Brown (07:42):

Yeah, I’m with you 100%. It’ll be interesting to see how this all plays out and see if this was just a one-off of a, “Hey, let me speak to the people,” at this particular event, at this particular city, et cetera, et cetera, or if this becomes something that Baker brings up time and time again. We will certainly keep you updated on how that goes here on the pod.

What legislative prospects look like for Texas in 2025


Adam, we know what was we thought maybe a very outside chance in 2023, Texas getting legalized. We said, OK, it’s crazy to think, yes, one of the biggest states in the country only meets every two years, so we’re dead until 2025. So now all sites were sights on 2025. Things were in the works, not even just from a sports betting standpoint, even from a casino gambling side of things. As you guys well know, not a big gaming state there in Texas. And so we see the Adelson family come in, they buy this Mavericks, they’re trying to set up roots, they want to get some stuff done. Mark Cuban has been outspoken about different things that he wants to see. Tilman Fertitta, Jerry Jones, a lot of the big players all in the state.


So here we are. We’re not that far. I mean, we’re June of 2024 right now, so we’re not that far at this point from 2025 where we really will have all of our focus over there on Texas.

Adam Candee (09:02):

The 2025 legislative session in Texas is certainly going to be the single most important thing for the industry in terms of expansion potential when it comes to the next two years really. So Mike Mazzeo talked to Brad Alberts, the president of the Dallas Stars, who obviously had a great season this year making a run deep into the playoffs, and the-

Matt Brown (09:26):

But couldn’t get it done all the way. I had a futures on them. It couldn’t win the thing, Adam. God.

Adam Candee (09:31):

For those of you who haven’t been around for a while like I have, there’s no one quite like Hockey Matt. Hockey Matt doesn’t get excited about much, but when he does, watch out.

Matt Brown (09:41):

Just had one futures ticket out them. That’s all I had, just one. The team couldn’t get it done. Anyway, sorry, sorry, just a little bitter.

Adam Candee (09:48):

Well, that’s OK. I will talk to Jake Oettinger and see if there’s something that we can work out for you there. But Brad Alberts, the president of the Stars, talked last week with Mike Mazzeo and put the odds of passage of Texas sports betting, quote, “50/50 at best,” and I’ll read you the entire quote here from Brad Alberts. “I think it’s in the same spot that it was, the same challenges exist, which is a resistant Senate led by lieutenant governor, and I don’t think that’s changed. Obviously those same personalities are still in office. I think the momentum of last session, getting it through the House is positive, but you still have to get it through the Senate.”


I thought the most interesting part of this article actually had to do with what one industry source talked to Mike Mazzeo about, which is that if Donald Trump were to win the presidential election, he then has to of course form a cabinet. And Dan Patrick is someone who has been vocal in his support of Trump. Could Dan Patrick the president of the Senate in Texas, potentially be up for a cabinet position in the Trump administration? If he were no longer lieutenant governor, would it be more plausible for sports betting and/or casino legislation to make it through the Texas Senate and thereby the entire Texas state legislature?


Pure speculation, a lot of balls would have to land in the right places for that to be the case. But certainly sounds like from Mike Mazzeo’s interview with Brad Alberts, and I certainly would suggest that you go read that at LegalSportsReport.com, it sounds like still an uphill lift in Texas despite the fact that a lot of folks felt optimism after the House passage in 2023.

Matt Brown (11:31):

Yeah. Should Donald Trump get his second term as president there, Adam, one of the things I think to remember too is one of his very top donors also is the Adelson family. So if there is anything to be done that may or may not be in their best interests, you do wonder if that wouldn’t be as part of the deal, I should say.

Adam Candee (11:58):

One phone call to the White House from the Adelsons, one phone call from the White House to the lieutenant governor’s office in Texas certainly might change the equation.

Analyst’s thoughts on what tiers US sports betting operators fall into

Matt Brown (12:07):

Yeah, just a little bit. Let’s close things out here on a quicker episode this week, Adam, with looking at what we have talked about since basically the legalization of sports betting in the United States happened several years ago. We’re sitting here and we’re going, OK, we knew who had the leg up whenever we hit the ground running.


The biggest question, and we actually posed this question way, way back, Adam, and honestly here we are several years later where we said, “Hey, when we’re sitting here several years later, what is it going to look like? Who will be number three? Who will be number four? Who will be number five?” Because we kind of speculated that, sure, there will always probably be the Big Two and DraftKings and FanDuel, but there’s a place for a three, four, five where there’s probably a nice little chunk of money, a nice little niche that you can carve out perhaps, offering different things to different customers, offering whatever it might be.


Well, that necessarily hasn’t come to fruition from that standpoint. No one really separating themselves from offerings or whatever as we’ve seen, but we’re trying to figure out who’s going to be that three, who’s going to be that four, who’s going to be that five. Or as this article that you guys have say, is there even such a thing?

Adam Candee (13:20):

Good article from our Matthew Waters at LSR right now, in which he pulls a note from analyst Barry Jonas of Truist, one of the analysts who follows the US sports betting and iGaming space very closely, and I’m going to read directly from part of this note that Matt quotes, says, “Note that we skipped tier two. We don’t think any operator in the space qualifies for that standing with white space between DraftKings and FanDuel and others.”


So he talks about skipping directly to a tier three and includes the potential for companies like Caesars, like Penn with ESPN, like BetMGM, to be in that third tier, but that there really is no second tier as of right now. And I think it’s an interesting discussion to be had because we talk so much about how don’t overreact to the early days. It’s a duopoly between FanDuel and DraftKings. Don’t overreact to that, a lot can change. And it can, a lot still can change. However, as time goes on, I think we start to ask the question differently. What will be behind DraftKings and FanDuel as opposed to who’s going to supplant them?


And I don’t know that we’re going to be asking that question about supplanting any longer unless we see some real movement from one of the legacy casino companies. And that of course is Caesars, MGM Resorts in that joint with Entain, or Penn with ESPN Bet, which frankly the results have been pretty underwhelming for ESPN Bet over the first five-plus months. So you start to wonder, Matt, what does success in tier two or three look like for these companies? Barry goes on in this article to talk a little bit more about who is in a, air quotes, “next tier” that might be able to jump up.


He mentions bet365, talks about their international presence and the fact that they really have not gone all in the United States. Mentions Rush Street and Fanatics as well because of the differentiated offering that Fanatics could potentially have. But beyond the question of who becomes number three, number four, and what number three and number four really even is anymore, Matt, I think we can look at a note like this and understand that we might have made the full 90-degree turn into talking about products now, because the biggest thing I think we’ve seen thus far is that if you don’t have a competitive product, DraftKings and FanDuel have already lapped you on that and it’s going to be very difficult to come up with a product that rivals what they have. And it seems consistently when we see the rankings that come out from Eilers and others, that DraftKings, FanDuel, continue to maintain high-level rankings there.


So very interesting article. Go read more of it from Matthew Waters at Legal Sports Report as he breaks down more of the speculation and I should say informed analysis from Barry Jonas on what the tiers of operators in US sports betting might look like going forward.

Matt Brown (16:30):

The one thing that we have talked about since the get-go here, Adam, that neither one of the big casino groups have leaned into, that we said if there was anything that they could offer that DraftKings and FanDuel could not, it would be the fact that there are the physical experiential stuff that you can offer that they just don’t have. They do not have physical properties all over the country. They do not have all of these giant resorts and all things like that.


Well, here we are several years later, they’ve not leaned into that at all. I have talked to someone, a couple of different people off the record, on all this, and see, you guys can talk to me because I’ll say I’m keeping it off the record. I’m never going to mention names, I’m never going to mention whatever. But so I said, “Why is this? I just don’t understand because whatever is going on right now, obviously has it moved you rapidly up the board here. So why is this the case?” And the explanation I got, and it actually starts to make a little sense, is not every hand within the casino hierarchy scratches the other one’s back.


And so you’re sitting here and you have this sports betting side of things, which is different from the casino side of things, which is different from the hotel side of things, which is different from the marketing side of things, which all have their own departments and all have their own agendas and all have their own reasons for doing what they’re doing.


It seems very obvious to someone like me and you, where it’s like, “Hey, place your first 10 bets of at least $25 and you get a buy one, get one at Excalibur,” or whatever. “Place your first 20 bets of at least $25 and you get a free night at Excalibur.” And you can tier up from there and ladder up from there and do all of that. Yeah, there is some costs involved to them, but it’s still a fairly soft cost to them giving up a room in Excalibur or Luxor or whatever. And hell, if someone tiers up to where you give them a room at the Bellagio, you should be happy about that because they’re a great customer of yours.


And so when it comes down to all that, I’m like, it seems like it makes too much sense to me. And then it comes down to the fact that the sports betting arm doesn’t necessarily always get along with the casino arm, who doesn’t necessarily always get along with the hotel arm. And then the marketing people have their grand plan for how things all should be going and all of this. And so here we are, we just can’t get it all figured out. And again, like you said, there is no tier two in all this. The only thing that hasn’t been tried it seems like is something like this, but I don’t know if we’ll ever even get to that point.

Adam Candee (18:54):

Well, interesting you should bring that up, Matt, because you can go to a Monday article on LSR, again by Matthew Waters, in which he was taking notes from the Stifel Cross Sector Insights Conference at which Caesars Head of Sports and Online Eric Hessian was speaking, and they were talking about how their sports betting offering is now competitive at the point where they believe that the loyalty program can really make a difference.


Here’s a little paraphrase from what Matt wrote about, said, “The platform is at the point where customers who value the loyalty program, which one Stifel analyst says is the best-in-class, are no longer switching to different apps to place bets that helps to keep promotional spending low.” And we know that’s been a goal for Caesars ever since the failed $3,000 bonus offer in New York originally. So it’s certainly forefront of the mind for Caesars right now and maybe it’ll be that way for BetMGM before long as well.

Matt Brown (19:58):

Yeah, it’ll be interesting. I’m glad you brought that up, because it’s one of those things to me where it’s kind of like, “OK, we’re a few years in now. We’ve tried some things, we’ve tried whatever. This is the one thing we really haven’t tried.” Seems all too obvious to me, the lay person on the outside, but I understand that there’s a lot more that goes on behind the scenes with all that.


As Adam mentioned, everything we talk about here and more over at LegalSportsReport.com, so please go in, take in all of the great words that Adam and team are putting together over there. And if you haven’t done so just yet, go ahead, subscribe to this podcast, we do appreciate that. And if you want to rate and review so long as it’s not like a three star, if you’re willing to do a four or five, we’ll say, “Yeah, go ahead and do it.” Adam. We’re cutting it off at three, right? Three, we’ll just say like, “Yeah, just go on about your day.”

Adam Candee (20:42):

If you have a three-star review, I want you to email me, [email protected], and tell me the reasons for your three-star review you so we can fix them on the podcast before you give us that three-star review.

Matt Brown (20:54):

And let you go in, you can amend to what you’re thinking and then at least give us a four or a five. We do appreciate all that. Adam Candee, to E’s, no Y. If you hate yourself you can follow me @MattBrownM2. For Adam, I’m Matt, good luck and we’ll talk to you next week.

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