Gaming expansion brings Pennsylvania into the limelight for this week's recap

The Week In Sports Betting: The Sports Betting National Championship Arrives

Sports Betting National Championship

Maybe it’s just us, but weeks seem to be going by awfully quickly these days.

Following the repeal of the federal ban in May, sports betting stakeholders are printing headlines at an unprecedented pace. Five states have legal industries, and we’ve been keeping a close eye on two more nearing launch.

Let’s start with a late entry from the folks at DraftKings …

Your chance to win the natty

There’s just a whole lot of cash at stake in this one. DraftKings will give away $2.5 million, including $1 million to the winner, of its newly announced Sports Betting National Championship. The event takes place January 11-13 in scenic Jersey City, NJ, whose main draw here is being minutes away from New York City.

The $10,000 buy-in is steep, but so are the rewards. The runner-up lands $350,000 and third place claims $250,000. Payouts down to 25th place will be at least $15,000.

In short, players will get a $5,000 bankroll for a three-day competition and will be limited to one entry. Over the first two days, players must wager at least $1,000 total on any sport. Sunday bets must total at least $2,000 and be placed only on the two NFL Divisional Round playoff games. Biggest bankroll on Sunday night wins.

DraftKings also promises daily fantasy sports players multiple opportunities to qualify for the Sports Betting National Championship through low-dollar DFS qualifiers.

Pennsylvania gaming expanding

Don’t look now, but the Keystone State is inching its way into the spotlight alongside New Jersey. A year after passing its omnibus gaming expansion package, PA sports betting and online gambling are set to begin shortly.

This week:

  • Regulators approved sports betting applications for Parx and Hollywood Casino. The former will also add in-person betting to its racing facility, planning a sportsbook at the South Philly Turf Club near the stadiums. The latter was strangely uncertain about online/mobile betting despite its partnership with William Hill, which offers an app elsewhere.
  • In addition to those properties, Harrah’s, Rivers and SugarHouse have also filed PA sports betting applications at $10 million apiece. Regulators will likely announce those decisions during their next meeting at the end of the month.
  • We’ll dip into online gambling here for a second, since there are now seven operators approved. Sands and Valley Forge received their conditional permits on Wednesday, though Sands’ ownership has no plans for digital expansion. The property is pending final sale to the Poarch Band of Creek Indians for $1.3 billion.
  • Rivers seemed to have plans for iGaming before an apparent change of heart this week. Rush Street Gaming withdrew the application for Rivers, putting its three licenses back into the pool. The company also owns SugarHouse, so it might just run with the more-established brand in PA.
  • The 10 remaining permits will be awarded to “qualified gaming entities” without a presence in the state, which could provide an opening for sports betting companies with larger ambitions — someone like FanDuel Sportsbook or DraftKings Sportsbook, perhaps.

Timelines for launch remain undetermined for both sports betting and online gambling in the Commonwealth, but it won’t be long. Hollywood’s owner, Penn National Gaming, intends to enter the expanded marketplace as soon as next month.

News from other states

Incidentally, Rhode Island is the seventh state likely to launch sports betting by the end of the year, but there weren’t any new insights to share this week.

Here’s what happened elsewhere in the sports betting union, though:

  • Nevada: The August report from the Silver State is money, even without Money Mayweather. Despite the absence of a big-ticket fight, books held about $12.6 million on close to $250 million in wagers.
  • Delaware: More numbers here, these from September. Delaware sportsbooks took in about $17 million in wagers for the first month of football season, plus another $6.4 million in parlay cards.
  • New Jersey: News from NJ was surprisingly thin, and most of it involved Tropicana. New owner Eldorado Resorts finalized the transaction that secures its foothold in the state, then promptly fired the Trop’s in-house online casino team.
  • West Virginia: Regulators published the final legislative rules for sports betting, deliberately omitting integrity fees and a mandate to buy league data. In what figures to be their final attempt in the state, MLB and other leagues went 0-for-8 in their requests.
  • The District: The councilman working to advance DC sports betting spoke with Legal Sports Report about his efforts. Jack Evans has grand visions, including on-site betting inside the arena that hosts the Wizards and Capitals. The owner of both teams, Ted Leonsis, is all aboard with that idea.

Nuts and bolts

There were a few noteworthy items from the business side of sports betting worth highlighting, too:

  • Hired: DraftKings Sportsbook acquired Johnny Avello, the former boss of race and sports at Wynn. Avello joins two more Nevada industry veterans, Frank Kunovic and Jamie Shea, in a group of elite new hires.
  • Partnered: More from Nevada, as William Hill and Golden Entertainment announced an expansion of their partnership. Building on a long-standing alliance, WH will operate all of Golden’s sportsbooks going forward, including the one at Stratosphere.
  • Also partnered: Take another regional operator off the board; there aren’t many left. Delaware North has chosen Miomni to power its sports betting operations, beginning with two properties in WV and potentially reaching into five more states.
  • Funded: Vegas-based Metric Gaming has completed a $10 million round of funding as ammunition to compete in the US. Metric is a modular, turnkey B2B solution founded by professional poker player/sports bettor Martin de Knijff.

Takes and tidbits

As the honeymoon phase of expanded sports betting begins to wear off a tad, operators are lengthening the leash on innovation. Some interesting trends beginning to materialize, too, both new and old and for better and for worse.

Here’s the rest of the news that we didn’t want to slip through the cracks:

  • Good luck: The NBA and MGM are rolling out the first tangible evidence of their new partnership. The duo will offer a free, betting-style contest this season, in which players pick the over/under for all 30 team win totals. Get them all right and you win a million bucks; easy game to understand.
  • “Alexa, open FanDuel”: FanDuel Sportsbook has partnered with Amazon Echo, offering a mini-contest hosted by Alexa among its features. The digital voice asks six yes/no prop questions, and players who get them all correct are entered into a $1,000 freeroll.
  • Prevalent parlays: Early returns from sports betting states in the east show many folks aren’t giving up their parlay cards. Multi-game betting will continue to be wildly popular in markets like Delaware and Mississippi going forward, and there’s nothing wrong with that.
  • All Square: That’s the title of an upcoming film about a local bookie who decides to start taking action on the Little League baseball games of his ex’s son. The “protagonist” calls youth baseball an “untapped market” in the trailer. Brilliant premise, y’all.
  • Eastward expansion: The Vegas Stats & Information Network (VSiN) is expanding from its roots at South Point. The network announced it will open a new broadcast studio at Ocean Resort Casino in Atlantic City.
  • Hey, Clay Travis: Congrats on finally snapping that mathematically absurd 0-13 run on picks on your Fox Sports betting show! Even the best get unlucky. Now … could we stop promoting offshore lines to our television audience of at least a couple hundred people? Pretty please?

That’s everything that happened this week, ladies and gentlemen. If you want some extra content to-go, the guys on TheLines Podcast spent some time dissecting the news aurally.

Enjoy your weekend, especially if you’re taking the extra day to honor one of the worst navigators in world history. See you sometime around Monday from the Global Gaming Expo in Las Vegas.

Eric Ramsey
- Eric is a reporter and writer covering regulated US gambling, sports betting, and DFS. He comes from a poker background, formerly on staff at PokerNews and the World Poker Tour.