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The Week In Sports Betting News: Putting The Horses Back In The Barn, But Not In NY

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Bad news, cowboys.

With the busy part of the 2019 legislative calendar behind us, that lasso you love is becoming less germane by the week. A few states remain in contention to legalize sports betting this year, but we have a pretty good picture of where things will stand when it’s all done.

This should come as good news for longtime fans of the hereby-reinstated weekly recap that more broadly encompasses the US sports betting landscape. We’ll keep you in the legislative loop, of course, but we’re also welcoming back the good ol’ days where we do more than just watch 60 hours of hearings every week.

There’s quite a bit happening in markets that already have legal sports betting, too, as you might guess. If we remember how to do this, we’re supposed to start with a look back at the biggest headlines from last week. So let’s do that.

Now or later for NY sports betting

If New York lawmakers are going to legalize online sports betting, it’s going to have to happen now.

Matching bills from Sen. Joseph Addabbo and Assemblyman Gary Pretlow are on the move in Albany, having cleared their committees of origin in both chambers. Apologies for starting with sports betting bills right out of the gate, but all eyes are fixed on NY sports betting from now until the legislature’s scheduled Wednesday adjournment.

Regulators recently finalized the rules for upstate casinos, but the existing law does not include mobile wagering.

Last week, though, the sponsors filed cleanup language that would authorize on-site and online betting via casinos, tracks, OTBs and professional sports venues. Eight states have legalized mobile betting to date, but only Illinois and the District of Columbia have similar provisions for stadiums and arenas.

Addabbo recently told LSR that the full Senate will vote on sports betting this week, which would be a first for either chamber. A similar effort by his predecessor, Sen. John Bonacic, never made it to the floor last year.

While NY lawmakers do have a habit of waiting until the last minute to deal with gambling issues, time is awfully tight. Both bills remain lodged in committee, and passage involves overcoming significant opposition in both the Assembly and the governor’s office.

NH sports betting coming soon

I swear we’re going to talk about things beyond sports betting bills, but we have to talk about New Hampshire first. It did the thing!

Lawmakers passed a bill to legalize NH sports betting last week, including statewide online wagering. The NH Lottery Commission will administer the product via up to 15 licensed agents — 10 retail and five online.

Apart from a prohibition against in-state collegiate markets, the rest of the legislation looks pretty good to our eyes.

There’s little doubt Gov. Chris Sununu will sign the bill either, considering his proposed budget includes $10 million in associated revenue. When he does, New Hampshire will join Rhode Island on the short list of New England states with legal sports betting.

The two largest markets in the region, Connecticut and Massachusetts, are both on the path but seemingly far from the finish line. Lawmakers in Maine, meanwhile, still have an outside chance to pass a bill this year too.

NJ sports betting > NV sports betting?

We can’t say for sure yet, but May might be the month New Jersey leapfrogs Nevada.

NJ sports betting operators handled $318.9 million in wagers during May, a slight uptick over April’s numbers. We don’t have an NV sports betting report for the month yet, but it needs to top its previous best of $315.5 million (2018) to retain the crown.

All of that handle turned into a win of $15.5 million for NJ sportsbooks, for a middling 4.8% hold. Total combined revenue is approaching $200 million since launch, the result of nearly $3 billion in wagers across the span of 11 months.

As far as trends go, it was more of the same for May.

FanDuel Sportsbook continues to set the pace, responsible for about half of the total revenue on its own. Early leader DraftKings Sportsbook has settled into its second-place role, and the top two drive more than 80% of online revenue — which is more than 80% of all revenue from NJ sports betting.

Lest you forget which industry is richer, NJ online casinos and poker sites added another $38 million to the bottom line in May. Golden Nugget won more by itself ($14 million) than all of the state’s online sportsbooks combined.

Wire Act update

Maybe this thing really is all about laws again.

By now, you probably know that New Hampshire challenged and defeated a new interpretation of the Wire Act in federal court. District Court Judge Paul Barbadoro issued a 60-page decision earlier this month squelching an attempt from the US Department of Justice to rope all forms of gambling into the statute.

“I hereby declare that § 1084(a) of the Wire Act… applies only to transmissions related to bets or wagers on a sporting event or contest,” Barbadoro wrote.

Although the DOJ is probably not done fighting, it did push its compliance deadline back for a second time. It will take no enforcement action until at least the start of 2020 while it re-evaluates its options in light of the decision. The department had planned to begin enforcement on June 14 after extending its initial deadline (April 15) the first time.

The ruling doesn’t have any impact on sports betting whatsoever, but it may help ease some of the most cautious minds.

Regulators in West Virginia, for example, have been timid about approving new online WV sports betting platforms pending a resolution. If it wasn’t already good to go there, it should be now.

The ruling also provides interim relief for other online gambling operations in regulated markets, including the interstate online poker compacts that are so critical to the success of that industry.

Sports betting takes and tidbits

Now there’s a subheading we haven’t typed in a while. Here are a few more crumbs of sports betting news, which have a way of collecting at the bottom of this piece:

  • Happy birthday: On Friday, Bill Gelman took a moment to celebrate the one-year anniversary of legal sports betting in New Jersey. Marty Derbyshire also ran through a few ways sports betting has changed the overall landscape in the state.
  • Singing the blues: Sportsbooks took a bath on the NHL when the longshot St. Louis Blues won the Stanley Cup. One prominent bookmaker called it a “disaster,” with the Blues priced as high as 300-1 in some midseason futures markets while wallowing in last place.
  • Brand new: Don’t get too attached to the new SugarHouse Sportsbook. Almost immediately after its launch in Pennsylvania, parent company Rush Street Gaming announced that it’s pivoting to the Rivers brand across all platforms. Also rebranding: BetStars to Fox Bet.
  • Add it all up: A new beta update to Google Ads allows regulated gambling companies (other than state lotteries) to advertise on the ubiquitous platform for the first time. Though, so far, limited to NJ sportsbooks, expect Google to add more states and verticals in the future.
  • Sour Apple: On the other hand, Apple is making life miserable for game developers. A new policy will force the majority of operators to recode their software and rethink their overall strategy for multi-vertical online gambling.

Here’s a breakdown of the Apple situation from our friends at Play Pennsylvania:

What we’re watching this week

We already mentioned that all eyes are on NY sports betting this week, so you know where our focus will be. There are a couple of other things worth monitoring too.

Pennsylvania is overdue to publish its report for May, which will be its last month without online sports betting revenue. SugarHouse Sportsbook went live earlier this month, ushering in the much-anticipated second phase of PA sports betting. It should be one of the largest markets in the country by the time it grows to maturity.

And of course, every eligible adult in Nevada will be watching and betting on the Golden Tee World Championship next weekend.

That’s really all we have, thanks to a complete lack of sports betting hearings for the first time in a long time. Thank goodness.

Make sure you’re following @LSPReport for updates throughout the week, and make sure you have yourself a happy Monday.

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.
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