BetMGM Began With ‘Slow Start’ In NJ Sports Betting, Now In ‘Much Better Place’

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Roar Digital, the MGM Resorts-GVC joint venture that powers BetMGM, is better off now than it was at launch in 2018, MGM COO Bill Hornbuckle said last week.

“Candidly, our GVC venture with Roar went off to a slow start in New Jersey with two mega-companies trying to put themselves together,” he said. “We’ve effectively done that. We now have 150 men and women working in New Jersey every day to push this forward. And I think we’re in a much better place than a year ago.”

PlayMGM originally launched in late summer 2018 as the second NJ sports betting app after DraftKings Sportsbook. It wasn’t until last September that BetMGM launched with an upgraded platform in New Jersey.

Results are still a little lower than expected. GVC CEO Kenny Alexander said last October he expected 10% to 15% of NJ market share by March. As of January, BetMGM’s revenue share (along with casino-branded was 5.9% of New Jersey’s $53.6 million of sports betting revenue.

BetMGM targeting 8 states by year-end

BetMGM should be live in eight states by the end of the year, Hornbuckle said, doubling its current count.

The mobile product is live in New Jersey and West Virginia. An outdated platform is currently in Nevada, though that could change when a different iteration of BetMGM launches next week, he said. The company also operates retail sports betting in Mississippi.

BetMGM has access to 16 states through its own casinos and a market-access agreement with Boyd Gaming. The app is pending launch in Indiana after receiving its license last month.

MGM is currently watching six states that it hopes will open up soon, led by Massachusetts, Hornbuckle said.

‘Hope to dominate’ Michigan

Between MGM’s retail presence at MGM Grand Detroit and online gaming now legal, Hornbuckle said the company hopes to dominate in Michigan.

He mentioned BetMGM’s agreement with Buffalo Wild Wings, which has 27 locations in Michigan. The agreement brings sports gaming experiences such as free-to-play games in states without legal betting and eventually content with live odds on the restaurant televisions.

Hornbuckle also said the agreement with Yahoo Sports is “just unwinding and launching,” noting their 60 million users, 7 million of which use their fantasy products.

BetMGM by the numbers

The new platform in New Jersey has helped with business, it appears.

Since June, active player growth is up more than 126%, Hornbuckle said. Last year the BetMGM platform did more than $100 million in net gaming revenue.

MGM did well attracting big money for the Super Bowl as well. According to Hornbuckle, eight of the top 10 bets placed on Super Bowl LIV in America either went through BetMGM or MGM’s retail books.

‘It’s a real business’

Much has been made about whether sports betting is just an additive amenity or if it can stand alone as a business.

Hornbuckle believes the latter, saying sports betting is a real business that could become profitable by 2023 to 2025.

Both MGM and GVC have invested about $100 million. It takes about $2 million to launch a state and he expects investments of $30 million each over the next couple of years is probably realistic.

He mentioned BetMGM eventually taking 15% of the sports betting market.

New leadership with sports focus?

One of the biggest gaming headlines of this year was announced last week when MGM announced CEO Jim Murren is stepping down.

Murren mentioned MGM’s transition from a casino company to a diversified global entertainment company with an under-valued focus on the digital experience.

“We’re devoting a tremendous amount of effort and time to our sports and entertainment initiatives,” he said. “It’s certainly dragging down our P&L right now, but we are planting seeds, which we believe will yield tremendous growth in the future. And I’m sure, the board and the board members and the search committee will be looking at what MGM is going to look like five years from now, when they’re evaluating the kind of leader that MGM Resorts should have.”