There were some major, if not historic developments regarding gambling in the United States in 2018. New Jersey’s eight years of litigation finally led to success with the highest court in the land. That victory led to the Supreme Court invalidating PASPA, and in turn allowing states to take control over sports betting authorization.
Due to this major change in legislature, seven states have already legalised sports betting. While this is only a small fraction of US states so far, the potential for the US to become a world leader in sports betting is already becoming clear. However, this growth depends on how willing state and federal legal bodies are to embrace policies that would allow the industry to develop and compete for market share with offshore competitors.
But how will this shift reflect on what happens in the future? Will all of the US legalise sports betting? Probably not – but, regardless, with a nation of 350 million, there will certainly be some exciting developments. So, let’s explore the top predictions from Digitain for the US market.
Prediction 1: More states will authorise sports betting legislation
We predict that around 30 states will follow in the steps of New Jersey and introduce legislation, or at the very least consider the idea of legalising sports betting. Following on from that, there’s a big chance that a third of the country’s states will actually pass a bill through the legislature and attain the governor’s signature. As a result, we believe this will lead to a total of 16 or more states that have legal sports betting by the end of 2019.
Big states such as California, Texas or Florida will likely still need at least a couple more years to get on the same page. New York on the other hand, seems to be very anxious to get sports betting as soon as possible given they tremendous amount of potential revenue being lost to their neighboring state of New Jersey.
Additionally, it wouldn’t be surprising if a bunch of New England or Midwestern states rush to authorize sports betting for fear of having their neighbors ‘stealing’ the profits. This adoption is also likely to be exponential; the more states pass a bill, the greater the odds of other states in the region springing into action.
Predictions 2: The lottery-based model of sports betting will prove unsuccessful
Most US states have state-run lotteries, but states will soon find out that a state agency cannot do the activities a sports betting operator needs to be successful on its own and succeed. Sports bettors are sophisticated customers with very specific needs, who won’t settle for a poor and inadequate offering.
We predict that states who believe a generic sports betting product will win them market share will be in for a bad surprise. A plain offering that lacks innovation, convenience and competitive pricing will only push players to the offshore operators since no two sports betting customers are alike. Moreover, states that try to monopolize sports betting are risking getting seriously hit and earning very low revenues.
Prediction 3: Congress won’t address the wire act or implement federal legislation
While PASPA repeal has made sports betting possible, it hasn’t provided an environment to enable companies that want to operate in multiple states. The Wire Act still prohibits interstate sports betting activities, which means that sportsbooks that operate in New Jersey can’t offer their products to people in Texas until Congress directly addresses the issue.
While Sen. Orrin Hatch from Utah has circulated a proposed amendment to the legislation, it didn’t address the Wire Act in a meaningful way for sports betting operators – and unsurprisingly, it was received with disappointment.
Nevertheless, it is the state legislatures, not the federal government that holds the future of sports betting in the US in their hands. Whether this means that the Federal Government will take a step back and try to limit online sports betting and gaming, we can only wait and see.
Prediction 4: Sports leagues will heavily invest in sports betting
Leagues need to find ways to boost popularity and relevance if they want to increase their relevance. A great example is NASCAR. A well-established league that can benefit greatly from sports betting; we can only imagine the traction that they will receive if they offer fans the opportunity to bet again with every lap.
When it comes to the football leagues, XFL and AAR are already familiar with the importance of sports betting as part of their marketing strategy. In fact, they are already using enhanced betting strategies in an attempt to win over new fans. A simpler approach, offering betting options only on major European and US leagues may be the best for newly established operators. But we expect that sportsbooks will start taking bets on even more exotic offerings during 2019.
Prediction 5: New Jersey to keep growing, but Nevada to keep place as revenue-leader
The growth in New Jersey is remarkable and with no stop in sight. The impressive results are almost entirely a result of their booming mobile betting marketplace, which now accounts for over 70% of the total sports betting market in the state.
Industry watchers are getting curious and starting to question whether New Jersey can become a serious rival to Nevada. At the moment, New Jersey’s monthly handle still hasn’t reached even half the volume Nevada holds, keeping it far behind, but for how much longer?
Predictions currently stand at New Jersey reaching 60 per cent of Nevada’s sports betting volume. But, if New York and Pennsylvania pass legislation, it will be interesting to see how it will affect and limit New Jersey’s success and growth. Of course, Nevada doesn’t have such worries since California and Arizona are nowhere near legalising sports betting.
Prediction 6: Mobile betting to dominate
The convenience of mobile sports betting makes it the preferred method of wagering for most bettors, and we expect the reign of mobile to increase even if physical sportsbook handles reaches a plateau. While convenience is important, mobile has more options for in-play betting that make it more attractive.
In more mature European markets, in-play betting includes over half of all total bets. And as New Jersey operators grow and they become more sophisticated, we expect this mobile trend to continue. There’s no limit to how much mobile betting can grow in New Jersey and we believe this success will encourage other states to authorize mobile sports betting.
Prediction 7: Mobile-only sports betting will boost even states with no casinos
OK, well, sports betting is not a casino game. And even before Vegas, there were neighborhood bookies in most major cities in the US. The only thing different now is the way people do it. Technology has advanced and now it allows people to bet while watching. And mobile makes it even easier for bettors to place bets wherever and whenever it feels comfortable.
At the moment, few of the states that have casinos or racetracks have authorized sports betting, but this is totally irrelevant for creating a successful sports betting market. Mobile sportsbooks make it possible for operators to offer their products and services without the need for a physical facility, and states are becoming aware of this.
In fact, Virginia and Tennessee – two states that do not have any gaming facilities – will be exploring mobile sports betting legislation in 2019. So don’t be surprised if both of these states authorize mobile sports betting, and by doing so, prove that mobile betting is a feasible and profitable as a stand-alone product.