SBC Rewind: Kentucky legalizes sports betting and Detroit Lions hit integrity scare

Louisville, Kentucky
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2023 has been a whirlwind year for US sports betting and online casino, with industry-defining narratives keeping us busy all year long. 

So, as the year comes to a close, SBC Americas recaps the biggest stories shaping the sector over the last 12 months.

In this edition, March and April, the US industry gets a legislative boost in the Bluegrass State, the debate around advertising and marketing standards intensifies, and an integrity scandal emerges in the NFL

Kentucky joins sports betting bonanza

When the legislative picture looked bleak at the beginning of March, Kentucky came to save the day, becoming the first US state to legalize sports betting in 2023. 

In a dramatic final day of the legislative session, Senators voted through the bill 25-12 with just hours left to do so. 

The market has a 9.8% tax rate on operators’ GGR and is expected to generate $23m annually for the state. 

“We are a sports-crazy state. We love our sports in the Commonwealth and people want to be able to make a choice of their own free will to make a wager on a sports event like almost all of our surrounding states,” said Senate Majority Leader Sen. Damon Thayer when introducing the bill.

Massachusetts online market goes live

The Bay State was a hotly anticipated market when it legalized in 2022 but despite offering up to 15 licenses, the Massachusetts Gaming Commission only received applications from eight operators. 

Regardless, Massachusetts has been an exciting market in 2023, with DraftKings taking a strong position in its home state. 

Despite ardent warnings from the MGC about marketing standards, there was controversy right from the off as Barstool Sportsbook began the market by running its “Can’t Lose Parlay” promo. 

Jay Snowden, PENN CEO, told the MGC: “Dan Katz goes by the nickname Big Cat, he comes up with a can’t lose parlay every week. He also is admittedly one of the worst gamblers on the planet. And so it’s meant to be funny. It’s not meant to push something as being viewed as can’t lose. So oftentimes, what you may see or hear, it can be a headline, it can be in response to something that you don’t have full context.”

Detroit Lions stars in hot water

Perhaps with the proliferation of legal sports betting across the country, it was inevitable that integrity issues would have to be dealt with.

In April, the NFL announced that five Detroit Lions players violated the league’s gambling policy. Those were: Quintez Cephus, CJ Moore, Shaka Toney, Stanley Berryhill and Jameson Williams

Cephus, Moore, and Toney were forced to sit out an entire season like Ridley did, while Berryhill and Williams were suspended for six games.

“As a result of an NFL investigation, it came to our attention that a few of our players had violated the league’s gambling policy,” said Detroit Lions Executive Vice President and General Manager Brad Holmes. “These players exhibited decision making that is not consistent with our organizational values and violates league rules. 

“We have made the decision to part ways with Quintez and C.J. immediately. We are disappointed by the decision making demonstrated by Stanley and Jameson and will work with both players to ensure they understand the severity of these violations and have clarity on the league rules moving forward.”