The Wire Act, officially The Interstate Wire Act of 1961, is a federal law prohibiting certain betting related operations in the US.
“Whoever being engaged in the business of betting or wagering knowingly uses a wire communication facility for the transmission in interstate or foreign commerce of bets or wagers or information assisting in the placing of bets or wagers on any sporting event or contest, or for the transmission of a wire communication which entitles the recipient to receive money or credit as a result of bets or wagers, or for information assisting in the placing of bets or wagers, shall be fined under this title or imprisoned not more than two years, or both.”
Basically, this makes it’s illegal to transmit betting information, or money for the purpose of wagering, across state lines.
Betting on an NFL game might be legal in the new NJ sports betting market. However, it remains illegal for anyone to make such a bet in NJ from anywhere outside the state. It doesn’t matter if the bet is made on the phone, the internet, or by any other means.
In 2011, the US Department of Justice issued a formal legal opinion on the Wire Act. It concluded that any wagers outside of sporting events or contests fall outside the act’s reach. This opened up the door for things like NJ online gambling and online lottery sales in several states.
The US Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals made a ruling affirming the opinion in 2012.
PASPA and the Wire Act
However, the Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act (PASPA) still stood in the way of state’s legalizing sports betting. That is until the US Supreme Court declared it unconstitutional in May 2018.
All states are now free to legalize sports betting. However, questions remain regarding a state’s ability to authorize sports betting across state lines on the internet.
Wallach wrote an op-ed on Forbes on the issue. In it, he recognizes the Supreme Court did make mention of the Wire Act in its decision on PASPA. In fact, he says the Wire Act remains the foremost legal obstacle for interstate sports betting. Plus, he says the legality of sports betting in any particular state doesn’t change that.
However, Wallach says the Supreme Court’s discussion of the Wire Act may have an impact on the issue.
The Supreme Court decision compared PASPA to other federal anti-gambling laws. This includes the Wire Act. The decision claims such laws should “respect the policy choices of the people of each State on the controversial issue of gambling.”
The decision reads:
“[Under PASPA], private conduct violates federal law only if it is permitted by state law. That strange rule is exactly the opposite of the general federal approach to gambling…[The Wire Act], which outlaws the interstate transmission of information that assists in the placing of a bet on a sporting event, apply only if the underlying gambling is illegal under state law.”
The Wire Act, state law, and sports betting
Some see this as a suggestion federal gambling laws like the Wire Act only make sports betting illegal when it violates state law.
In other words, the PASPA decision may have changed the interpretation of the Wire Act altogether. In fact, it may make it a requirement that a bet violates state law in order to be prosecutable.
“This could be a groundbreaking development because if the Wire Act is interpreted in this fashion, it would allow states to legalize Internet-based sports betting and permit such wagers to be placed by customers physically located outside the state.”
Wallach also mentions several legal commentators and at least one prominent national law firm that share this view. In their minds, the Wire Act only applies to gambling-related activity that is illegal under state or local law.
So far, the states that have launched legal sports betting in the wake of the Supreme Court decision have not challenged this. New Jersey has seen the launch of mobile and online sports betting. However, it’s only happening inside state lines.
Regardless, the legal opinion that the Wire Act allows the transmission of wagers between states is spreading. That is… as long as the bet is legal in both states.
No state law language in the Wire Act
Of course, as Wallach points out, there is no language in the Wire Act making any reference to state law.
According to Wallach, the absence of such language logically precludes the assertion only bets violating state law are prosecutable under the act.
Ultimately, it would be up to a court’s interpretation of the act. Although, Wallach says courts generally follow the “plain and ordinary meaning” of laws. In other words, the courts won’t rewrite the law. Therefore, without any reference to state law in the act, they’re not likely to consider it a part of it.
Wallach suggests every previous federal court decision on the issue has come to the same conclusion. The courts have upheld the idea violations of the Wire Act do not require an underlying violation of state law.
That means, even if it happens between two states with legal sports betting, the Wire Act still prohibits interstate sports betting.
A reinterpretation of the Wire Act
Yet still, there are legal analysts who suggest the Supreme Court decision is a reinterpretation of the Wire Act.
Wallach calls this wishful thinking and suggests it may stem from one of the purposes of the Wire Act to begin with. Wallach says the Wire Act was meant to, in part, assist the various states in the enforcement of their own laws pertaining to gambling and bookmaking. This creates the misconception it is somehow tied to state law.
However, Wallach says the true purpose of the Wire Act has always been to suppress organized criminal gambling activities. The mention of assistance to the states was never meant to defer to state law.
Yet, in its decision, the Supreme Court grouped the Wire Act with a number of federal gambling laws that apply only if the underlying gambling is illegal under state law.
The safe harbor provision
Wallach says he doesn’t believe the Supreme Curt made a mistake, nor was it attempting to change the meaning of the Wire Act. Instead, he suggests it meant to refer to the Wire Act’s safe harbor provision.
This provision allows for the transmission of wagering information, including odds, only if the underlying gambling is legal in both jurisdictions.
In other words, the Wire Act already allowed for the transmission of information between states with legal gambling, and that’s what the Supreme Court is referring to.
This would allow a business that provides odds or risk management services to a sports betting operator in a state where sports betting is legal to send that information from a state where sports betting is also legal.
As Wallach puts it, a company like William Hill US, which provides risk management services to the Delaware Lottery and its sports betting operation, can do so without triggering a potential Wire Act violation. That’s because it is transmitting the information from Nevada, where sports betting is also legal.
That would mean it remains illegal under the Wire Act to place interstate sports bets. However, the passage of information is allowed. This is probably the most likely reason why no state has attempted to test the federal law and launch interstate sports betting.
So is it time to amend the Wire Act?
Of course, as Wallach suggests, it may be time to amend the Wire Act, particularly to allow interstate sports betting where it is legal in both states.
He says that would foster the growth of online sports betting across state lines. Plus, it will make it easier for legal operations to compete with offshore sportsbooks.
It might also protect those in the sports betting business from those who believe the act applies to in-state transmissions routed through other states, as often occurs online.
Bottom line, legal sports betting is on the move. And it’s moving fast. Therefore, an amendment of the Wire Act is needed to clarify these issues. Plus, it will provide a level of comfort to those in the emerging sports betting business in NJ and beyond.
In fact, the two mobile and online sports betting operations have combined to help Resorts Digital become the state’s top-grossing sports betting licensee, with more than $16.5 million in gross NJ sports betting revenue reported up to the end of October 2018.
Of course, to this point, it has been a lot more DraftKings than it has been BetStars. However, it’s still worth comparing two of the top dogs in the burgeoning NJ mobile and online sports betting market.
Here’s a basic rundown of what each is all about:
DraftKings Sportsbook app
DraftKings Sportsbook launched in August 2018. It was the first online sports betting app in the US to launch outside of Nevada. DraftKings Sportsbook has emerged as the NJ online market leader, and it really is the standard by which all other NJ mobile sports betting apps are compared.
The app features impressive functionality and a huge variety of betting options.
There’s a great bonus offer for new players and different promotions running all the time.
Things like in-play betting, betting carousels, and new office-style Sportsbook Pools have helped DraftKings Sportsbook become the NJ mobile sports betting app market leader and the innovations keep on coming.
BetStars NJ is essentially the PokerStars NJ entry into the NJ mobile sports betting market.
However, it stands on its own as a mobile sports betting app designed for more than just online poker players who are looking to bet on sports between hands.
The app launched in September 2018, and its gaining in popularity because of intuitive and easy-to-use software and competitive betting lines.
The Stars Group behind it might be better known for its PokerStars NJ online poker product, but those poker and online casino platforms are integrated with BetStars, allowing it to take advantage of some synergies.
Either way, BetStars NJ is a rock solid entry in the NJ mobile sports betting market that’s great for more than just players on PokerStars’ NJ gambling website who like to bet on sports.
DraftKings vs. BetStars
Now, let’s take a look at a site-by-site comparison of key app features:
New players get $25 free just for signing up at DraftKings Sportsbook. There’s also no bonus code required. Just sign up for a new account using our exclusive link and get $25 free. Easy.
The offer also includes a free bet of up to $200 matching your first deposit.
BetStars, on the other hand, offers a welcome bonus that includes up to $500 in free bets.
Using this exclusive link to sign up, players will get a first bet up of to $50 matched with a free bet. They’ll get another $50 free bet when they bet another $150 and they can do this nine times for a total of up to $500 in free bets.
The Bottom Line: Money talks and the last time we checked $500 says more than $225. Therefore, BetStars has the Welcome Bonus.
Sharp sports gamblers go where the lines are.
DraftKings has been the top dog in US daily fantasy sports since it launched in 2012 and seems to understand this better than most. DraftKings Sportsbook consistently offers the most competitive lines in the NJ market.
However, it pays to shop around, as there are sportsbooks apps that beat DraftKings on specific lines all the time, BetStars included.
The Bottom Line: It looks like the NJ market is checking DraftKings first and rarely leaving. It’s got the edge on lines right now, but it’s a competitive market and sharps shop.
Both DraftKings Sportsbook and BetStars offer a wide variety of betting options, including:
- Point Spreads
- Cash Out Options
- Round Robins
BetStars also offers something called Odds Boost that allows players to enhance their original bets. However, DraftKings also has Odds Boosts and counters that with a huge variety of In-Play Betting options and Sportsbook Pools.
The Bottom Line: DraftKings gets the edge again with its increasingly popular In-Play Betting options.
Both BetStars NJ and DraftKings Sportsbook offer a good variety of deposit and withdrawal options and responsive customer service.
However, BetStars parent The Stars Group was built on the back of the best customer service department in online gambling and DraftKings is little more than a startup in this regard.
The Bottom Line: DraftKings is working on it, but BetStars gets the nod since it is firmly entrenched working alongside the best support team in the business.
Both the BetStars and DraftKings Sportsbook apps have been built using high-quality software that is user-friendly and intuitive.
Both make it easy to sign up for an account, get money on and off, and make bets.
The Bottom Line: It’s pretty hard to choose between the two in this category. However, the ever-so-slight edge goes to BetStars because of the seamless transition it offers players between the sportsbook, online poker, and casino games. Really, who doesn’t want that?
Overall comparison of NJ online sports betting apps
BetStars and DraftKings Sportsbook are among the best NJ online sports betting apps available in what is a growing market.
DraftKings Sportsbook gets the overall edge because of the weight that must be given to categories such as Betting Variety and Competitive Lines. After all, these are the things sports gamblers truly prize in a sportsbook app. The rest is just gravy.
BetStars has a lot of gravy, but it also has a lot of ground to cover to catch up with DraftKings Sportsbook as the top NJ sports betting app in the market.
In the end, DraftKings Sportsbook is the top-grossing sportsbook app in NJ and it’s easy to see why. A focus on giving the sports betting community exactly what it wants has given it the edge and it’s an edge it’s likely to keep.
In fact, it’s hard to think of anything that can derail the DraftKings Sportsbook train going forward. Unless sharps are forced to move over because BetStars starts giving away so much on its lines.
This is Part 2 in a two-part series about the Status of Legal Sports Betting in the US. For Part 1, click here.
Now that expansion of legal sports betting seems inevitable, legislators and sports leagues alike face some major concerns.
These were discussed at length at the second annual US Sports Betting Summit taking place on Nov. 15 in Washington, D.C.
Chief areas of concern for sports betting
In Part 1, we highlighted four concerns that any state offering or planning to offer legal sports betting needs to address going forward:
- Whether Nevada and New Jersey are good models for other states to emulate
- The rate at which gross revenue from legalized sports betting should be taxed
- At what point in the legalization process online and mobile sports betting should be made an option
- Protecting sports integrity
Here in Part 2, the focus will be specifically on protecting sports integrity.
US sports betting and integrity of the game
As expected, the speakers at the Washington sports summit offered somewhat divergent views, depending on whether they were weighing the situation from the perspective of government, sports betting operators or the leagues.
However, all sides agreed that the increased visibility and accessibility of sports betting would necessitate taking strong proactive measures to continue to protect the integrity of sports.
The relationship between leagues and sportsbooks
What the sports leagues want
All of the panelists representing professional or collegiate sports leagues stressed the need for sports betting operators and the leagues to work closely with one another.
Dan Spillane, the senior vice president of league governance and policy for the National Basketball Association (NBA), stated that proper training should be provided for anyone involved in professional or collegiate sports in the rules they need to abide by.
The training should include both videos and written materials to best ensure that all of the rules regarding inappropriate conduct are fully understood.
Spillane stressed the need for sports leagues and betting operators to work together to “rule out misconduct and keep things clean.” He would like to see the leagues monitor bets and be on the alert for irregular betting patterns or any unwanted activity on the part of “betting insiders.”
He also indicated that it is important to avoid incidents indicative of a breach of proper conduct before they happen Otherwise the infractions could be seen as evidence of sports programs not doing their job properly.
Jeffrey Stonebreaker, vice president of safety and security for Major League Soccer (MLS), agreed with Spillane on the need for the leagues to monitor betting activity to protect the integrity of the sports.
He also called for background checks to weed out those with a history of criminal activity.
Namia Stevenson, associate general counsel for the NCAA, stated that there needs to be a “sharing of information” between sports betting operators and the leagues. She wants to see federal legislation that would require sports betting operators to cooperate with the leagues.
Concern for players’ rights
On the other hand, Clarence A. Nesbett, general counsel for the NBA, said it is important to protect the rights of the players.
He is worried that some players could wind up facing numerous investigations, not necessarily warranted, where they would have to defend themselves. He fears that 25 percent of players of foreign nationality would be especially vulnerable. For this reason, he favors federal regulations regarding proper conduct rather than leaving the rules up to individual states.
Nesbett further indicated that he is in favor of paying royalties not only to the leagues but also to the players.
Dealing with problem gambling
Another area of concern that was brought up at the sports betting summit was that the increased accessibility of sports betting would create an increased incidence of problem gambling.
According to Keith Whyte, executive director of the National Council on Problem Gambling, sports bettors are more likely to have a gambling problem than any other type of gambler.
Yet, 20 percent of the states have no funding in place at all for treatment programs for those with a gambling problem. He would like to see federal legislation enacted that would require 1 percent of revenue from sports betting to be said aside for this purpose.
Whyte expressed fear that without such provisions, there could be a consumer backlash against legal sports betting.
Stevenson is in favor of national legislation that would make 21 the minimum age to bet on sports legally. This would help reduce the incidence of out of control underage sports betting.
The future of US sports betting
Clearly, as legal sports betting continues to expand, legislators, sports betting operators, and the various sports leagues will all have a lot of work ahead to ensure that it works smoothly, as intended. The extent to which the federal government needs to be involved is still up for debate.
However, this much is certain. In order for legal sports betting to work as it should, the integrity of the sports cannot be compromised. If sports betting can help bring much-needed money to the states offering it and simultaneously offer quality entertainment and potential profit for those who can use the option responsibly, I foresee a very bright future.
This is Part 1 of a two-part series on the Status of Legal Sports Betting in the US.
As several states have already taken advantage of the option and an increasing number of other states are considering doing likewise, legislators are grappling with important decisions on the best way to proceed. There is also growing concern about the possible effect wide-scale legalized sports betting will have on the integrity of the various sports.
These were the topics discussed at the second annual US Sports Betting Policy Summit on Nov. 15 in Washington, D.C. I thought the varying points of view would be of interest to NJ Gambling Websites‘ readers.
Where legal sports betting is happening in the US
Previously, Nevada was the only state that offered legalized sports betting on a full-scale basis. Three other states — Delaware, Montana, and Oregon — were also exempt from PASPA, but legalized sports betting in those states was extremely restricted.
However, now that PASPA is no longer an obstacle, legalized sports betting has expanded to multiple states.
As of this writing, full-scale sports betting is available, though to a greatly varying extent, in eight states:
- Nevada: Full-scale sports betting has been legal for decades.
- New Jersey: Sports betting available at seven casinos, two racetracks, and via mobile sportsbooks.
- Delaware: Expanded sports betting now offered at the state’s three casinos.
- Mississippi: Available at 10 casinos, but no mobile sports betting as yet.
- New Mexico: Available at Santa Ana Star Casino & Hotel as a result of a tribal gaming pact with the state.
- Pennsylvania: Available at Hollywood Casino at Penn National Racetrack and conditionally approved at Rivers, SugarHouse and Parx casinos with an application pending from Valley Forge.
- West Virginia: Offered at Hollywood Casino and expected at four other casinos.
- Rhode Island: Launched Nov. 26 at Twin River Casino.
Two other states now have legislation permitting sports betting, but the option is not yet available.
- Arkansas: Approved in the November election for four casinos.
- New York: Law passed in 2013 for four locations, but regulations incomplete.
Other states headed in the direction of legal sports betting
These 17 states are currently working on legislation that will allow sports betting:
- South Carolina
States that currently offer very limited sports betting
These two states continue to offer the same very limited legal sports betting as before due to being exempt from PASPA.
However, additional legislation would have to be passed to start offering full-scale sports betting. So far, no action has been reported in that direction.
States that still prohibit all forms of sports betting
The remaining states have no plans in the works to legalize sports betting. There are laws on the books specifically prohibiting full-scale sports betting. Since no bills have been introduced as yet to repeal or amend these laws, the prospects look dim for legal sports betting.
Concerns about legal sports betting
On Nov. 15, I had the privilege of traveling to Washington, D.C., to attend the US Sports Betting Policy Summit, jointly sponsored by Sportradar, Revolution and Spectrum Gaming Sports Group.
The discussion focused on the efforts toward legalization of sports betting in various states so far and state legislators’ and sports leagues’ mutual concerns with protecting sports integrity.
The following is a summary of the important points raised at the summit and the different approaches the participants recommend for implementing legal sports betting while at the same time addressing their concerns.
Is Nevada still a good model to emulate?
Art Manteris, vice president of race and sports operations at Stations Casinos, feels Nevada offers an excellent model for other states to emulate.
He pointed out that legalized sports betting has worked well there for more than 50 years and that their sports betting industry is highly regulated and conforms to the strict policies of the Nevada Gaming Control Board.
On the other hand, Stanton Dodge, chief legal officer for DraftKings, finds New Jersey might serve as an even better model.
He praised New Jersey for having done a commendable job in building an “open, competitive and mobile market” within a very short span of time. He also had the highest praise for the Division of Gaming Enforcement (DGE) in facilitating the entry of DraftKings back in August.
A dissenting position was taken by Ohio State Senator Bill Coley. Coley cautioned against focusing too heavily on what another state has done. He pointed out that while Nevada had a “great model for its time,” modern technology now poses new challenges in eliminating illegal gambling.
Coley also said that each state would have to decide who its sports betting operators would be — i.e., casinos, racetracks or huge corporations. Also, sports betting could be offered at a variety of places, but they wouldn’t have to be rolled out all at once.
Brandt Iden, a state representative in Michigan, concurred. He pointed out that every state is unique, so simply copying Nevada or New Jersey might not work.
Importance of setting the right tax rate
A lot of careful thought needs to go into deciding at what rate revenue from sports betting should be taxed. Obviously, a state needs to collect enough tax money to have a meaningful impact.
However, the tax rate shouldn’t be set so high that the sportsbooks can’t make a profit.
Coley agreed with the other speakers at the summit that a very high tax rate across the board on sports bets was not the answer. However, he also suggested that revenue generated from longshot “sports entertainment” bets with a very high payout could be taxed at a much higher tax rate than other sports bets.
Stanton Dodge countered with the opinion that a tax rate that’s too high would drive away customers to the illegal market.
Presumably, casinos facing a very high tax rate might compensate by offering less attractive odds, spending less on marketing and technology, and offering sports bettors fewer amenities. This would, in turn, create the right conditions for illegal bookmakers to flourish and for customers to frequent them if they feel they are receiving better treatment there.
Pennsylvania off to a slow start
Pennsylvania provides a good example of a state where sports betting is now legal but making slow strides. Experts believe that the high tax rate has a lot to do with it.
PA not only imposes a $10 million fee for sportsbook operators to get a license but a whopping 36 percent tax rate on gross revenue. This is huge compared to the tax rates in New Jersey and Nevada. The Nevada tax rate for legalized sports betting is only 6.5 percent and in New Jersey, it is 8.5 percent for casinos and racetracks and 13 percent for online sports wagering.
The combination of both the hefty licensing fee and the inordinately high tax rate has to be a big deterrent in getting sportsbook operators to want to do business in Pennsylvania. In fact, William Hill USA, which currently operates not only many Las Vegas sportsbooks but also three in New Jersey, is not even considering expanding to Pennsylvania. Dan Shapiro, vice president of business development at William Hill US, admitted that “with a 36 percent tax and a $10 million licensing fee, there are other states that are more interesting to us. it’s not something we’re looking at seriously right now.”
Even the NFL has urged the Pennsylvania state legislature to reconsider its present tax rate because it is making it too difficult to compete against illegal bookmakers.
Online and mobile sports betting
Another matter up for discussion at the sports betting summit was once sports betting in a state gets the green light, at what point should legal online and mobile sports betting be offered.
Should states start by offering just on-site sports betting and online and mobile sports betting later or should those options be available from the get-go? This was a decision where the panelists clearly had dissenting opinions.
Coley advocated for limiting sports betting initially to brick-and-mortar locations. He stated that adding online and mobile betting to the mix would complicate the task and require extensive algorithms to track at different levels.
Dodge disagreed, saying that online and mobile gambling is important because it offers customers better protection. It also helps identify players who might have a gambling problem.
Iden felt the same and said that in Michigan they hope to have the governor sign a bill for online sports betting by 2019.
Protecting sports integrity
Another issue of concern to the panelists at the Washington sports betting summit is the degree to which legal sports betting needs to be regulated to ensure integrity.
Coley would like to see tighter regulations to stop illegal operators and “keep out criminals.”
However, Manteris cautioned that overregulation and too many constraints could backfire and drive bettors back to illegal local bookies or offshore sportsbooks.
A lot more on this topic of what steps should be taken to protect sports integrity, including involvement by the sports leagues and possibly the federal government as well, was discussed by other conference participants.
Part II of my series on the Status of Legal Sports Betting in the United States will summarize the key points mentioned.
Closely following on the heels of the official partnership between the NHL and MGM Resorts that was announced Oct. 29, the NHL teamed up with FanDuel.
On Monday, Nov. 5, at a press conference in New York, FanDuel and the NHL announced a new partnership. FanDuel will become the official daily fantasy sports and sports betting partner of the NHL. In a separate deal, FanDuel also teamed up with the New Jersey Devils.
What the FanDuel NJ sports betting deals mean
FanDuel will now be able to offer its customers exclusive NHL content and prizes. Imagine this: You could be the lucky winner of a VIP experience at the NHL Winter Classic or NHL All-Star Game.
In fact, FanDuel will soon announce a brand new “Skate to the NHL Winter Classic” contest, which eligible customers can enter daily. What’s at stake is clearly worth playing for. It’s a VIP trip to Notre Dame Stadium for the New Year’s Day 2019 NHL Winter Classic where the Chicago Blackhawks will face the Boston Bruins.
FanDuel-New Jersey Devils partnership
Fans attending New Jersey Devils home games will see the FanDuel logo prominently affixed to the ice. This will give the brand even more exposure and undoubtedly attract more hockey bettors to the site. Fans at the Devils home games will also be able to get messages from FanDuel and have access to the FanDuel betting app.
The NJ Devils will also promote the FanDuel brand on social media and other digital platforms.
The NHL and sports betting
At one time all of the major sports leagues — including the NHL — were vehemently opposed to legal NJ sports betting. However, now that the U.S. Supreme Court sided with New Jersey and it is clear that legal sports betting is here to stay, some of its most outspoken former opponents have re-evaluated their position.
In fact, the NHL has had a complete reversal of opinion. Instead of disapproving of sports betting, it is actively embracing it. At the recent press conference in NYC, NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman explained why:
“Our approach to sports betting is to continue to be progressive as we work directly with the industry and focus on innovative opportunities for fan engagement. Teaming up with an industry leader like FanDuel furthers our strategy of aligning with leading brands that share our vision of using new platforms and technology to drive innovation and engage and excite hockey fans.”
Quite a switch from a man who stated in September 2016 that “professional hockey games don’t lend themselves to gambling.”
FanDuel Sportsbook excited about the connections
FanDuel is likewise very excited about its partnership with both the NHL and the New Jersey Devils. At the recent press conference, FanDuel Group CEO Matt King had this to say:
“Joining forces with the National Hockey League was the perfect next step for us as both our sports betting and fantasy sports businesses continue to grow. The league’s clear vision for these categories and this partnership marks an exciting time for both organizations.”
FanDuel COO Kip Levin was no less enthusiastic when offering his comments about what the newly formed association with the New Jersey Devils would mean:
“We will continue to be at the forefront of the action for hockey fans, whether they’re watching sports from a seat in the arena or at home on TV. Our partnership with the New Jersey Devils allows us to be on the ice during the action and in-game messaging is the perfect way to reach hockey fans during the games.”
FanDuel taking the reigns of NJ sports betting
There is no denying that so far, in the span of just a few months, legal sports betting in New Jersey has proven to be even more of a success than anticipated.
So it actually makes sense that now, instead of continuing to fight the inevitable, the NHL and other major sports leagues are not only supporting the sports betting industry but becoming active participants.
Of course, NJ Gambling Websites remains committed to reporting on all of the latest developments of interest to NJ players with regard to online gambling and sports betting.
Image credit: meunierd / Shutterstock.com
September marked the start of the NFL season and its potentially massive online and mobile sports betting market. For the NJ sports betting industry and the Atlantic City casino industry, online and mobile wagering will shape up to be very important.
The New Jersey Division of Gaming Enforcement released September’s total gaming revenue figures Oct. 12 showing the industry posted $281.7 million in earnings compared to $235.8 million in September 2017. This 19.5 percent increase can be attributed to a 26.3 percent increase in online casino gambling revenue, which is up to $25.8 million. Plus, $24 million in sports betting revenue that did not exist last year.
Casino revenues and sports betting
Casino revenues reached $232 million for the month, representing an increase of 7.7 percent from the same month last year. However, the additional revenue stream that sports betting represents is clearly having an increasing impact on total gaming revenue growth.
The reason? The NJ sports betting market went through a major change in September.
NJ mobile sports betting apps had to wait until 30-days after physical sportsbooks operations opened up to launch in NJ. The waiting period for most has come and gone, and there are now eight online and mobile sports betting operations in the state.
In fact, in September, the amount of money bet through various online and mobile sports betting channels surpassed that of physical sportsbooks for the first time.
The impact of online-mobile betting
Close to $105 million was bet through online and mobile sportsbooks in September, compared to just under $80 million at physical sportsbooks. That translated into NJ sports betting apps and websites reporting $12.5 million in revenue throughout the month, compared to $11.4 million from sportsbooks at NJ casinos and racetracks.
Resorts Casino Hotel has only a small temporary sportsbook location. However, the combination of the daily fantasy sports giant DraftKings Sportsbook and PokerStars NJ sister BetStars NJ, operating under the Resorts license, has helped it become the top-grossing sports betting operator in the state.
It has recorded $11.85 million in revenue reported since launch, $8.5 million of which came from DraftKings and BetStars in September alone.
Mostly due to its proximity to New York City, the FanDuel Sportsbook at Meadowlands Racetrack continued to be the top-grossing physical sportsbook in the state last month, posting $4,377,474 in revenue.
However, there are signs that NJ mobile and online sports betting may soon widen the gap.
The NJ online and mobile sports betting market
In October, Apple gave clearance to iOS versions of the BetStars, 888 Sport, and playMGM apps. This means Apple users can now download and bet via the apps, creating an opportunity for more NJ mobile sports betting revenue.
The BetStars, 888 and MGM entry make a total of eight NJ sports betting apps now available for Android and iOS devices.
The other five are:
- DraftKings Sportsbook
- FanDuel Sportsbook
- SugarHouse Online Sportsbook & Casino
- William Hill NJ
- Caesars online sportsbook
Golden Nugget is reportedly preparing to launch a mobile sports betting app, as is Resorts.
Tropicana opened its temporary sportsbook on Oct. 25, and Hard Rock Atlantic City plans to launch its sportsbook by the end of the year. In the meantime, the eight other physical sportsbooks open and operating in NJ are:
- Borgata Race & Sports Bar
- Resorts Sports Book
- William Hill Sportsbook at Ocean Resort
- Monmouth Park Sports Book by William Hill
- FanDuel Sportsbook at Meadowlands
- Harrah’s Resort Sportsbook
- The Sportsbook at Golden Nugget
- Bally’s Wild Wild West Sportsbook
Casinos owe mobile and online sports betting a debt
Total gaming revenue figures are on the rise in New Jersey thanks, in part, to sports betting. As mobile and online sports betting begin to dominate the NJ sports betting market, it has an enhancing impact on the bottom line.
DGE Director David Rebuck knows where the industry’s bread is being buttered right now. He said in a release that the impact of NJ sports betting has been significant and it’s still growing:
“Driven by the explosive growth in sports wagering and continuing improvements in internet gaming and brick-and-mortar casino win results, the gaming industry produced another month of superb revenue increases. The revenue results point to a strong finish for New Jersey’s gaming industry in 2018.”
After a decade of declines, the Atlantic City casino industry has posted modest gains the past two years. This is partly thanks to the rise of legal and regulated online gambling.
Total NJ gaming revenue is already at $2.14 billion for the year, so another year-over-year revenue increase seems inevitable. When the industry ultimately looks back on 2018, it’ll likely have mobile and online sports betting to thank.
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DraftKings has added a new way for players in New Jersey to bet on sports. The site added Sportsbook Pools to its mobile sportsbook last week, the latest innovation from arguably the top site in NJ sports betting.
“Millions of Americans have been playing in sports pools for years with their friends and coworkers, and now one of the most popular ways that fans can get ‘skin in the game’ is live on DraftKings Sportsbook,” said Matt Kalish, chief revenue officer and co-founder of DraftKings, in a release.
“DraftKings Sportsbook Pools features simple predictions, such as picking the winner of each NFL game weekly, combined with the potential to win jackpot-style prizes. This product will unquestionably make every game more exciting for DraftKings Sportsbook players of all levels.”
The basics of DraftKings Sportsbook Pools
Think of it like an office pool with basic questions, simple answers, but jackpot results.
To play, sports fans are asked a few questions related to outcomes in a specific game or series of games. Any sport can be part of the Sportsbook Pools. Players choose from the provided responses and submit their entry. Winners are based on the number of correct picks as the sports games are played.
This new game offers higher stakes and substantially higher rewards. In Week 10, for example, the inaugural buy-in is $20, with a minimum prize pool of $200,000. Other weeks will vary in cost and prizes.
The pool links to new and existing DK Sportsbook accounts. Players can view the contest from outside New Jersey but can only wager and cash out at a verified location in the Garden State.
DraftKings Sportsbook an NJ sports betting powerhouse
DraftKings has successfully pivoted from daily fantasy sports to single-event betting in New Jersey. The site has managed to connect the two in player profiles and even offers bets on athletes’ fantasy performances for upcoming contests.
But the NJ online sports betting market is young and growing. DraftKings, as of September, is the leader of the pack, posting the lion’s share of NJ online sports betting revenue of all eight mobile sportsbooks.
The Boston-based company has expanded into New Jersey with offices in Hoboken and Jersey City, along with offices in the Big Apple. The company is planning to move into permanent offices in NJ by early next year.
DraftKings already operates a Team Pick’Em to determine the winners of weekly games and distribute prize money based on correct picks. However, this is free to enter and winners earn small payouts.
Sportsbook Pools keeps the innovation coming at DraftKings and in a big way.
The multi-year deal makes MGM Resorts the official gaming partner of the Jets. The agreement is the first of its kind and the most in-depth gaming partnership yet in the NFL.
Jets fans will now have access to a predictive mobile game on the Official New York Jets App. MGM Resorts will also sponsor and have access to the Jets 360 Production Studio at Atlantic Health Jets Training Center.
The Play MGM Studio will be the multimedia home for all Jets 360 content.
The NFL and legal sports betting
By creating this partnership, the New York Jets are helping bridge the gap between the NFL and legal New Jersey sports betting. The league only recently began to allow any type of sponsorship agreements between teams and casinos.
Both Jets President Neil Glat and MGM Resorts Chairman and CEO Jim Murren are very optimistic about this brave new world.
“We could not be more excited to join with the New York Jets for a first-of-its-kind partnership in the NFL,” said Murren. “We look forward to working with the Jets to innovate gaming, increase our customer base through cross marketing opportunities and provide NFL fans with a one-of-a-kind entertainment experience.”
Of course, the NFL still prohibits any mention or promotion of sports betting. The partnership with MGM is purely for online gambling and not specifically sports betting.
MGM Resorts will now be marketing with the Jets through signs at MetLife Stadium, along with social and digital advertisements for Jets TV and radio broadcasts.
Jets season ticket holders and rewards members will reap some of the benefits of this new deal. These will include first-class entertainment experiences and luxury rooms at its Borgata property in Atlantic City and other MGM properties in the US.
“We are proud to partner with an iconic brand like MGM Resorts and its renowned properties to bring a world-class gaming and entertainment experience to our fans,” said Glat. “This unique partnership also enables us to further engage our fans in the mobile and digital world.”
Part of this mobile expansion and interaction is based around the Jets’ “I Called It” game. The improved version will now consist of pre-play options, enhanced in-play features, more prizes, and larger leaderboards featuring Jets fans.
888 Casino and beyond
It’s the first time an NFL team has conducted any business with an online gambling company. Although the deal doesn’t technically sponsor the sports wagering side of 888 Casino, 888 Sportsbook is located on the same website right next to the casino and 888 Poker.
With these strategic moves, the Jets will more than likely set the trend for other NFL teams.
There’s too much money and potential in online gambling for teams like the New York Giants not to get involved like the Jets. With eight online sportsbooks in New Jersey and nine casinos, they have several entities to choose from.
It will only be a matter of time for other teams outside the state, too. Whether the NFL likes it or not, teams and casinos will be doing a lot more business moving forward.
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SugarHouse online casino announced Monday that its revenue more than doubled from August 2018 to September 2018. The digital gaming brand attributed the massive increase to its NJ online sportsbook and the start of football season.
The company did not release specific revenue numbers though Mattias Stetz, the chief operating officer of Rush Street Interactive, was excited about the report:
“We’re very happy with the numbers we are seeing. We see that the player base is continuing to grow as the word spreads about the quality and volume of the different live in-game bets at PlaySugarHouse.com. We are at the start of the football season and are excited to see our numbers keep climbing.”
In eight days of operation, SugarHouse Sportsbook collected more than $103,000 in revenue for August. By comparison, PlayMGM made less than $50,000 with a one day head start.
SugarHouse Sportsbook and an NJ online casino
In Atlantic City and other locations, adding a sportsbook to a venue required some work but fit into the existing structure.
SugarHouse online casino had the same strategy when developing its NJ online sportsbook: just add it to what’s there now.
Both online and in the app, SugarHouse integrated the sportsbook to its established NJ gambling website. With just a tap or click, players can access prices, props, and parlays on sports from around the world.
When launched, SugarHouse Sportsbook boasted “the first gaming operator in the US to launch an integrated online sportsbook and casino.”
Existing accounts could bet with their available balances and payment options. New players enjoy a 100 percent deposit match up to $250.
“Being the first US-based gaming operator to launch a regulated online sportsbook outside of the US has been helpful in establishing the SugarHouse Online Sportsbook & Casino,” said Richard Schwartz, president of Rush Street Interactive, in a release when the book opened. “We’ve matured our sportsbook product and validated that players value our proprietary sportsbook loyalty program, including earning points on every single bet.”
The site avoided early pitfalls by leveraging established relationships with banking institutions and PayPal to allow players easy deposits and withdrawals.
SugarHouse NJ online casino opened in 2016. It brought a well-known and trusted brand to the marketplace (try watching anything on NBCSports Philadelphia without seeing one of the SugarHouse commercials).
Betting options + NFL football
The book averaged more than $11,000 in revenue in eight days of August. Players had baseball, soccer, and some preseason football.
That menu, though, was just the appetizer. September brought a feast of sports betting options: the NFL regular season.
SugarHouse has 50 in-game bets available for pro football. In the Week 1 early Sunday window, more than 300 in-play options existed.
Despite its Philadelphia presence, PlaySugarHouse has seen its biggest single-game handles come from the New York teams.
Low gameday vigs are a plus
Partnering with Kambi on pricing, the site has been able to distinguish itself in the competitive NJ sports betting online market with the lowest day-of-game vigorish on spread and total bets.
“We have several vig options settings, and we have decided to live by our tagline ‘you deserve more’ and give the best possible odds to our players,” Stetz said to NJBetting.com last week.
“We believe this gives the best user experience, which is our goal.”
Players who check the site on gameday will see lines matching other books with lower prices.
For instance, in Week 4, SugarHouse Sportsbook listed the Colts as +1 at home to Houston with a -107 price. The same bet was -112 on other sites.
In a competitive market such as New Jersey, that five-cent price difference could be a huge plus.
The site offers other intriguing promotions and incentives for players. For the Red Sox-Yankees playoff series, betting $50 on each of the first two games put bettors in the running for tickets to Game 3 in the Bronx.
Comparatively, the site doesn’t rely as heavily on odds boosts or multi-leg parlays as some of its competitors.
An increase in online casino betting, too
SugarHouse Sportsbook has prided itself on offering more favorable odds. But all the sports betting also helped give its NJ online casino a boost.
“Our casino bets have also grown since the launch of sports betting,” said Stetz. “Thanks to the deep integration of the sportsbook and the casino in both Android and iOS mobile apps and the desktop site, and players being able to use the same account and wallet, PlaySugarHouse.com casino has also grown across the board.”
What’s next for SugarHouse?
SugarHouse online casino has put itself in a strong position to vault up the NJ sports betting revenue rankings. The September revenue report is due from the NJ Division of Gaming Enforcement later this month.
Meanwhile, in Pennsylvania, the company’s license application will be reviewed by the Pennsylvania Gaming Control Board at the end of October. The state already approved three books to operate in the Keystone State.
Bottom line, things are looking up for SugarHouse Sportsbook and its NJ sports betting plans. September’s revenue jump is a sign of better things to come.
The plan for NJ sports betting at Tropicana Atlantic City began to take shape long before PASPA was repealed. However, it took until several months after the decision before those plans were finalized.
Billionaire Carl Icahn announced in April 2018 that Icahn Enterprises had entered an agreement to sell Tropicana Entertainment Inc. Gaming and Leisure Properties is taking over it’s real estate holdings. And Eldorado Resorts is taking over its gaming and hotel operations. The entire deal was worth approximately $1.85 billion.
Gaming and Leisure Properties is a Penn National Gaming real estate investment trust spinoff. Eldorado Resorts is considered a quickly-growing Reno, Nevada-based casino entertainment company. At the time, it owned and operated 20 casino resort properties in 10 states.
On Oct. 1, Eldorado finalized the sale and officially took over Tropicana AC.
William Hill and Eldorado
But the seeds have already been sewn for the future of sports betting at the Tropicana properties involved in the sale. That’s because William Hill US runs sports betting operations at Eldorado’s Nevada properties. It has done so since 2012.
In fact, William Hill operates full-service sportsbooks at Eldorado Resorts’ flagship Eldorado Hotel Casino, and it’s Silver Legacy and Circus Circus Reno Hotel & Casino in Reno.
In the April 2018 transaction, Tropicana Entertainment Inc. held onto it’s Aruba assets. However, the other seven casinos and resorts it owns and operates in six states, including Tropicana Atlantic City in NJ, will all go over to GLP and Eldorado.
William Hill and NJ sports betting
In the meantime, William Hill moved into the NJ sports betting market with full force.
It opened the Monmouth Park Sports Book by William Hill in Oceanport and the Ocean Resort sportsbook in Atlantic City.
However, it wouldn’t be long before Eldorado and William Hill formalized a plan to come together again at Tropicana AC.
In early September 2018, William Hill US and Eldorado Resorts announced the two had entered into a nationwide partnership. It’s a deal surrounding digital and land-based sports betting and online gaming in the US.
By this time, most considered William Hill US the leading sports betting company in the US. Plus, Eldorado had grown into a major casino group with 21 properties across 11 states. Once its Tropicana Entertainment Inc. deal closed, Eldorado’s numbers included 26 properties in 13 states.
The agreement will see William Hill becomes Eldorado’s exclusive digital and land-based sports betting services, and online gaming partner.
As a result, William Hill made plans to open sportsbooks in five Eldorado properties across three states almost immediately. Of course, this includes a sportsbook at Tropicana Atlantic City.
While nothing has been said yet, the deal could easily stretch into an online sportsbook for Tropicana.
Benefits for both William Hill and Tropicana
William Hill CEO Philip Bowcock said the partnership offers great benefits for both:
“Partnering with Eldorado gives William Hill access to one of the largest and most attractive casino footprints with 23 million customers across multiple states. This partnership provides extensive cross sell and profit growth opportunities to both parties. Together we are positioned to capture the evolving US opportunity – starting with land-based sports betting, and extending to digital sports betting and, in some states, online gaming.”
Eldorado Chairman and CEO Gary Carano said William Hill is already a partner Eldorado knows and trusts:
“Having worked with the company since 2012, we believe William Hill represents the gold standard in global sports betting and we are confident that our expanded partnership will be successful. We look forward to bringing the excitement of sports betting to customers across our growing platform of leading casino resorts, creating value for all shareholders.”
A Tropicana AC sportsbook
Tropicana Atlantic City has not released a date for the launch of sports betting operations. However, Tropicana Atlantic City GM Steve Callender has given some indication as to what it will entail:
“Tropicana Atlantic City is proud to partner with William Hill Race & Sports Book – America’s sports betting leader. We pride ourselves on creating unique and exciting experiences for our guests at Tropicana Atlantic City, and our sports betting offering will meet those expectations. A brand new venue is being created to host sports betting in the North Tower Casino, with kiosks located throughout the property. We offer several sports bars to watch all the games while enjoying your favorite food and drinks including A Dam Good Sports Bar, Hooters, Chickie’s & Pete’s and Ri Ra Irish Pub. We are excited to share more details about Tropicana Atlantic City’s sports book in the coming weeks.”
William Hill US CEO Joe Asher added it can’t wait to be part of such a great Atlantic City property. Plus, its plans include building a first-class sportsbook in the heart of the world-famous Boardwalk.
The overall William Hill-Eldorado deal will see Eldorado take control of a 20 percent stake in William Hill US operations. This includes all William Hill’s operations in various US states, including New Jersey.