In case you called the underbelly of a boulder home this week, NFL season begun last night with the reigning Super Bowl champion and home team Eagles scoffing in the face of a pick-em line against the Atlanta Falcons, ultimately squeaking out an 18-12 victory. Yet unlike the penalty-laden borefest that was the first three-and-a-half quarters of the NFL Kickoff game, the sports betting industry was ripe with excitement.
First off, yesterday marked a landmark achievement for the industry, as for the first time, bettors outside of Nevada were able to place legal single-game wagers on NFL. Beyond that, a multitude of operators scurried to launch their books or forge powerful partnerships ahead of Thursday night’s game (gee, we wonder why?). Online poker and casino news took a backseat this week, for pretty obvious reasons, but there were some interesting developments in those realms as well.
The Weekly Punt is a new and recurrent series designed to keep you up to date on what’s happening in the wacky world of U.S. gambling, with a particular focus on news and commentary surrounding the advancement of the industry. Here are the stories we found the most interesting this unofficial first week of fall.
Enough books to fill a digital library
In terms of the number of sportsbooks launching, this week wasn’t as noisy as the past few (didn’t Mississippi launch like 20 books in August?), but it was by far the busiest in the online and mobile sports betting spaces.
In New Jersey, not one, not two, but three mobile books entered into a soft launch phase. The much-anticipated FanDuel Sportsbook, along with an online book from William Hill, popped up early in the week, with FanDuel officially going live yesterday. This was followed by a surprise beta launch by Caesars Casino, which debuted its book on Thursday evening. The Caesars book might not currently look like much, but given that it’s fully integrated into the operator’s existing NJ online casino, hopes are high.
We have to admit, the FanDuel book is impressive, boasting money lines and spreads on NFL Week 1 games that rival (and often better) those found at Las Vegas-based casinos. Kudos. The site is further boosted by a stellar interface, strong cashiering, and of course, that FanDuel branding. The solid lines are a particularly pleasant surprise given that FanDuel’s physical sports book at the Meadowlands debuted in June with, shall we say, less than ideal pricing.
It will be interesting to see how fierce rival DraftKings reacts to FanDuel’s product, as currently, it still offers pricing that lags behind the industry average. That said, DraftKings is crushing on the promotional front, with a $200 free bet offer to new players, and a 1,000,000th bet promo (yes, they’ve taken nearly 1 million bets in a month) that will see more than a dozen lucky winners divvy up a $35,000 free bet fund.
Speaking of ultra-powerful daily fantasy sports sites that now offer sports betting, we have learned that national horse racing network TVG, owned by the FanDuel Group, has partnered up with Barstool Sports and other prominent industry names to deliver three hours of televised sports betting content on the network each Sunday from 10 a.m. – 1 p.m. FanDuel Sportsbook advertisements sneakily (or blatantly) weaved in is a given.
Other news in the Wide World of Sports (betting)
- Will Hill is clearly serious about the U.S. sports betting opportunity. The gaming behemoth entered into a partnership with Eldorado Resorts to operate all of the latter’s sportsbooks in the U.S., with Eldorado receiving a massive 20% stake in Will Hill U.S. in exchange. The partnership has sweeping ramifications for the industry as Eldorado has a presence in 11 different states.
- Tropicana AC has finally revealed its sports betting plans. The Boardwalk casino announced a deal with none other than William Hill Race & Sports Book. No timetable has been announced for the launch of either a physical or online book, but we suspect that they’ll be up pretty soon.
- As first revealed by Poker Industry Pro (paywall), BetStars looks to be just about ready to launch its NJ mobile sportsbook. The Stars Group brand doesn’t have quite the same recognition as DraftKings or FanDuel in the U.S., but its international product has been well-received. Combine this with the PR savvy and aggressive marketing strategies TSG is known for ($500 welcome package, what?), and BetStars stands to contend for a prime slice of market share.
- The Meadowlands has renovated its FanDuel-branded sportsbook, and we plan to be live on the scene this Monday to see the Jets get stomped…eh, compete competitively against Detroit.
As the weeks fly by, we’re gleaning more and more of an idea of how much handle the industry will…handle.
Mississippi, and its many, many books, generated a modest $9.8 million in total handle for the period of Aug. 1 – Sept. 3. Delaware, and its three books, did nearly as much, clocking $7.7 million in handle from the end of July to late August. West Virginia, which opened its first book on August 30 at Hollywood Casino, saw approximately $340,000 in wagers last Saturday.
But none of these states comes close to the handle coming out of New Jersey, where players placed $57.1 million in wagers from June 14 – July 31, procuring for the books $3.2 million in completed events revenue in the process. And really, these numbers are just a drop in the bucket compared to what we should be seeing in August, as that was the first month for online sports betting. Of course, September’s figures should blow away those for August, not only because of the presence of the NFL, but because there will have been no less than half-a-dozen online books in operation for most of the month.
Currently, New Jersey is by far the most accessible state in terms of ease of placing wagers. Given this, and the fact that New Jersey books are already handling tons more money than in other states where sports betting is legal, it’s clear which state is going to join Nevada at the forefront of the industry.
Around the horn
- It may not be the WCOOP currently taking place on the PokerStars dot-com site, but the third annual NJCOOP will guarantee $1.5 million, which is significant for the smallish NJ online poker market.
- Resorts World Catskills is within striking distance of large population centers in New York and New Jersey, yet it has struggled mightily. Senior Analyst John Brennan visited the venue to find out why.
- Pennsylvania enjoyed another month of solid slot revenue , helped along by a strong performance from Valley Forge, which has flourished since forking over $1 million to shed its visitation barriers.
And as always, you won’t want to miss our weekly podcast Gamble On, where this week hosts Eric Raskin and John Brennan chat with Hollywood Casino and Charles Town Races VP Erich Zimny about, what else, sports betting.