Nevada Sets a New Record for Monthly Handle, Legal Sports Betting Grows the Gambler Pool

Las Vegas Strip

The state of Nevada “set a new record for monthly handle” in March, despite sports fans now having the ability to place bets in 7 other states. Remarkably, the $600 million that the state accepted in wagers bested its previous high by +5.4%. Sportsbooks within Nevada combined to win $32.5 million during the month (7.1% hold), also a new record in the Silver State.

Howie Long-Short: There’s a common misconception that because “New Jersey is such a strong market” (March handle: $370 million) – and 6 other states also offer legal sports betting – that Nevada’s business would suffer, but Adam Candee (managing editor, says “that presumption only works if you assume that there is a limited pool of bettors. As legal sports betting becomes more readily available, the pool of participants will grow – it’s not limited to trying to bring in those currently betting in the illegal off-shore markets.”

Sportsbooks in Las Vegas are buoyed by the city’s reputation as a party destination. Nevada’s record month had more to do with “people coming in for the experience, than it did visitors arriving to place bets on games.” Unless another city were to begin offering all the entertainment and dining options that draw visitors to Sin City, it’s unlikely that the state’s operators will lose a significant portion of their business as legalized sports betting becomes more prevalent.

Candee suspects that even if sports betting expansion were to cause a decline in visitors, brand loyalty could help to offset any losses that Nevada casinos might experience; “I can tell you anecdotally that there is a lot more advertising of mobile apps in NV casinos than there was in the past. Companies like Caesars and MGM – that operate in multiple states – are really trying to get bettors to use their app when they go home to states like New Jersey or Pennsylvania [where sports betting is legal].” He’s right, the average sports bettor is not going to shop lines. They’re “going to find an app (or two) they like, and place their bets with that book. Even if it means they don’t maximize their EV or have to pay a bit more.”

When New Jersey outearned Nevada – for the first time – in January, some suspected that the state might be losing its stronghold as the country’s gambling mecca; recent comments by NJ gov. Phil Murphy – that it would occur as soon as 2020 – have only fanned the flames. Candee isn’t convinced. He notes that fragmentation is going to have a “major impact on the New Jersey market. We’re just a couple weeks out from the launch of mobile in PA and obviously if New York were to ever get its act together in terms of legalization, that too would hurt NJ licensees; a lot of New Jersey’s business is coming from folks making the trip across state lines.” It must be noted that even without NY and PA capitalizing on PASPA having been struck down, the state’s handle was just +/- 61% of the money wagered in Nevada during the month.

80% of the bets placed in New Jersey last month were done through a mobile application, while just 50%-70% of the wagers made in Nevada originated via that medium. The influx of out-of-towners gambling in Las Vegas sportsbooks (while watching the games) and a state bylaw that requires gamblers to make deposits for their mobile accounts within a brick and mortar casino help to explain the variance.

Fan Marino: The first weekend of the NCAA tournament has long been Nevada’s most lucrative 4 days of the year, but there’s been a “dramatic upward trend” in the state’s basketball handle over the last 5 years; rising from $324 million in ’15 to $437 in ’18 before climbing to $495 million this year. Candee suggested that a bounce-back in the U.S. economy (think: “people spend more in Vegas when they have more to spend“) and the “increased recognition and marketing of Las Vegas as a March Madness destination” are among the reasons for the rising handle.

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Production-Technology Showcase Disguised as Golf Match


Capital One’s The Match: Eldrick Woods v. Phil Mickelson will take place on Friday (11.23) at 3p EST. While the two will compete for $9 million, the showdown between “Tiger” and “Lefty” is as much a production-technology showcase as it is a golf match. Turner Sports plans to introduce “first-of-its-kind integrations centered on predictive data”, camera angles delivered by drone and live betting odds during a marquee sporting event for the first time (for U.S. viewers); TopTracer shot tracking (shows real-time trajectory, flight path) and Virtual Eye real-time animations will also be used during the broadcast. The PPV golf event is being sold for $19.99.

Howie Long-Short: You’ll notice AT&T (T) is the common thread throughout this deal; the company now owns (since its $85 billion acquisition of Time Warner in late ’16) Turner Sports (broadcasting the event), DirecTV, AT&T U-Verse and B/R Live (3 outlets selling the event), HBO (doing pre-fight promotion) and Bleacher Report (social, BTS coverage).

The predictive data viewers will see (think: shot probability) is being generated from an algorithm combining ShotLink Intelligence (i.e. archive with insight/analysis of every shot hit during tour play) with the unique characteristics of the course being played (Shadow Creek, Las Vegas).

You may recall the name TopTracer, as we wrote on the company’s decision to license its technology to traditional driving ranges; software that enables golfers to play virtual versions of the world’s premier golf courses, from the convenience of their neighborhood range. Topgolf Entertainment owns TopTracer, having acquired the company back in 2016 when it was still known as Protracer.

After each hole, MGM Resorts Race & Sports Books (in partnership with GVC Interactive Gaming) will update their proprietary feed to the live PPV broadcast with real-time odds and money lines. While in-game betting is going to be huge as sports betting becomes more widespread, don’t expect this event to move the needle for MGM (or any other sportsbook); only those located in NJ and NV will have the ability to act on the real-time odds displayed during the broadcast within the company’s mobile app. It’s worth noting that Shadow Creek Golf Course is an MGM Resorts International property.

Turner Sports (T) elected to forego traditional commercial spots during the PPV event to provide the audience (not accustomed to buying golf) with an optimal viewing experience, so just 3 premium brands will be marketed to viewers during the event; Capital One (title sponsor), AT&T (official wireless and data services partner) and Audi (official automotive sponsor) are all sponsoring integrations (think: drone coverage, 4K option) supposedly additive to the broadcast.

Fan Marino: Speaking of Topgolf, the company is expanding aggressively; looking to reach 50 markets by the end of 2018 as it prepares for a 2019 IPO. Executive chair Erik Anderson explained the company is “a candidate to go public for sure” because “like Starbucks, people connect with us.” Sure, Topgolf is popular, but like Starbucks? Who makes Topgolf a part of their everyday routine? Topgolf isn’t public, but Callaway Golf (ELY) owns +/-14% of the company.

Topgolf competitor Drive Shack is also making headlines, having announced NYC’s first golf entertainment complex is coming to Randall’s Island Park in 2020. The company currently has just a single location (Orlando), but 6 others are under construction. Unlike the market leader (Topgolf), Drive Shack is publicly traded on the NYSE under the symbol DS; shares are down -21% since the company reported a Q3 loss (-$15 million), while missing revenue estimates by +/- $1 million ($87 million), 2 weeks ago.

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Seminole Tribe of Florida (with an Assist from Disney) Protects Florida Gambling Monopoly


The Walt Disney Company spent $20 million in support of a ballot initiative that would give Florida voters the right to prevent the expansion of casino gambling within the state, a measure designed to protect their tourism interests and the state’s brand as a “family friendly” destination. Amendment 3 of the Florida Constitution passed on Tuesday evening, with more than 70% of the state’s voters backing the law that will require new casino projects to gain the support (60% must vote in favor) of the state-wide voting public prior to breaking ground; few (if any) projects are likely to meet the 60% benchmark. MGM Resorts International (seeks licensure in state), the Miami Dolphins and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers (both NFL teams are hoping to profit on sports betting) were among those that publicly opposed the measure; each of the 3 entities spent $500K on the proposed amendment’s “no” campaign.

Howie Long-Short: Disney (DIS) was invested in the amendment passing for its own selfish reasons, but there’s no bigger beneficiary to the “Voter Control of Gambling” amendment passing than the Seminole Tribe of Florida (spent $16 million on “yes” campaign). The Tribe dominates the Florida gaming landscape, operating in the state under a Federal gaming exemption afforded to Native Americans with little competition; the amendment’s passage ensures the moat remains around their business.

The long and costly battle for gaming company expansion into the state just became infinitely more difficult, but don’t expect casino operators to give up on Florida. Dan Alkins (Chairman of the committee opposing the ballot initiative) said should the measure pass “there’s going to be litigation just continuing on forever.” The state’s size/population, reputation as a tourism destination and abundance of retirees makes it a highly desirable locale for casinos to take up residence.

It’s worth pointing out the irony in the Miami Dolphins opposition of the amendment, while playing their home games at Hard Rock Stadium; a chain owned by the Seminole Tribe and the one that will pay the franchise $250 million over the next 18 years for naming rights.

Speaking of MGM Resorts International (MGM), the company is reportedly exploring a potential merger with Caesar’s Entertainment (CZR) to form a gaming behemoth (think: +/- 50% of all hotel rooms in Las Vegas and Atlantic City). While there’s no offer on the table (and it’s possible regulators could determine a merger would create “undue economic concentration), it’s known that “without a CEO, Caesar’s is in play” and that it’s CZR’s activist investors (own +/- 25%) driving the tie-up talk; a merger would allow the combined companies to eliminate redundant “overhead and marketing” expenditures. Wynn Resorts (WYNN) and the Genting Group (OTC: GEBHY) have also been names as companies that could have interest in a CZR (-25% YTD) take-over. With licenses in 13 states (49 casinos), the company is well positioned to benefit from wide-spread sports betting legalization.

Fan Marino: Howie mentioned Las Vegas and Atlantic City, so it seems like an opportune time to note that Eilers & Krejcik is projecting New Jersey sportsbooks will generate more sports betting revenue than those in the gambling mecca, as soon as 2021 ($442 million vs. $410 million). The boutique research firm (with a focus on the gaming industry) supported their thesis by pointing out NJ gamblers can make “sports betting transactions” on credit card (as opposed to being forced to make a deposit in a casino), that the state’s sportsbooks have created a highly competitive online/mobile market (think: pricing/promotions) and that state’s licensees have had “very high rates of black market recapture.”

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NHL Signs 1st Sports Betting Partnership, Caesars and William Hill In-Arena at Prudential Center


The NHL has signed its first sports betting partnership, a multi-year pact with MGM Resorts International (MGM) that gives the global hospitality and entertainment company access to the “advanced game data” needed to create in-game prop bets on league games; MGM will also gain use of NHL intellectual property (think: logos, consumer data) for use in marketing/promotions. Beginning with the ‘19-’20 season, the NHL will track player positioning and the puck’s movement on the ice; real-time data proprietary to the league, but not exclusive to MGM Resorts. No financial terms were released, but the NHL will not receive a share of sports betting profits or an “integrity fee” as part of the deal.

HBSE (owner of NJ Devils, Prudential Center and Philadelphia 76ers) announced a pair of sports betting partnerships within the last week. It was first revealed that William Hill (WIMHY) is set to open a sports betting lounge (20+ screens) at Prudential Center (no betting terminals, mobile only); as part of the agreement the Devils will show William Hill odds on the world’s largest, in arena, center-hung digital scoreboard during intermissions. Most recently, HBSE publicized a pact with Caesars Entertainment (CZR) for both the Devils and 76ers. Caesars too will have a premium restaurant and bar (aka lounge) at Prudential Center to introduce fans (premium seat holders have access during Devils games) to their “sports betting experience”; the company will promote their “non-sportsbook elements” in Philadelphia, until sports gambling legislation is passed in the state of PA. The deal includes extensive branding for Caesars at both the Prudential Center and Wells Fargo Center (home of the 76ers).

Howie had the chance to meet with Michael Grodsky (VP of Marketing & PR, William Hill) and Michael Marino (SVP Customer Loyalty & Chief Experience Officer, Caesars Entertainment) to discuss data rights, in-arena sports betting, the sport(s) likely to see the biggest boost from widespread sports gambling and what (if anything) the gaming companies can do to self-regulate themselves so fans aren’t inundated with sports wagering ads during games.

Howie Long-Short: The NHL’s announcement of their first sports betting partnership focused heavily on the data rights MGM will assume rights to. How valuable is proprietary league data?

Marino (Caesars): In the long run, if you have a mobile device in everybody’s hand that is betting sports, then the real-time data becomes more interesting. That’s not the case today. In the United States, it’s still a brick and mortar play and mobile is only relevant in one state (New Jersey). So, for now, I don’t think it’s as big of a deal and that’s really the approach we’ve taken at Caesars; we’ll eventually partner with different legal entities too, it’s just a matter of how. So far, local makes a lot more sense for us than (league-wide) national scale (partnerships) does. 

Howie: While it’ll be new for Devils fans, Las Vegas Golden Knights fans got to place bets from inside the arena during their inaugural season last year. William Hill is a sports betting partner of T-Mobile Arena. How did having the ability to place bets during live NHL games impact business?

Grodsky (William Hill): We saw growth (in Nevada) in ice hockey, last year. The Golden Knights strong start helped as they were making our customers a lot of money, but when looked at the data from T-Mobile Arena (home of Golden Knights), folks weren’t just wagering on the event they were attending; they were betting on games across the league.

Howie: What sport is going to experience the biggest positive impact, in terms of viewership/engagement, from widespread legalized sports betting?

Marino (Caesars): I think the one that will benefit most is golf. Golf is a series of micro events; every hole can be its own unique bet. Inside of the big four sports, baseball fits that same description; it’s perfectly set up for betting on 18 micro games. I don’t think you see that in football, basketball is too fluid. Hockey saw an increase in betting because the town (Las Vegas) supported the team, but nothing changed other than the team showing up.

Howie: There are 3 gaming companies referenced in this story alone and it’s safe to assume more will be partnering with teams/leagues; each will be focused on consumer acquisition. Is there anything Caesars and the rest of the gaming companies can do to regulate themselves so that the fans aren’t inundated with ads during games (see: Labour Party’s proposed ban in U.K.)?

Marino (Caesars): DraftKings and Fanduel really upset the industry because every single TV ad during NFL Games was for those two companies; it just got to the point where people didn’t want to see them anymore. For us, it’s about targeting. If you put your brand in a place like Prudential Center, where the fans attending are more likely to be interested in your product, that will work a lot better than buying a bunch of TV ads. We’ve always been much more targeted marketers. We try to be smart about where we spend our dollars to get a return and we try to put our ads as close to the customer that we want, as possible; as opposed to putting it out there for the masses.

Fan Marino: A study commissioned by the American Gaming Association estimated that a “widely available, legal, regulated” sports betting market could be worth $216 million/year in newfound revenue to NHL franchises. Nielsen Sports projected that the increased viewership and fan engagement associated with sports betting could boost the value of media rights, sponsorships, merchandise and ticket sales +3.5% (worth $151 million), the remaining $65 million was attributed to gaming company expenditures; advertising ($24 million), sponsorships ($35 million) and data rights ($6 million).

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NJ Sports Betting Licensees Report “Stunning” September Handle, Revenue

New Jersey

The New Jersey Division of Gaming Enforcement reported that the state’s 8 licensed sportsbooks took in a “stunning” (depending on who you ask) $183.9 million in bets during the month of September, nearly double (+92%) the amount wagered in August; the start of the NFL season ($90 million wagered on league games) and the launch of several new mobile sportsbooks (see: Caesers/Bally’s, Paddy Power/FanDuel, SugarHouse/Golden Nugget) are responsible for driving the growth. Online/mobile wagering has already surpassed the state’s retail business, as 56.5% ($104 million) of all sports bets placed were made through those channels. The $23.9 million (+166% MoM) held by the state’s bookmakers, after bets were paid out (except for futures), represented just shy of 8% of the total handle. The state was entitled to keep $2.6 million in tax revenue from sports betting operations.

Howie Long-Short: DraftKings and FanDuel sportsbooks are taking in 2/3 of all New Jersey sports betting revenue and nearly 90% of all the revenue generated from online/mobile applications. Resorts Digital (DraftKings’ license holder, privately held) reported 35% ($8.5 million) of the state’s Sept. revenue, while competitor Paddy Power (FanDuel’s license holder, PDYPY) posted 30% ($7.2 million); no other licensee did more than 10.5%. It’s worth noting that while most DraftKings revenue comes from its online/mobile applications, just 39% ($2.8 million) of FanDuel’s comes from those channels; the majority of their revenue ($4.4 million) comes from their Meadowlands retail location.

As for the state’s other retail locations, The Borgata (a MGM Resorts International property) reported the most sports betting revenue ($2.39 million) amongst all land based casinos; while the William Hill (WIMHY) sportsbook at Monmouth Park racetrack kept $2.2 million, up from $900K in August (+144%).

Fan Marino: Expect October’s handle to exceed September’s strong result. In addition to a full slate of NFL and CFB games (as we had in September), the MLB postseason began on October 1st, the NHL season started on October 3rd and the NBA season will get started this evening.

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Sports Pope Pontificates on NFL Ownership, NFL Issues and Start-Up Football Leagues


On Sunday afternoon, DraftKings x Thuzio held a “Kickoff Bash” to celebrate the start of the NFL season and the launch of the DraftKings Sportsbook in Hoboken, NJ. Nick Mangold, Tiki Barber, Brandon Jacobs and WFAN host Mike Francesa were on hand to watch the games, take pictures and sign autographs. JohnWallStreet (a proud Mongo) had the chance to sit down with Mike Francesa, ask a few questions and listen to the “Sports Pope” pontificate on NFL ownership, NFL issues and start-up football leagues. 

JWS: Several weeks ago, there was an article in the WSJ asking if you owned an NFL team, would you sell it now or hold on to it (despite the league’s problems). What would you do?

Mike: There’s always been the feeling that this is the golden age to own a team, that team valuations could do nothing but go up, but with the problems that the NFL has I think it’s very much an arguable point one way or the other. There’s nothing that approaches the NFL regular season in terms of excitement, in terms of ratings, in terms of attention or anything else; but the NFL has a very soft underbelly right now. It’s got huge cultural problems (see: anthem). It’s got huge safety issues (see: concussions, CTE). There’s a bad relationship between the players and owners. It’s got a lot of issues and it doesn’t know how to solve them. So, on one side you have an embarrassment of riches. On the other side, you have a very soft underbelly right now. 

JWS: So how does the league solve those issues?

Mike: The NFL has got to find a (Art) Modell. It’s got to find a (Pete) Rozelle. It’s got to find someone who can guide them through their problems. No one at the NFL right now has been a visionary. When the league took off it was Rozelle, Modell and (Gene) Klein as the triumvirate that put the TV thing together. The other unsung hero was Wellington Mara because he was willing to share equally, even though he was New York; Jerry Jones would never have done that. That was the great vision for the NFL. Everybody would share equally. Someone must become that kind of visionary either in the front office or as an owner to take care of their problems. Of course, they also have a product that overcomes a lot of their problems.

JWS: Is there a current NFL owner or executive capable of stepping into that role of league visionary?

Mike: I haven’t seen them yet. There’s some brighter guys, but they’re older. It’s got to be one of the younger guys who still has years (i.e. will maintain influence for some time). (Broncos owner Pat) Bowlen had a lot influence years ago, no longer.

JWS: The NBA has a visionary as Commissioner and the owners-players relationship is stronger in the NBA than the NFL. If you had $2.5 billion dollars, would you buy an NFL team or an NBA team?

Mike: I would still buy the NFL team because the money that is there before you even sell a ticket, is so extraordinary from television; it’s still so unequal compared to the rest of the other sports. You’re right. NBA owners maintain a better relationship with their players than other sports. The league also promotes its players better than the other sports. So, relationships are important, but the NFL is even above relationships; it’s a machine. The machine right now has some ball bearings missing though, it needs to straighten out its problems.

JWS: Last Thursday night’s NFL season opener (on NBC & NFL Network) between Atlanta and Philadelphia experienced a 10-year viewership low for the league’s kickoff game (-13% YoY). Why wasn’t there more interest in opening night? If you were an NFL owner, would you be worried about declining viewership?

Mike: First of all, that was not the most attractive of matchups. It’s just not. Those are not marquee franchises. There’s a lot of marquee franchises, neither one of those teams is one of the national marquee franchises. That’s number one.

They’re (the NFL) having issues that they shouldn’t have. The Nike commercials should not supersede their season opening and it did; it became part of the theme of their opening. That’s their fault. That’s them leaving a problem lingering. When you have a problem, solve the problem. Their running away from the problem and hiding under the covers, and trump has buried them on this issue. Absolutely buried them. They’re (NFL owners) afraid of him. Trump plays directly to his base. He’s fearless. They’re scared to death to upset anybody. Trump treats it (player protests) as an issue that’s a positive and plays it directly to his base, so he is playing offense. They’re playing defense.

I don’t worry about that (declining attendance), they’re (the NFL) still so far ahead. They (NFL owners) don’t want any more slippage. That’s what they’re worried about.

Editor Note: Television ratings for the Week 1 Sunday afternoon timeslots reversed course. Fox regional games rose +5% YoY, Fox’s national game saw a +1% bump and the CBS single-header jumped +23% YoY. The final game of the weekend, the Sunday Night Football thriller between the Packers and Bears, experienced a -9% YoY decline; particularly disappointing for NBC execs considering the ratings for last season’s SNF debut were impacted by a hurricane.

Howie Long-Short: On Monday, the Alliance of American Football (debuts on February 9th) announced it would be introducing a mobile betting platform that will enable fans to watch the game and place in-game bets on the same screen. MGM will serve as the league’s exclusive in-game gambling partner and host the gambling business on their app (as the licensee) for the league’s first 3 seasons. The partnership will enable MGM to better assess odds and offer more props to bet on (think: speed of ball release), as they’ll have access to next-gen stats generated by wearable technology. That’s noteworthy, as the player’s unions of the Big 4 sports leagues all vehemently oppose the sharing of data collected by wearable technology.

MGM is currently licensed to conduct business in just NV and NJ, but remember back in August the company signed a market access agreement with Boyd Gaming giving it the ability to operate in 15 states.

Despitesolid second quarter results” (revenue +2%, EBITDA +3%), MGM failed to meet analyst top and bottom line expectations in Q2 ’18; news that caused a -9% decline in the share price. CEO Jim Murren attributed the misses to waning demand (i.e. bookings) at the company’s Las Vegas casinos (Caesers reported the same problem). Despite the Q2 shortfall, Murren said he expects Q3 to be the best in company history; he also reiterated the company’s plan to repurchase $600 million in “ridiculously undervalued” stock. MGM shares will open on Monday just below their 52-week low at $26.95.

Fan Marino: Speaking of start-up football leagues, at least 3 (Alliance of American Football) will debut in the next 2 years. Is there room for a spring football league? Can any of these leagues be successful?

Mike: No chance, no how. The chance is zero. I’ve said it many times before, there is no room for another football league. This league (the NFL) consumes all. There’s no room in terms of stadium leases, cities, players or sponsors; there’s no room for anybody else.

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Mississippi Becomes 4th State to Offer Legalized Sports Betting, William Hill Partners with 11 MS Casinos

Seal of Mississippi

Mississippi became the 4th state (NV, NJ, DE) to offer legalized sports betting on Wednesday August 1st, with the opening of sportsbooks at the Beau Rivage Casino in Biloxi and Gold Strike Casino in Tunica; properties owned by MGM Resorts International. The newly passed legislation allows for sports fans in the state to place bets on individual sporting events at land or water-based “legal gambling establishments” (i.e. casinos). MS sports bettors who wish to place in-game bets will be forced to visit their local casino as mobile betting will be restricted to those on the casino’s physical premises.

Howie Long-Short: Mississippi Rep. Richard Bennett believes legalized gambling will be a boon to the state’s tourism business declaring, “Mississippi welcomes you. We hope you’ll come, wager on sports betting and see what we have to offer in the Hospitality State”; and he just might be on to something. No other state in the deep South offers legalized sports betting and neighboring Alabama is responsible for more illegal college football bets per capita than any state. Wondering how long will this advantage last? According to Dustin Gouker of, Mississippi’s advantage (see: no competition) is likely to last “at least a year and feasibly longer”; with Louisiana, Tennessee and Kentucky the states most likely to join the party first.

In addition to MGM, Boyd Gaming (BYD) and Caesars Entertainment (CZR) both own gaming properties in MS. Speaking of BYD, just 2 days after the company announced a market access agreement with MGM Resorts International (MGM), BYD revealed it had aligned with FanDuel Group (PDYPY) to run online and mobile sportsbook operations in the U.S. FanDuel technology will power Boyd Gaming branded online and mobile sportsbook operations, while FanDuel Group will leverage BYD’s 15 state licenses (36% of population) to operate FanDuel branded online and mobile sports betting services in those states; the deal extends to MGM properties in states where mobile sports betting is authorized.

Fan MarinoMGM got out of the gate first in MS, but William Hill has made the greatest inroads, announcing partnership agreements with 11 MS casinos (and another West Virginia). WIMHY, which now operates in all 4 states that offer legalized sports betting, has no intentions of slowing down either; in fact, they recently stated their intentions to add gaming partners in 14 more states, Rhode Island being one of them. The company will offer “operational expertise, risk management and trading data” to support IGT, should their bid be selected in the Ocean State; IGT was the only company to submit a bid to provide sports betting within RI.

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NBA Becomes First U.S. League to Sign Official Sports Betting Partnership


The National Basketball Association became the first U.S. pro sports league to sign an official sports betting partnership, announcing a deal with MGM Resorts Intl. (MGM) on Tuesday. The agreement gives the resort and gaming operator authorization to use “league highlights, names, logos and its direct data feed” and enables the company to market itself as the “official gaming partner of the NBA & WNBA.” MGM will pay the NBA at least $25 million over 3 years, but the league will not receive an “integrity fee” or percentage of all bets placed on league games. MGM is not permitted to offer odds on screen during NBA games under the terms of this deal.

Howie Long-Short: Tuesday’s announcement comes just 24 hours after MGM announced a $200 million joint venture with GVC Holdings (to create an online gaming experience) and a market access agreement with Boyd Gaming (giving MGM ability to operate in 15 states, evening the playing field with CZR and PENN). While sports betting is currently limited to just 4 states, MGM is gearing up to cash in in 2023 when upwards of 32 states are expected to offer single game sports wagering.

The key to this deal on the MGM side is the direct data feed, which enables the company to provide an advanced in-game betting product. While live-betting currently represents just a small fraction of all bets placed on league action, it’s suspected that delays in 3rd party feeds have hampered its potential. It must be noted though, MGM’s pact with the league does not give it exclusivity over the data; only their title as the “official gaming partner of the NBA and WNBA” is protected. I expect mobile sports betting to gain momentum, inevitably forcing others gaming companies to purchase the same “official data.”

The NBA is finally going to receive compensation for its intellectual property, though not the 1% “integrity fee” it originally sought. While it’s far too early to project how much will be bet on league games (and ultimately the percentage $25 million equates to), the league must be ecstatic that they were able to get a deal done without any federal statutes in place; there really was no reason for a gaming company to cave to their demands.

Fan Marino: Sure, no gaming company had to cave, but MGM made for an easy target (i.e. there will be many more) for the NBA in its quest to profit off legalized sports betting. Why? It owns the WNBA’s Aces (they play at the MGM owned Mandalay Bay Events Center), it’s sponsored the NBA’s summer league the last 2 years and its believed the company wants to place an NBA team in the T-Mobile Arena; in other words, they’re motivated to work with the league. That’s certainly not the case for the remainder of the players in the sports betting space though, who vehemently oppose fees of any sort and are now placed in a tough spot with the precedent set – gaming companies will pay for access to official data.

FYI for NJ Residents: MGM will be taking mobile sports bets, within the state, by the end of the week.

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