NJ Becomes 3rd State to Legalize Sports Betting, Betfair U.S. Partners with Meadowlands Racetrack

Paddy-Betfair 200X200

Governor Phil Murphy signed legislation that will allow New Jersey’s 9 casinos and 3 racetracks to take wagers on individual sporting events beginning this Thursday. Gamblers 21 and over will be able to place wagers on a variety of professional and college sporting events, though betting on games involving local college teams (think: Seton Hall, Rutgers) and college games played within the state is prohibited. Initially, wagers will have to be placed in person; though, mobile betting is covered by the bill and will commence in the future (requires licensees to wait 30 days). The William Hill (WIMHY) sportsbook at Monmouth Park Racetrack will begin taking bets at 10:30a on Thursday, just in time for the start of the World Cup later that afternoon. New Jersey becomes just the third state to offer legalized sports betting, following Nevada and Delaware.

Howie Long-Short: Another one of New Jersey’s racetracks, the Meadowlands Racetrack, has found a sports betting partner in Betfair U.S. (subsidiary of Paddy Power Betfair, PDYPY). PDYPY revealed it has signed “long-term agreements for retail and online/mobile sports betting” with the North Jersey track (and Tioga Downs in New York); they plan to begin taking bets later this summer. The news comes just two weeks after the company announced it would be acquiring FanDuel, with the intention of converting their 1.3 million DFS players into true sports bettors. It’s expected that Betfair will brand their U.S. sportsbooks as FanDuel sportsbooks. PDYPY shares are up 11% (to $58.35) since word of the deal first broke on May 15th.

Fan Marino: Monmouth Park officials aren’t satisfied with SCOTUS’ decision to overturn PASPA, they’re now pursuing remuneration for damages caused by the pro sports leagues and the NCAA. The New Jersey Thoroughbred Horsemen’s Association (leases Monmouth Park) claims “the leagues acted in bad faith” fighting them in court, while simultaneously profiting from DFS and authorizing the relocation of several franchises to Las Vegas (nullifying the integrity argument). They’re pursuing +/- $150 million in “revenues we would have had” (from sports betting), between the period of October 2014 – June 2018, had the leagues not opposed their efforts. It must be noted that neither Delaware nor New Jersey included an integrity fee for the leagues in their sports betting legislation.

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Paddy Power Betfair Close to Acquiring FanDuel, Seeks U.S. Sports Betting Market Share

PaddyPowerBetfair BANNER

Legal Sports Report has reported that Irish bookmaker Paddy Power Betfair (PPB) is close to acquiring FanDuel. Little is known about the deal’s terms, but “it (the price point) appears likely to be below the $1 billion valuation” that the company held in July 2015. PPB acquired FanDuel competitor DRAFT for +/- $50 million in May 2017, so should the deal go through PDYPY would own the 2nd and 3rd most popular DFS apps. The news comes just one day after the SCOTUS struck down PASPA, the federal ban preventing individual states (save Nevada) from offering betting on the outcome of a single sporting event; FanDuel CEO Matt King indicated earlier this month, that his company would “get into sports betting” if the courts voted in New Jersey’s favor (as they did).

Howie Long-Short: Paddy Power Betfair isn’t collecting DFS companies for sport, they’re using M&A to take market share in a sports betting arms race. FanDuel has a database that contains 6 million DFS users (not all active) and PPB believes they’ll be able to convert many of those individuals into true sports bettors. The FanDuel brand also brings PPB some value, as the popular gaming operator (in Ireland and U.K.) lacks U.S. name recognition; though it does own California based horseracing betting business and digital broadcaster TVG and the NJ online gaming site Betfair Casino.

FanDuel raised $430 million in venture funding, but has struggled to raise additional capital since Q3 ‘15; so, investors were pushing to either pursue a sale or public offering. In March, we reported FanDuel was considering a reverse merger as a means of capitalization. Those talks would appear to be on hold. While that means you won’t be able to purchase shares of FanDuel on the NASDAQ (as Platinum Eagle had planned), you can buy stake in Paddy Power Betfair. The company trades OTC under the symbol PDYPY. Shares are up 7% since the SCOTUS decision, but declined 4.5% on Tuesday following the Legal Sports Report’s report.

Fan Marino: DraftKings maintains the No. 1 position among DFS companies, claiming more than 10 million users. Interestingly, their fastest growing game (+59%) isn’t tied to the NFL, NBA or MLB, but to League of Legends; where users construct rosters (with a salary cap) of professional gamers. It’s not just DFS players getting into esports though, global wagering (includes legal and illegal) on esports is expected to top $6.7 billion in 2018 and hit $13 billion by 2020. Looking to get in on the action? Pinnacle Entertainment (PNK) and William Hill (WIMHY) both take bets and offer odds on esports, as does Unikrn; a website that allows for legal esports betting using their own virtual token (Unikoin Gold, UKG) or cash. Unikrn has raised $41.4 million to date, including $31.5 million in a H2 ‘17 ICO; Mark Cuban participated and has a seat on the company’s advisory board.

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SCOTUS Strikes Down PASPA in Historic Ruling, Legalized Sports Betting to Spread Nationwide

Scotus

In a historic announcement, the SCOTUS ruled (6-3) to strike down PASPA; the national law preventing individual states (save Nevada) from offering betting on the outcome of a single sporting event. Justice Samuel Alito wrote, “Congress can regulate sports directly, but if it elects not to do so, each state is free to act on its own. Our job is to interpret the law Congress has enacted and decide whether it is consistent with the Constitution. PASPA is not.” The ruling effectively places the decision to authorize sports betting in the hands of the individual states. Several have already passed legislation (NJ + PA, CT, WV & MS), with upwards of 27 others expected to offer wagering on sporting events within 5 years. It’s important to note that federal law prohibits wagering across state lines, so gamblers will have to be physically located in a state that has passed sports betting regulation to legally place a bet on a game; even with online and mobile betting available elsewhere in the country.

Howie Long-Short: A fall ’17 study by Eilers & Krejcik estimated that if sports betting were to be legalized on a nationwide basis, it would generate $7.1 billion annually in new revenue at casinos & racetracks. That figure grows to $16 billion per year, when you count the revenue generated from gaming websites and mobile apps; so, it’s easy to understand the enthusiasm surrounding the announcement. Interestingly, English bookmakers William Hill (WIMHY, +14.39% to $17.73) and Paddy Power Betfair (PDYPY, +12.56% to $55.20) were Monday’s biggest winners; though, Scientific Games Corp. (SGMS, +11.15%), Stars Group, Inc. (TSG, +8.97%), Caesars Entertainment Corporation (CZR, +5.46%), Churchill Downs, Inc. (CHDN, +4.87%), Penn National Gaming (PENN, +4.68%), Boyd Gaming (BYD, +3.06%), Pinnacle Entertainment (PNK, +1.88%) and MGM Resorts International (MGM, +1.64%) all finished up on the day as well.

We’re not surprised that William Hill (WIMHY) had the biggest pop among the companies listed above, as we told you on April 24th that no European gaming company was better positioned to capitalize on legalized sports betting, in the United States, than they are. Back in ’13, the company bought the rights to run the sportsbook (and split profits 50/50) at Monmouth Park (NJ), if ever permitted by law, for $1 million; a remarkably shrewd investment considering the minimal capital investment required and the potential payoff they’ll now realize (+/-$750 million/year in sports betting revenue). The company has since announced plans to add a 2nd $5 million sportsbook on the premises. WIMHY will be the first sports book in NJ to accept bets, with Monmouth Park expecting to open its doors within 2 weeks; though residents in Mississippi, Delaware and West Virginia can all expect to be able to place bets at their local casinos by the first Sunday of the NFL season.

Fan Marino: MLB put out a statement saying the decision would have “profound effects” on the sport, but no one is more bullish on legalized sports betting than Dallas Mavericks owner Mark Cuban. Cuban believes that “everybody who owns a top-four professional sports team just basically saw the value of their team double at least.”

I asked SportsHandle.com Editor-in-Chief Brett Smiley for his thoughts on Cuban’s remarks?

Brett: Cuban’s guesstimate strikes me as a bit of an exaggeration, but there’s wide recognition amongst the leagues and owners that legal sports betting will increase ratings, increase revenue and create more opportunities. Sports bettors are more engaged and for longer periods of time. There will be other opportunities to sell data, partnerships, sponsorships and so forth.

It sounds like an exaggeration to me too, but if $300 billion were to be wagered annually and the leagues got their 1% “integrity fee” on a nationwide level (highly unlikely); they would be splitting $3 billion annually. Divvy up that newfound revenue between +/- 120 pro sports franchises and you’re adding $25 million in profit to each team’s bottom line. The Mavericks only generated $21 million in operating income last season. Sure, that’s a bunch of “ifs”, but once you add in all the other revenue streams that Brett referenced, Cuban may not end up being too far off.

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FanDuel Confirms Plans to “Get into Sports Betting”, Verizon Flying Under Radar

FanDuel

FanDuel CEO Matt King confirmed in an interview with Fortune that should SCOTUS strike down PAPSA, the company would “get into sports betting.” The announcement comes just two weeks after the NBA said it would look to divest equity interest in the DFS operator and 2 months after news broke that the company was in “advanced talks” to partake a reverse merger. It was suspected at the time, that the company would use a capital infusion to position itself to capitalize on legalized sports betting. No updates have been released as it relates to negotiations.

Howie Long-Short: We told you on April 23rd, that the NBA divesting its interest in FanDuel was the latest sign of the company’s intention to pursue legalized sports betting. The NBA has been outspoken about its desire for an “integrity fee”; they can’t sell an increased role in regulation and serve as the book, with an interest in winners/losers.

While not too late (a decision may not occur until the end of June), FanDuel has some catching up to do. As we’ve noted over the last several months, rival DraftKings has been aggressively positioning itself (increased staff by 75%, hired Head of Sportsbook, seeking casino partners) for a similar pivot; and DRAFT, owned by Paddy Power Betfair (PDYPY), is also expected to chase a share of the U.S. sports gambling market. Those 3 new entrants will face strong competition from established gaming operators like William Hill (WIMHY), Caesars Entertainment (CZR), MGM Resorts International (MGM), Penn National (PENN), Boyd Gaming (BYD), etc.

Fan Marino: There’s another potential new entrant to the sports betting space, well positioned and flying quietly below the radar; Verizon Communications (VZ). The company owns Yahoo! (AABA) and its popular season-long fantasy sports business (they also have DFS, though less users than DraftKings and FanDuel) and like those companies (and Draft), could convert tens of millions of players into gamblers. VZ also owns both NFL and NBA streaming rights, giving them the ability to broadcast games and offer in-game betting within the same application; a significant advantage over the competition.

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Stars Group Pivots from Poker to Sports Betting, Buys SBG for $4.7 Billion

Stars Group

Stars Group, Inc. (TSG) has acquired Sky Betting & Gaming (SBG) from CVC Capital Partners and Sky, Plc (SKYAY) for $4.7 billion in cash and stock options, as the company pivots from online poker cardroom to sports betting operator. SBG has an established gaming presence in the U.K. (3rd largest operator) and recently expanded operations in to Italy and Germany. While SCOTUS’ pending decision on PAPSA’s constitutionality offers potential upside for TSG shareholders, CEO Rafi Ashkenazi clearly stated, “the trigger for this deal was not the U.S.”; before adding that should sports betting be legalized in the country, the company would be “very strongly positioned to capture significant market share.” TSG shares climbed 14% on the news, closing Monday at $33.45; just below their all-time high ($33.50).

Howie Long-Short: Ashkenazi has been aggressively looking to reduce TSG’s reliance on a stagnating poker business (2/3 of ’17 revenue, $2.36 billion, +7% YoY) and recently increased the company’s stake (to 80%) in Australian sports betting and gaming company, CrownBet Holdings (which acquired the Australian arm of William Hill). That’s a wise decision. In 2017, 50% of all casino winnings ($49.8 billion) came from sports betting and 26% originated from casino games, while just 6% came from poker.

Much like the DFS companies, TSG owns a valuable database of U.S. gamblers from poker’s mid-to-late aughts heyday. Combine that information with SBG’s strengths in marketing (was U.K.’s 8th largest operator in ’11, now 3rd) and technology (80% of revenue comes from mobile apps), and it becomes a particularly sensible acquisition for TSG.

Fan Marino: No European gaming company is better positioned to capitalize on legalized sports betting in the United States (particularly if SCOTUS’ decision is limited to New Jersey, for the time being), then William Hill (WIMHY). Back in ’13, the company bought the rights to run a sportsbook (and split profits 50/50) at Monmouth Park (NJ), if ever permitted by law for $1 million. It’s been a long 5 years, but a decision could come down as early as today. Should that happen, WIMHY will be taking bets at Monmouth within weeks. The company also plans to add a 2nd $5 million sportsbook on the premises.

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Reverse Merger Could Take FanDuel Public

FanDuel

FanDuel, Inc. may be going public, but it won’t be through an IPO. The DFS company is in “advanced talks” with Platinum Eagle Acquisition Corp. (EAGLU) to partake in a reverse merger; an expedient and cost effective way for a private company to trade on a public exchange. No details have been released relating to the equity percentage EAGLU would acquire or the valuation FanDuel holds; though, the company calculated its fully diluted value to be $1.2 billion in 2017. One can speculate FanFuel will use the capital infusion to position itself to capitalize on legalized sports betting; the company owns an extensive database of DFS players that it could convert into mainstream sports gamblers.

Howie Long-Short: EAGLU is a special purpose acquisition company, formed by well-respected media execs Jeff Sagansky (Sony, CBS, Scripps Networks Board Member) and Harry Sloan (MGM, SBS Broadcasting, Lionsgate Board Member). The publicly traded company launched in January, having raised $325 million to acquire another business (or businesses). As for FanDuel, they’ve raised +/-$435 million to date; but, none since April ’16. A reverse merger is another way for the company to raise the capital it needs.

Fan Marino: FanDuel won’t be the only DFS company to enter the sports betting space. DraftKings announced last week that it had hired a “Head of Sportsbook”, and DRAFT, owned by Paddy Power Betfair (PDYPY), is also expected to chase a share of the U.S. sports gambling market. Of course, all 3 will have strong competition from established gaming operators like of William Hill (WIMHY), Caesars Entertainment (CZR), MGM Resorts International (MGM), Penn National (PENN), Boyd Gaming (BYD) etc.

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Consolidation Trending in Gaming Industry

Consolidation is trending in the global gaming industry. In the U.K., tighter regulations that could result in dramatic revenue declines for gaming and sportsbook operators are driving the movement. Both Paddy Power Betfair (PDYPY) and William Hill (WIMHY) are exploring potential mergers with CrownBet; though no deal is imminent. In North America, fierce competition between regional companies has crippled profitability growth; as a result, operators are considering potential mergers. Penn National Gaming (PENN) is in discussions with Pinnacle Entertainment (PNK), to form an entity that would control 45 gaming properties within 12 states and Canada; it would not own any real estate on the Las Vegas Strip.

Howie Long-Short: PENN and PNK and are ostensibly already partners; Gaming and Leisure Properties (GLPI), a REIT owned by PENN, owns most of the land where PNK operates its casinos. Creating a larger “network” of casinos would in theory keep regional players from competing properties, but that seems like wishful thinking to me. Legalized sports gambling is a potential $150 billion market. The big players (MGM, CZR) are coming to town armed with megaresorts; how can smaller operators without the resources compete? I should point out that the Australian entertainment group Crown Resorts, owns a 62% stake in CrownBet (OTC: CWLDY).

Fan Marino: After Michael Flynn agreed to cooperate in the Russia investigation, odds of President Trump’s impeachment soared. Betfair was quoted saying, “Trump has hit his shortest price yet to leave office before the end of his term”; the company has impeachment currently sitting at 4/6 (59% probability). Paddy has the odds at 4/7 (63% probability); the company’s Head of Trump Betting (yes, that’s a title) said that prior to news of Flynn’s cooperation, odds sat at 11/10 (47% probability).

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MGM Announces Plans to Open New Jersey’s 1st On-Site Sportsbook at the Borgata Casino

The Supreme Court is going to hear arguments on December 4th surrounding New Jersey’s right to legalize sports gambling and there seems to be a foregone conclusion that the SCOTUS will rule in the state’s favor before the end of June 2018. MGM Resorts International (MGM) seems particularly confident, announcing its intention to become the first casino in the state with an on-site sportsbook. At last week’s Sports Betting USA Conference, Jay Hood, the company’s VP of Race and Sports, said development has begun on a $7 million sportsbook at the Borgata hotel and casino in Atlantic City. But ESPN gaming writer David Purdham isn’t convinced we’re going to see legalized gambling in 2018, placing odds on the high court siding with New Jersey at -$110 (or just 53.5%).

Howie Long-Short: Experts have estimated a legalized sports gambling industry could be worth $150 billion, but Monmouth Park owner Dennis Drazen believes that number to be as high as $400 billion. Either way, Drazen (and William Hill) is prepared to cash in once the Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act of ‘92 is repealed. Back in ’11, when NJ voters approved sports betting legislation, Drazen partnered with William Hill (OTC: WIMHY) on a sportsbook at Monmouth Park. That property, which was turned in to a sports bar, is currently being converted back to its intended use. Drazin said the Monmouth Park sportsbook could open within weeks of a SCOTUS decision.

Fan Marino: Give DraftKings credit for being creative in finding ways to engage fans. The company recently partnered with MSG Networks (MSGN) on a live fantasy show that ran parallel to a Knicks game broadcast and as of Q1 2018, will be airing select Euroleague games within their mobile app; enabling fans to flip between their fantasy contest and a live game broadcast. Unfortunately for those invested in daily fantasy, legalized gambling is set to put the industry out of business. In-game betting is going to replace it.

A Borgata Sportsbook, An NBA Pivot And What Else We Learned From A Week Of Sports Betting Conferences

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