It’s information overload everywhere, and there’s not time enough to sleep and eat and stay fully apprised of what’s happening on this crazy blue dot of ours (two out of three ain’t bad).
Here’s the weekend Sports Handle item, “Get a Grip,” recapping the week’s top stories, and rounding up key stories in sports betting, gaming, and the world of sports at large. You may have missed them, and they are worth reading.
First full PA report shows strong interest
The Eagles in the playoffs likely translated into an unusually high handle for the handful of sportsbooks that are now open in Pennsylvania. According to the Pennsylvania Gaming Control Board’s monthly report for December, state sportsbooks took in $16.1 million in handle and $722,000 in tax revenue. Sportsbooks appear have had a double-digit hold in December, but like many other states, Pennsylvania counts futures bets toward handle and, ultimately, hold, even if the games haven’t been played. In this case, there was likely heavy betting on the NFL Eagles to repeat as NFC or Super Bowl champions, but the Eagles lost to the New Orleans Saints in the Divisional round.
There was no clear leader among the two casinos that were active for only part of the month, as each took roughly the same amount in bets:
Rivers Casino (Pittsburgh): $5.6 million (opened Dec. 13, 2018)
SugarHouse (Philadelphia): $5.3 million (opened Dec. 15, 2018)
Hollywood (Grantville): $5.1 million
The Hollywood Casino at Penn National Racecourse was the first to open back in November, but is the only one of the three not in a major metropolitan area, which may explain why it’s lagging behind. Since the end of December, two other locations have launched sports betting — Parx Casino and South Philadelphia Turf Club, both of which are under the Parx corporate umbrella — and two more, Valley Forge and Presque Isle Downs have applied for sports betting certificates.
December’s report represents sports betting at brick-and-mortar locations only. State regulators have been testing and rolling out sports betting at physical locations only, with the promise of bringing mobile/internet to market in the spring. However, earlier this week, the Department of Justice reversed a 2011 opinion on the Wire Act, which could potentially be a game-changer for Pennsylvania and other states offering, or preparing to offer, mobile sports betting. But the PGCB seemed nonplussed by the decision:
“We must thoroughly review and discuss the opinion to gauge any ramifications to gaming activities in Pennsylvania,” read the PGCB’s official statement. “Meanwhile, as Pennsylvania’s current gaming is all intrastate and legal within the borders of the state, we will continue to regulate the legal forms of gaming as provided for in the Gaming Act.”
Just today, PA Gaming Control Board Executive Director Kevin O’Toole released a memo, informing casinos to “provide [their] plans for complying with the Wire Act, as now interpreted, within the next 30 days,” emphasizing that all gaming operations “must now be entirely intrastate.” This may invariably lead to a delay of the state’s online sports betting industry, but appears to more closely impact other online gambling verticals, like casino and poker, which were previously exempt from the Wire Act.
Mobile sports betting coming to Rhode Island?
As promised Senate President Dominick Ruggerio (D-District 4) on Wednesday introduced a bill that would legalize mobile and internet sports betting in Rhode Island, which was the first — and only, so far — New England state to launch sports betting. The state’s two sportsbooks opened for business within a week of each other late last year. Ruggerio, a big proponent of sports betting, introduced SB 37, which was immediately referred to the Senate Special Legislation and Veterans Affairs Committee.
— Dominick Ruggerio (@SenatorRuggerio) January 16, 2019
The bill would require in-person registration for online/mobile players.
Other key points in the bill:
- Betting on Rhode Island college sports and college sporting events that take place in Rhode Island would be prohibited;
- Names the Rhode Island Lottery, which already regulates physical sportsbooks, as the regulatory body;
- Retains the revenue split already in place for brick-and-mortar sportsbooks — 51 percent to the state, 32 percent to the operator and 17 percent to the “host” facility (i.e. the casino);
- Allows for sports betting 24 hours a day.
Representative wants to limit Kansas venues
Representative Stan Frownfelter (D-District 37) has filed a bill that would limit sports betting locations in the state to horse racetracks only. HB 2032, which was filed on Jan. 15, is four paragraphs long and doesn’t address taxes, application fees, or provide any sort of framework for sports betting in Kansas. The meat of the bill reads: sports betting shall be “conducted solely on the premises of a racetrack gaming facility and shall be managed and operated by one or more racetrack gaming facility managers.”
Kansas lawmakers avidly — and contentiously — discussed sports betting in December when Ohio Senator Bill Coley spoke before a special committee that was considering sports betting. The committee canceled the second day of its meeting and did not make a recommendation about whether or not state lawmakers should actively pursue sports betting legislation.
Sports Handle’s analysis of bills filed this week
FAKE NEWS?: Confused media spread misinformation about the latest DOJ opinion [US Bets]
MAKING IT OFFICIAL: Here’s the letter from the DOJ, reversing its previous opinion on the Wire Act. [DOJ]
GUILTY: A Massachusetts man pleads guilty in federal court to running an illegal sports betting ring. [MassLive]
MAINE GETTING IN THE GAME: Lawmakers in the ninth smallest state by population have filed sports betting bills. [PressHerald]
WHAT A MESS: Three powerful Connecticut lawmakers don’t agree on what sports betting should look like. [CTPost]
SETTLED?: William Hill dropped its lawsuit against FanDuel, in which it accused FD of stealing from its “How to Bet Guide.” [NJ Online Gambling]
ALL IN: Television networks are starting to embrace sports betting. [LosAngelesTimes]
AHEAD OF THE CURVE: William Hill US has partnered with an Iowa casino to operate sports betting, should it be legalized there. [WilliamHillUS]
In the wider world of sports
RANKING NFL’s FINAL FOUR QBS: Spoiler alter: Tom Brady isn’t No. 1 in this ranking [SBNation]
LEGENDS OF THE PLAYOFFS: Ex-NFL players share their first-person stories of some of the memorable moments in playoff history. [NFL.com]
NERVOUS NELLIE? Yep, even Bill Belichick gets anxious before games. [BostonHerald]
HOOPS HEATING UP: A look at the biggest college basketball games of the weekend, including Duke-Virginia matchup [ESPN]
SEE YA: With the NBA trade deadline approaching, a look at players who could be on the move. [SI]
CURIOUS CASE OF SOCCER SPYING: It was small-time and entertaining, but the English football is up in arms. [WSJ]