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 (or fashionably late) Sports Handle item, “Get a Grip,” recapping the week’s top US sports betting stories, highlighting some fresh news, and rounding up key stories. Also check out this week’s Wild World of Gambling at US Bets.
Georgia joining ranks?
Peach State lawmakers have been flirting with the legalization of sports gambling for a couple years now, and this week returned to the table with another proposal: the Georgia Lottery Mobile Sports Wagering Integrity Act, which would task the state lottery with licensing and regulating no fewer than six “qualified applicants” to run sportsbooks in the state.
Lawmakers are also discussing the possibility of permitting the construction of a few casinos in the state, which is currently without any casino-hotels. After the legalization conversation began in Georgia and other states — neighboring Tennessee somewhat surprisingly legalized — a coalition formed among pro teams based in Atlanta — the Atlanta Falcons, Atlanta Hawks, Atlanta Braves, and Atlanta United FC — calling themselves the Sports Integrity Alliance. The group wrote about sports betting in the Atlanta Journal-Constitution in Nov. 2019:
“We felt it was important that we formed this alliance so that we could advise the Legislature if they’re going to consider drafting legislation,” Braves president and CEO Derek Schiller said. The coalition’s goal is “ensuring that this activity — that is happening already — gets regulated in the right way and for us, most importantly, that we ensure that the integrity of the sport is preserved.”
In order to possibly circumvent the need for a referendum of voters statewide to approve a new gambling offering, the draft law would define sports betting as a lottery game, and no constitutional amendment would be required.
One interesting element of Georgia’s law is a bit of sports betting licensure reciprocity. The relevant clause reads:
“A person that holds a license or permit to engage in sports wagering issued by another jurisdiction may submit a request to the corporation for a temporary license for such person to immediately commence engagement in this state in the lottery game of sports wagering.”
So, a recognition that it is not necessary or efficient for each state to regulate from scratch. Especially now that most active sportsbook operators in the U.S. are now operating in two or more states, getting fairly well vetted in each.
Sports betting bill filed in Texas
The first of what will likely be multiple sports betting bills was filed in Texas on Thursday. HB 1121 would allow for statewide mobile sports betting with a 6.25% tax on gross gaming revenue and a ban on betting on local college teams. The bill caps the number of available licenses at five, and appears to legalize digital sports wagering only.
Sports betting operators would pay a $250,000 application fee and an annual $200,000 renewal fee. The legal age for sports betting would be 18.
The bill was filed within days of billionaire casino magnate Sheldon Adelson’s death, and a quote about legal Texas sports betting from a lobbyist garnered attention. Adelson reportedly spent $10 million on lobbyists to get the ear of Texas lawmakers.
“Something is going to happen in Texas,” said Bill Pascrell III, a lobbyist with the Princeton Public Affairs Group earlier this week. “It’s complicated because there’s no gaming culture and nothing definitive yet. But the governor is interested and the legislature is interested.”
– Jill R. Dorson
Bill lifting college ban in IL dies in committee
A last-minute bill by Illinois State Rep. Mike Zalewski that would have allowed bettors to wager on events involving in-state colleges and universities did not make it out of the Rules Committee prior to the close of business for the 101st General Assembly, resulting in sine die. Zalewski filed HB 5876 on Jan. 9, when it had a first reading and was referred to the Rules Committee, but the state legislature did not take it any further.
Zalewski has yet to re-file the bill, but it would be a tight timeline to have it take effect prior to the NCAA Tournament in March. The 102nd General Assembly, sworn in Wednesday, has 15 legislative sessions prior to the First Four (March 16), which kicks off college basketball’s March Madness. The state’s flagship school, the University of Illinois, is currently ranked No. 14 in the latest Associated Press Top 25 college basketball poll.
– Chris Altruda
New record monthly betting handle in New Jersey (and nationally)
Another new record — just shy of $1 billion betting handle wagered in December '20, increase over $931M in November '20.
Also a national single-month record again. $929.3 million came via online/mobile.
— Sports Handle (@sports_handle) January 13, 2021
The handle figures as first reported are above, and here is John Brennan’s story exploring the numbers and the revenue further.
The subplot here is that the general reporting of the figures, and for which audiences, and with which figures at the forefront, became a discussion on #GamblingIndustryTwitter this week. Some have charged that the handle is an irrelevant, misleading number, fuzzy math if you will, which may be true, in some part.
Anyhow, respected reporter and frequent lightning rod of controversy David Purdum of ESPN lamented:
Of all the criticism I receive—every bit of it warranted—I never thought “he led a story with how much was bet instead of how much the books won” would be among the most controversial.
— David Payne Purdum (@DavidPurdum) January 14, 2021
Some interesting discussions about handle vs revenue lately. Figured I'd illustrate the conversation a bit. I enjoy looking at the seasonality, but do appreciate more the longer term trends and the stability of hold %. Handle is cool, but revenue keeps the lights on… pic.twitter.com/rSYXfaTkHP
— Alfonso Straffon 🇨🇷🇺🇸🇲🇽 (@astraffon) January 15, 2021
I have nothing new to add for now except one more meme:
New York’s evolution continues
Under Gov. Cuomo’s new proposal, NYS Gaming Commission will issue a request for proposals to select *one or more providers* to offer mobile sports wagering in NY.
— Sports Handle (@sports_handle) January 14, 2021
Earlier in the week, regarding online betting in New York, our Matt Rybaltowski wrote, “While Cuomo established the blueprint for placing mobile sports betting in the state budget, a debate on a single-entity system continues.”
More important, interesting stories this week
— Sen. Karla Bigham (@karlabigham) January 14, 2021
Did something a little different with this weekend's NFL playoff preview for @US_Bets — I sportsbook-shopped all the moneyline parlay combinations. If you're going to be that sucker who believes he can go 4-for-4, at least do so at the best odds offered: https://t.co/lTLVy4q7u5
— Eric Raskin + (@EricRaskin) January 15, 2021
LOSS OF A LEGEND: Vegas entertainer Siegfried dies of cancer [CDCGaming]
ANOTHER ONE: Sheldon Adelson, Las Vegas Sands founder and billionaire gaming magnate, dies at 87 [CDC Gaming]
BAD BEHAVIOR: NJ DGE warns online operators against incentivizing customers to reverse withdrawals, improperly delay them [NJOG]
A lot of talk this week about Director Rebuck of the NJ DGE warning operators not to incentivize people to reverse withdrawals.
It's more of an online casino issue rather than sports betting – but allow me a moment to explain why withdrawal reversal is so predatory: 🧐
— Captain Jack Andrews (@capjack2000) January 15, 2021
STILL NO STATEWIDE MOBILE: Push is on again in Washington State to allow betting at card rooms, not just tribal casinos [Seattle Times]
BRETT FAV-RUH: TwinSpires tabs Brett Favre to headline Michigan iGaming ad campaign [MIBets]
DUOPOLY: With potential hurdles cleared, legal Connecticut sports betting should happen in ’21 [Sports Handle]
FUBOTV: Fubo to acquire ‘Vigtory,’ eyes sportsbook launch in 2021 [US Bets]
GROWIN’ UP: After an active 2020, Bally’s is no longer ‘a small regional gaming company’ [CDC Gaming]
WELCOME: Las Vegas’s popular SuperBook expands into Colorado [CO Bets]
THIRD TIME A CHARM? KY representative trying for sports betting again [Bloodhorse]
BACK ON TRACK: Sports betting is thriving at a Mississippi tribal book [MeridianStar]
ARIZONA NEXT? Governor: tribal pacts done, bring on sports betting [KAWC]