This has been a historic year for legal sports betting in the United States as the long-awaited Supreme Court decision in Murphy v NCAA erased a 26-year-long federal ban on full-fledged sports wagering outside Nevada.
A whole heck of a lot has happened in the first half of 2018 and there’s sure to be scores of dominoes yet to fall.
Now that we’re halfway through ’18, let’s take stock of the key developments that have already occurred. This is not meant to be completely comprehensive, just a quick look at most of the many highlights.
Legal Sports Betting in the US in the First Half of 2018: Sportsbooks and States and So Much Happening in Just 6 Months
January 5: Scientific Games completes its acquisition of NYX. “NYX ideally positions us to capitalize on the growing online gaming and online sports betting markets,” said Kevin Sheehan, Scientific Games’ president and chief executive officer.
January 9: The first piece of U.S. legislation containing the phrase “integrity fee” emerges in House Bill 1325 in Indiana, introduced by Representative Alan Morrison. The bill didn’t advance past the committee stage.
January 24: NBA Executive Vice President and Assistant General Counsel Dan Spillane testifies at a hearing on sports betting before a New York State senate committee. “We believe it is reasonable for operators to pay each league 1 percent of the total amount bet on its games,” he said.
February 4: With Nick Foles under center and the guts to call the play “Philly Special,” the Eagles upset the New England Patriots 41-33 in Super Bowl LII. Many Las Vegas bookmakers took a beating due with the 4.5-point underdog Eagles taking a lot of action, plus a ton of player and scoring props going over.
“We don’t usually lose Super Bowls,” Wynn Las Vegas sportsbook director Johnny Avello said. “Once in a while. The last couple have been tough. Maybe the Patriots won’t be there next year.”
February 17 : At the NBA All-Star weekend, Commissioner Adam Silver was asked a question about sports betting and the so-called integrity fee. “This notion that as the intellectual property creators that we should receive a 1 percent fee seems very fair to me,” Silver says of levying a fee on potential operators. “Call it an integrity fee, call it a royalty to the league.”
March 2: West Virginia passes the first new law of 2018 to legalize sports wagering.
March 3 through remainder of first half of 2018: Hearings and studies on sports wagering occurred in numerous states, including Connecticut, Illinois, Kansas, Maryland, Massachusetts, Missouri, Rhode Island and others.
March 30: Shareholders of Pinnacle Entertainment approve a merger with Penn National Gaming. Pinnacle owns 16 casinos in nine states, many of them likely to have the ability to offer sports betting by the end of 2020.
[Also See: Odds Shift in Race for Operator Dominance in Legal U.S. Sports Betting Market]
April 2: At a hearing in Connecticut, the leagues appear to officially lower the bar for their ask from 1 percent to 0.25 percent. “This fee is lower than we originally asked for,” says Morgan Sword, Senior Vice President of League Economics and Operations at Major League Baseball. “In the spirit of compromise, we are willing to accept a 0.25% fee.”
April 4: The PGA Tour publicly aligns itself with the NBA and MLB on sports betting regulation.
April 19: ESPN Chalk reports that MLB and the NBA begin looking to end their respective ownership stakes in DraftKings and FanDuel, in a move believed to be tied to their desire to not have a direct hand in the bookmaking side of sports betting.
April 24: The National Indian Gaming Association (NIGA) adopts a resolution in support of legalized sports wagering — under certain circumstances and rules.
April 24: Former Mets and Yankees pitcher Al Leiter and and former Celtics forward Cedric Maxwell appear in Connecticut capital Hartford, to lobby lawmakers for sports betting legislation favorable to the financial interests of their respective former leagues.
May 4: The NHL Vegas Golden Knights just keep on winning and threaten to put a large dent into Las Vegas sportsbooks.
Now the Big Daddy:
May 14: The United States Supreme Court issues its decision in Murphy v NCAA, ruling 7-2 on states rights principles that the Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act is unconstitutional. Justice Samuel Alito writes for the majority:
The legalization of sports gambling requires an important policy choice, but the choice is not ours to make. Congress can regulate sports gambling 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.
May 14: Utah Senator Orrin Hatch — one of PASPA’s co-authors — announces his intention to introduce a bill regulating sports wagering. “We need to ensure there are some federal standards in place to ensure that state regulatory frameworks aren’t a race to the bottom,” his office says in a statement.
May 14: No longer an open secret, DraftKings announces its intention to move into the sports betting market.
“Our mission has always been to bring fans closer to the sports they love, and now, thanks to the wisdom of the Supreme Court, DraftKings will be able to harness our proven technology to provide our customers with innovative online sports betting products,” says Jason Robins, CEO and co-founder of DraftKings. “This ruling gives us the ability to further diversify our product offerings and build on our unique capacity to drive fan engagement.”
May 16: Churchill Downs and Golden Nugget Atlantic City forge a partnership to offer legal sports betting and online gaming markets.
May 18: NIGA says in a statement that “Each Tribal Nation must determine for themselves what the risks and benefits are and decide accordingly. NIGA will continue to serve as an information gathering and information sharing resource for our Member Tribes.”
[Also See: The Indian Gaming Regulatory Act (IGRA) and Sports Betting]
May 21: The NFL announces its “core principles” for sports wagering, which made no mention of a fee or royalty, signaling a public break in strategy for monetization of sports wagering. There are rumors that the NFL is pursuing a strategy through Congress, for a new bill with not-yet-known concessions, or possibly carving a pathway through modification of the Wire Act.
May 22: DraftKings erects this billboard in New Jersey:
first look: DraftKings wasted no time after SCOTUS ruling in getting billboards up in New Jersey advertising forthcoming sportsbook.
billboards on highway and at train stations say: “WHY SHOULD VEGAS HAVE ALL THE FUN?” and “LEGAL SPORTS BETTING IN JERSEY? YOU BET” pic.twitter.com/vHmxdwWgPJ
— Daniel Roberts (@readDanwrite) May 22, 2018
May 23: Paddy Power Betfair announces its acquisition of FanDuel.
May 23: States push to keep federal regulation out of sports betting.
May 25: The New Jersey Thoroughbred Horsemen’s Association sues the sports leagues for $139 million for acting in bad faith in blocking the racetrack from offering sports betting in 2014.
May 29: MGM Resorts International makes a bet in New York with the purchase of Empire City Casino and Yonkers Raceway.
May 30: By now, all of the leagues have released statements and intentions regarding sports betting.
June 5: The post-PASPA sports betting era begins in Delaware — the first state to offer full-fledged wagering outside Nevada. Three state-licensed operators draw a combined $322,135 in bets on Day 1. Governor Jay Carney’s $10 bet on the Phillies — the first in the state — is a winner.
June 7: New Jersey’s legislature unanimously passes its bill to legalize sports wagering in the Garden State. Governor Phil Murphy signs it into law on June 11.
June 8: Paddy Power Betfair lands a pair of deals to become the sports betting operator for online, mobile and retail sports betting for Meadowlands Racetrack in New Jersey and and Tioga Downs in New York.
June 12: Mississippi’s Band of Choctaw Indians announce their intention to move forward with sports betting in time for football season, possibly making it the first tribe to do so.
June 14: New Jersey sports betting begins at Monmouth Park in Oceanport, and shortly after at The Borgata in Atlantic City.
A lot more action and poeple in the @WilliamHillUS sports bar at @MonmouthPark.
For a day with only baseball and golf and World Cup, this is quite a crowd. pic.twitter.com/jIN0xMr55H
— Sports Handle (@sports_handle) June 14, 2018
Dr. J made the first ever sports bet at Borgata today and we think you'll like his wager.https://t.co/Rb6Y41xY7L
— NBC Sports Philadelphia (@NBCSPhilly) June 14, 2018
June 15: Pirates president Frank Coonelly tells the Pennsylvania Gaming Control Board (PGCB) in a letter that “revenue collected from sports wagering should be allocated to the maintenance and upkeep of PNC Park…”
June 15: The NFL submits a letter to the PGCB in which it agrees with every casino operator that the state’s mammoth licensure fee ($10 million) and tax rate on revenue (36 percent) is prohibitively high and will keep people in the black market.
June 16: DraftKings and Resorts Casino in Atlantic City announce they will partner up for sports betting.
June 19: ESPN learns that the House Judiciary Committee will hold a hearing on sports betting on or about June 29, when the NFL would testify. It is later postponed.
June 20: New York State’s legislative session closes with a dud. No sports betting bill gets passed.
June 21: The West Virginia Lottery Commission sets forth its sports betting regulations, and expects that operators will be ready to go by Sept. 1 at the latest.
June 21: Mississippi, which previously legalized sports betting, rolls out its regulations and believes its casinos will be ready to go by football season.
June 22: Rhode Island legalizes sports wagering. Per the law, the state will get a whopping 51 percent cut.
June 26: FanDuel scores a deal to manage sports betting operations at the The Greenbrier Resort in West Virginia.
June 29: USA Today reports that the NCAA won’t seek an “integrity fee” or royalty from sports betting. It also tells its member schools regarding sports betting that “they will need to look at their own values and decide” how to proceed.