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Volume 27 No. 53
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SBJ Betting: NHL Puts Weight Behind AGA Campaign

Good lawyers and legal scholars warn not to assume much based on what you hear from the justices during a Supreme Court hearing. But, standing on the steps of the court listening to Chris Christie crow that morning three years ago, I was pretty sure some misguided soul soon would be able to bet on the Jets in New Jersey. The only question was the pace at which other states would follow.

Here we are, 18 legalized and operational states later, introducing SBJ Betting, an every-other-Friday newsletter that endeavors to deliver news and insights from that sector. Sportsbooks took more than a projected $2.5 billion in wagers in September, and that was without a single app on devices in California, New York, Texas or Florida.

More on that, and lots more, below.

  

NHL GETS BEHIND AGA RESPONSIBLE BETTING EFFORT 

  • The NHL’s decision to put marketing assets and hockey-themed creative behind the American Gaming Association’s responsible gambling campaign portends a trend likely to extend across U.S. sports as fans return to stadiums and arenas.

  • The AGA launched the campaign softly in D.C. and Las Vegas in March with hopes of garnering support across the leagues, beginning with NASCAR, which was poised to announce its participation just as sports in North America went dark. NASCAR moved on to more pressing matters and the program was shelved, where it remained until last month, when NASCAR rolled out its first PSAs, customized around the “Take a Pit Stop” tagline.

  • Dubbed “Have a Game Plan”, the AGA’s campaign recommends bettors set and stick to budgets, understand odds and risk, view betting as a social activity and bet with regulated U.S. sportsbooks. The NHL will develop hockey-themed in-arena video board spots and announcements around it, as well as digital treatments, all of which will be provided to teams in states in which sports betting is legal. The hope is that they then will use the templates to develop content specific to teams and markets.

  • “The AGA said: 'Use hockey terminology, use hockey imagery, create a connection and something that your fans will be able to relate to,'” said NHL Chief Business Officer Keith Wachtel. “That allows us to do some things that are unique."

  • The AGA made a customizable, plug-and-play template a priority when it created the campaign with agency Sportfive (previously Lagardere Sports), realizing that fans were far more likely to pay attention to a message that came from leagues or teams than from a casino trade group. “The campaign is fully scalable, up or down,” said AGA Senior VP/Strategic Communications Casey Clark. “There are opportunities to make this really applicable to each market, each team, each sport. In that aspect we really achieved what we set out to do, which is to create something versatile.”

  • You can hear more from Wachtel on this and other developments around sports betting on the next episode of the SBJ Unpacks podcast, dropping later this afternoon.

 

BUSY SEPTEMBER SCHEDULE BRINGS RECORD HANDLES

  • Boffo is an apt description of the latest results from sportsbooks in New Jersey, which in September had a second consecutive record-setting month, this time attracting $748.5 million in wagers. That topped August’s $667.9 million, which then was the busiest month ever for any state.

  • It’s not just New Jersey. September brought record handles in Pennsylvania ($462,787,392), Indiana ($207,042,428), Iowa ($72,397,241), West Virginia ($63,468,831), Oregon ($26,174,303), Delaware ($12,439,302) and D.C. ($12,186,041). More records will fall as Illinois and Colorado report in the coming days, putting September on pace to surpass the $2.1 billion wagered at U.S. books in August. I’m making the over/under $2.6 billion.

  • New Jersey differs from other states materially. Most are earlier in their opening of betting, so growth can be attributed to more sportsbooks entering the fray. New Jersey isn’t a mature sports betting market, but it’s farther along than the rest. And it is not just breaking, but obliterating, the numbers it put up pre-COVID. How much of that is a product of the unprecedented wedging of the NBA and NHL bubble-seasons into the August and September calendars? And is it sustainable once schedules return to their traditional cadence?

  • To get a read on the Garden State, we checked in with Harris Blitzer Sports & Entertainment Chief Commercial Officer Adam Davis, whose organization operates the Devils, the first U.S. sports franchise to build out a sportsbook sponsor portfolio in a newly regulated state.

  • “I said from the beginning, we are in the infancy of sports betting, and wait until you see where we are five or 10 years down the road,” Davis said. “What we’re seeing right now is attributed to adoption, but ... there’s still so much more experience and adoption that is coming.” Davis agreed the hefty fall sports calendar and COVID-driven increase of discretionary entertainment dollars as factors, but said he’s still convinced the growth is sustainable.

 

SEPTEMBER SCORECARD FOR ONLINE MARKET SHARE

  • The September scorecard of online market share in states that list handle by individual sportsbooks, culled from state regulator filings, looks like this (by percent, double-digit only):

    • Pennsylvania: FanDuel 41; DraftKings 28; Rush Street 11.
    • West Virginia: FanDuel 75; DraftKings 25.
    • Indiana: DraftKings 52; FanDuel 23
    • Iowa: William Hill 52; DraftKings 20
    • Illinois (August): Rush Street 87; DraftKings 10.

 

 

FANS SAY SPORTSBOOKS AT GAMES WOULD BE ENTICING

  • About twice as many people said a retail sportsbook in an arena or stadium would be an attraction than said it would be a turnoff in a recent survey by sports market research firm Navigate.

  • In the survey of 1,000 people -- about half of whom self-identified as casual or avid fans -- 38% said that an onsite sportsbook would “improve the fan experience”, with 27-29% saying it would make them more likely to attend games and more likely to bet. Millennials were the most bullish on betting, with 51% predicting it would enhance their experience. Those who want to bet say they’d attend 15 games a year, dedicating $78 for wagering each time.

  • Positive attitudes toward betting skewed younger, with support for legalization higher among Millennials (52%) and Gen Z (46%) and lower among Gen X (39%) and Boomers (21%). Almost half of all respondents said they didn’t care either way.

  • Do they realize they probably won’t have to go to a brick-and-mortar sportsbook in order to place a bet? There’s no way to know. But the survey does confirm a general lack of understanding about sports betting among those surveyed. Only 56% were aware that sports betting now is legal in some states. Almost that many said they were unaware it was illegal before. Both those are in line with other consumer studies.

  • So far, only D.C. and Illinois carved out on-premise exclusivity for stadiums and arenas. But teams are pushing hard in some states yet to legalize.

 

SPORTS WAGERING HITS THE BALLOT BOXES

  • Sports betting is on the ballot in Maryland, with voters asked to authorize it to raise money for education. With budgets bleeding, that’s likely to be a compelling proposition. Even more compelling: The fact that D.C. already is taking bets, and sportsbooks in Virginia are expected to open early next year.

  • The initiative is supported by a campaign committee that raised $1.5 million from FanDuel and $1.25 million from DraftKings as of an Oct. 9 report filed with the Maryland Board of Elections. The organization reported spending $1.3 million on ads that have run since September. But the effort still faces a long road, even if it passes. The ballot question does not address who would regulate sports betting, how many sportsbooks the state would license and a host of other issues that likely will take months to resolve, even before regulators get to the process of taking applications from operators.

  • Sportsbook operators also are funding a ballot push in Louisiana, though it would deliver more narrow impacts than the Maryland referendum. Louisiana voters will decide on whether to bring sports betting only to their own parish. While most are expected to approve the measure, it is unlikely to be legal statewide. Support of the measure has $1.25 million in funding from DraftKings, FanDuel, Caesars, Penn National and Boyd Gaming, per Louisiana campaign finance records.

  • Voters in South Dakota also have the chance to approve sports betting, but it would only be legal in Deadwood, an old gold-rush town that features the graves of Wild Bill Hickok and Calamity Jane. There is no mention of expansion beyond that, or the mobile wagering that would attract major operators.

 

 

SPEED READS

  • New Jersey State Sen. Paul Sarlo wants to allow betting on the College Football Playoff, and if voters approve a referendum that could be on the November 2021 ballot, it would clear the way for that to happen. Betting in New Jersey would be allowed on the three CFP games, and on games in other states in which New Jersey teams are playing. The change would only apply to postseason games, with betting on regular-season games still banned.

  • Massachusetts legalizing sports betting in 2020 “appears to be all but dead,” but 2021 could be a different story, per Legal Sports Report. Should sports betting be passed, the American Gaming Association already has reach out to the Massachusetts legislature to back the inclusion of college sports betting.

  • Circa in Las Vegas on Wednesday unveiled what it “claims to be the world’s largest sportsbook.” The stadium-style venue has a 78-million-pixel HD screen, a dedicated broadcast studio and enough room for up to 1,000 bettors. Some around the industry noted the new offering will “put pressure” on other properties to invest in their sportsbooks. Westgate has long held the world’s largest sportsbook title.

  • William Hill passed along these renderings of its sportsbook location planned for Capital One Arena. Accessible from the street, similar to team stores at most arenas, the two-level sportsbook will include a radio/TV studio and a replica of the arena jumbotron. D.C. regulations allow for use of the William Hill mobile app within the arena, but not elsewhere in the district. Plans call for completion early next year.

 

William Hill's sportsbook at Capital One Arena will include a radio/TV studio and replica of the arena jumbotron

 

 

 

 

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Something on the sports betting beat catch your eye? Tell us about it. Reach out to either me (bking@sportsbusinessjournal.com), Richard Bush (rbush@sportsbusinessjournal.com) or Austin Karp (akarp@sportsbusinessjournal.com) and we'll share the best of it. Also contributing to this newsletter is Lucas Smith (lsmith@sportsbusinessdaily.com).