The first ever Sports Betting USA conference was recently held in New York City over the course of 2 days. The event aimed to provide a talking ground for analysts, insiders, experts and people to learn more about the domestic sports betting market, including what is to come. There were several key points to take away from the conference.
One of the biggest news items came with MGM Resorts International announcing they are going to build a sportsbook in their New Jersey property, Borgata. Technically, sports betting is not considered legal yet in New Jersey, but an ongoing Supreme Court case could change that very soon. MGM is looking to gain an advantage on the market by bringing a brick-and-mortar sportsbook to one of the first states logistically able to host it. The sportsbook would cost roughly $7 million, which is a small sum for a company of MGM’s size. They also announced contingency plans for if sports betting is not legalized. If this were the case, the location would likely be turned into a sports bar or fantasy sports lounge area. The Borgata location is a great startup for NJ sports betting because it is already Atlantic City’s leading casino.
Another significant piece of news came with the NBA announcing it would actively lobby Congress to regulate sports betting. This is a contradiction from last year when the league said while they support betting regulation, they would not lobby for it. Now, the NBA has come out on record and said it will do whatever it takes to push sports gambling legalization through. NBA VP and Assistant General Counsel Dan Spillane said the league has representatives in DC working on some new legislation towards that end.
Ted Leonsis, owner of the NBA’s Washington Wizards, said we are naïve not to have a regulatory handle on this market. He says there are millions of people betting anyway, so states should be able to enter into the market on their own accord. Bettors can already use USA online sportsbooks (what Leonsis was alluding to) that offer betting lines on the NBA, NFL, NHL, MLB and NCAA. There are multiple online sportsbooks to choose from and provide the only legal means for US residents to bet on sports outside of Las Vegas.
One speaker, Stephen Master of Nielsen, brought up an interesting point at the conference. To the argument of whether sports betting would drive up ratings, Master reported that while the average NFL fan watches around 16 games per year, a bettor watches 38. It is no surprise that people would be more invested in games if they had money riding on them. For leagues dealing with low television ratings (NFL…), legal sports betting could provide the spark needed to reinvigorate fans.
Of course, nothing can happen unless New Jersey wins their case in the Supreme Court. If this happens, the federal ban on sports betting known as the Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act (PASPA), would likely be repealed. If this happens, the dominos will begin falling into place. Borgata will get its sportsbook, more states will authorize sportsbooks, ratings will go up and so on.
Hopefully by the time the second Sports Betting USA conference comes around, the US sports gambling landscape will be entirely different. If things keep progressing at the rate they currently are, it looks to be that way. For now, bettors can rely on licensed offshore sportsbooks for all their betting needs.