Online Sports Betting: CO Set to Launch, Uncertainty in NY, NFL Draft Success
Following the conclusion last week's NFL Draft, the sports calendar is once again bereft of marquee events. It looks to remain that way for the foreseeable future as both health professionals and government officials continue to take measures that combat the coronavirus pandemic.
In the short term, major professional sports leagues such as the NBA, NHL and MLB continue to weigh possible paths back to action, but major roadblocks such as player compensation, scheduling, facilities usage, and travel logistics continue to persist amid health and safety concerns.
From a legal sports betting perspective, the dearth of events has led to an obvious dearth of wagering options offered by sportsbooks, but that doesn't mean the industry has come to a complete standstill. In fact, the legal sports betting landscape continues to evolve even in these most unusual times. Such evolution provides us with plenty of news to catch up on, so let's do it.
Colorado online sports betting is going live as originally planned. The reality is that major sports leagues remain largely shuttered, but state lawmakers and gaming regulators are proceeding with the initial May 1 launch date.
In time, as many as 17 different online sportsbook operators will emerge in what is expected to be a wildly competitive Colorado sports betting market, but only four sportsbooks--DraftKings Sportsbook, FanDuel Sportsbook, BetRivers and MGM-backed ROAR Digital will be there from the start.
There's no sugarcoating that the Colorado rollout isn't exactly what anyone had envisioned in the days following the state's November passing of legal sports betting. The Kentucky Derby, NBA Playoffs, NHL Playoffs, and MLB regular season action would have provided bettors with several online and retail wagering options, but instead they will be greeted with a greatly reduced menu.
Colorado casinos, which will house a handful of retail sportsbook locations, remain closed as the state continues to implement stay-at-home orders. Bettors will, however, be able to immediately register online (which, truthfully, is expected to drive the state's sports betting industry) and wager on niche sports such as darts and table tennis until normal action eventually resumes.
The wildcard in Colorado is Esports. There has been an expected dramatic surge in competitive video game wagering in places it is permitted in recent weeks. Though ESports has yet to fully go mainstream, Americans are demonstrating an increasing appetite for both watching and wagering on the product.
NFL Draft Does Big Numbers
Despite weeks of angst and complaining from NFL general managers and front office execs about potential technical complications, the 2020 NFL Draft was an overwhelming success. The three-day event, which saw a substantial year-over-year jump in viewership, went off with only a minor hiccup or two, while bringing sports fans a much needed taste of normalcy.
The virtual draft also was a success for legal online sportsbooks that were able to offer action on it. While last year's draft produced only a lukewarm betting response, the total handle rivaled that of a NFL primetime or playoff contest at several popular sportsbooks across New Jersey and Indiana.
Unfortunately for Pennsylvania bettors and sportsbook operators, they were left out in the cold as state regulators failed to permit action in the state.
New York Online Sports Betting Update
The future of online sports betting in New York remains unclear. There was growing optimism from key NY lawmakers earlier this year that online sports betting could make its way into the state's fiscal budget that was due on April 1, but the coronavirus pandemic all but ended hopes of its inclusion.
And so the wait continues.
Despite Governor Andrew Cuomo's prior on-record opposition to legal online sports betting, several industry experts view its approval as just a matter of time.
New York State Sen. Joseph Abbaddo, who has been at the forefront of the charge to bring online sports betting to his state, remains hopeful that day will be sooner rather than later. With New York facing more than a $7 billion budget deficit and growing economic hardship in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, the state could look to alternative revenue streams to alleviate some of the pressure.
Neighboring New Jersey, which has permitted legal online sports betting since the summer of 2018, continues to generate massive tax revenue. The state recorded over $240 million in sports betting revenue last year, which is more than $230 million generated by New York. Exacerbating the issue is that a sizable portion of that revenue was undoubtedly generated by New York City residents who crossed state lines to place legal wagers.
In a best-case scenario, it would take roughly six months from the date of approval for online platforms to go live. A late 2020 rollout remains highly unlikely with hopes more realistically directed at an early 2021 launch.