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Home > News > The US iGaming Report January – March 2024

The US iGaming Report January – March 2024

Publish Date:April 30, 2024
Fact checked by: Chris A
The US iGaming Report January - March 2024

The US iGaming Report January – March 2024

Welcome to Gambla.com, your ultimate destination for all things gambling-related. In our quest to keep you informed and up-to-date, we’re thrilled to present our latest feature: The US iGaming Report.

As the gambling landscape evolves, particularly in the United States, staying abreast of the latest trends, regulations, and innovations is crucial for both industry insiders and enthusiasts alike. With our finger on the pulse of the igaming industry, we’ve meticulously curated this report to bring you the most pertinent insights and developments from across the nation.

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The Dawn of Online Sports Betting Expansion in North Carolina

In January, North Carolina made history by launching online sports betting, becoming the latest state to enter the burgeoning market. The debut of Underdog Sportsbook and ESPN Bet marked a significant milestone, challenging established industry leaders like FanDuel and DraftKings. Projections suggest North Carolina could achieve a remarkable $6 billion handle in its inaugural year, positioning it among the top 10 markets nationwide.

However, as of February, no other state is close to passing similar legislation, leaving sportsbooks to focus on enhancing their products and customer retention strategies. Despite initial setbacks, North Carolina’s online sports betting launch remained on track for March 11, with regulators diligently preparing for the milestone.

This development places added pressure on newcomers like ESPN Bet, Fanatics Sportsbook, and Underdog to deliver successful launches and carve out their share in the competitive landscape. Penn Entertainment, the parent company of ESPN Bet, aims for significant market share growth, setting ambitious targets amidst a dynamic and evolving industry landscape.

The Established Sportsbook Sports Illustrated Exits the US Market

Sports Illustrated, once the epitome of journalistic excellence in its field, represented an untarnished brand that echoed throughout the industry. Today, the magazine is merely a shadow of its former glory. This was underscored last week when it withdrew from the US sports betting market after an unremarkable stint as 888’s face in the United States.

London-based gambling giant 888 will compensate SI’s parent company with $50 million over the next five years to end the partnership ahead of schedule. This collaboration yielded a negligible share of the market in the states where it was active.

“In the US, the intensity of competition and requirement for scale means huge investment is required to reach profitability,” said 888 CEO Per Widerström. “Our partnership with Authentic has consistently driven strong demand for the SI brand across both consumer experiences and product offerings.”

“A series of record-breaking months for SI Casino has underscored the strength of the SI brand. However, despite these successes, we have concluded that achieving sufficient scale in the US market to generate positive returns within an accelerated timeframe is unlikely.”

SI is hardly the only entity in the industry’s graveyard. MaximBet and Fubo Sportsbook have both closed down. Penn Entertainment incurred a significant loss to exit its Barstool agreement, while PointsBet divested its US assets to Fanatics at a fraction of its investment value. The US market is proving to be a tough nut to crack without a unique blend of cutting-edge technology, a robust player database, and strong brand recognition.

The decline of Sports Illustrated’s presence in the US sports betting market reflects the challenges faced by traditional media brands venturing into the dynamic world of online gambling. Despite its storied history and brand recognition, SI struggled to carve out a significant share in an increasingly crowded and competitive landscape.As the sports betting market continues to evolve, we can expect to see more casualties among companies unable to adapt to the industry’s demands. Success will hinge on a combination of technological innovation, effective marketing strategies, and the ability to provide unique and engaging experiences for users. Only those able to navigate these challenges successfully will thrive in the long term.

Challenges and Slow Progress of Online Casino Legislation in the US

The rapid pace at which states adopted sports betting legislation after the 2018 PASPA repeal took even the most skeptical onlookers by surprise. Yet, online casinos continue to face challenging odds in gaining acceptance from state legislatures nationwide. A case in point this year is Maryland, where debates over an online gaming bill seem to relegate it to a lower priority.

Recent deliberations have been hindered primarily by concerns regarding diversity and inclusion, slowing progress in the committee. Additionally, local casinos have presented significant opposition, with numerous union workers testifying that online gaming poses a threat to their employment at physical casino locations.

Currently, only seven states offer some version of online gaming.

  • Connecticut
  •  Delaware
  •  Michigan
  • Nevada (poker only)
  • New Jersey
  •  Pennsylvania
  • West Virginia

This number significantly falls short when compared to the 30 states that permit some form of online sports betting. This disparity highlights the numerous obstacles to passing gambling legislation, including direct challenges and indirect issues like competing political interests in Georgia and filibustering senators in Missouri. Meanwhile, New York is making efforts to legalize online casinos by 2024, though the prospects for success are slim.

As we navigate into the sixth year of the expansive legal US sports betting market, referencing specific time frames seems inadequate due to the limited scope of such snapshots.

However, recent developments indicate a potential onset of a significant phase of mergers and acquisitions (M&A) following a reflective period for numerous operators during 2022 and 2023.

Consider the recent events of the past few weeks:

  • Caesars Entertainment expands its online gaming footprint by purchasing WynnBet’s operations in Michigan.
  • DraftKings acquires the leading online lottery provider, Jackpocket, in a $750 million deal.
  • FanDuel secures BeyondPlay to enhance its iGaming portfolio, signaling a strategic expansion.

Recently, the competitive landscape has intensified with Fanatics acquiring PointsBet’s US operations and BetMGM integrating Angstrom to enhance in-play sports betting capabilities. These strategic moves by market leaders in the United States aim to leverage their progress toward profitability. They’re positioning themselves for the next phase in the ongoing battle for dominance in the American market.

The trajectories of FanDuel and DraftKings diverge significantly as they continue to lead the US sports betting market. Their recent strategies indicate a deeper exploration into the uncertain future of iGaming. While the adoption of online casino legislation at the state level presents a more formidable challenge compared to the swift embrace of sports betting, the attractive profit margins from iGaming in the few states where it’s operational justify this strategic foresight.

A few states, including New York and Illinois, are tentatively exploring iGaming legislation for 2024. However, no bill at the state level currently shows significant momentum toward enactment.

Innovation and Collaboration in California’s Gaming Future

The 2022 election served as a stark reminder of the complexities inherent in California’s gaming market, particularly to those observing from the outside. A ballot initiative that sought to legalize commercial online sports betting faced stiff opposition from the state’s influential gaming tribes, who were against the measure and proposed an alternative of their own.

Both proposals were decisively defeated at the polls, with neither receiving more than 18% approval. This outcome delivered a clear message to proponents: success in California’s gaming market requires collaboration with the tribal communities.

This context made it particularly noteworthy when, at a California tribal gaming conference this week, FanDuel President Christian Genetski appeared on a panel alongside tribal leaders, including James Siva, Chairman of the California Nations Indian Gaming Association. This unusual alignment of commercial and tribal gaming interests underscored the evolving dynamics within California’s gaming scene.

“When I reflect on 2022, I think if I’m being a little charitable, it was what I would describe as a well-intentioned but uninformed and misguided attempt. It was definitely a spectacular failure from our perspective, but that’s OK. It wasn’t the time and it wasn’t the right way, and we understand that. … I’m happy to sit here today and be the butt of some hopefully friendly jokes and have the opportunity to speak transparently about at least where FanDuel is on these issues.”

Genetski acknowledged the necessity of rebuilding trust with tribal leaders, a process that will require time. Earlier in the year, commercial sportsbooks made significant strides toward this goal by publicly opposing a contentious 2024 sports betting ballot initiative, which its advocates eventually withdrew.

Tribal leaders have consistently stated that any introduction of legal sports betting in California would likely start with in-person wagering at their venues. This suggests a gradual approach toward any potential online betting options, indicating that California may not see such developments for at least two years, possibly longer. Moreover, this phased introduction is likely to position major sportsbooks like FanDuel and DraftKings in more auxiliary roles within the market, rather than as leading platform providers.

The collaboration between commercial entities like FanDuel and tribal leaders in California’s gaming industry reflects a promising shift toward mutual understanding and cooperation. This acknowledgment of past missteps and the willingness to work together bodes well for the future of gaming in the state, paving the way for innovative solutions that benefit all stakeholders.The evolving dynamics in California’s gaming scene suggest that future developments will prioritize inclusivity and collaboration between commercial operators and tribal communities. While online sports betting may take time to materialize due to the phased approach favored by tribal leaders, this period of dialogue and partnership will lay the foundation for a thriving and diverse gaming landscape in the years to come.

What about the rest of the sportsbooks?

In 2023, the US sports betting market experienced some contraction, with indications that this trend may continue. If not in 2024, then likely in the subsequent years, we can expect further exits from the market or closures of particular sportsbooks, given the current trajectory.

  • Numerous sportsbooks and exchanges are still vying for a small slice of market share, facing steep competition. The challenge of finding growth is intensifying, especially with FanDuel and DraftKings solidifying their positions and intensified rivalry from Penn/ESPN, Fanatics, and Bet365.
  • Betr, despite being a high-profile and well-funded newcomer, has failed to meet expectations. Having launched in two states, it has yet to make significant progress in either. Instead, it appears focused on expanding its daily fantasy sports service, which offers an easier entry point into a market resembling gambling.

Will There be an Expansion of the Gambling Market in 2024?

With every new year, the industry buzzes with anticipation over potential growth opportunities in sports betting and online casinos. However, this year, that excitement has been tempered by a variety of factors.

  • New York’s online casino outlook suffered a setback when Governor Kathy Hochul excluded their revenue from her budget proposal. However, a prominent lawmaker remains hopeful despite challenges.
  • Currently, Maryland stands as the state most likely to pass relevant legislation.
  • Sports betting will not emerge in California and Texas by 2024.
  • The prospect of expanding beyond Florida’s Hard Rock sportsbook monopoly appears slim.
  • Due to the rapid adoption rate over the past five years, only a few states have a real possibility of legalizing sports betting. While a small number may have the potential to legalize it this year, it’s possible that no additional states will enact legislation.
  • Hopes for significant progress in online casino legalization this year have diminished, with only one state appearing to be a promising candidate.

The situation isn’t entirely bleak; North Carolina has already passed legislation for online sports betting, with a launch anticipated sometime this year. This year presents another chance to lay the groundwork. As opportunities to legalize sports betting dwindle, the industry’s focus and lobbying efforts are pivoting towards online casinos as the next big opportunity. The success stories of revenue and growth from New Jersey, Pennsylvania, and Michigan make a strong case for this shift.

However, the path to legalizing online casinos won’t be as straightforward as it was for sports betting, despite a few states having already embraced it. The journey towards broader acceptance and adoption is just beginning to gain momentum.

The cautious outlook for the expansion of the gambling market in 2024 reflects the nuanced challenges and shifting priorities within the industry. While the anticipation for growth opportunities persists, recent setbacks and legislative hurdles serve as sobering reminders of the complexities involved. However, amidst these challenges, there remains a sense of resilience and adaptability as stakeholders navigate the evolving landscape.

The year 2024 may witness incremental progress rather than significant expansion in the gambling market. While some states like Maryland show promise for passing relevant legislation, the overall momentum for legalization, particularly in sports betting and online casinos, may be subdued. However, North Carolina’s anticipated launch of online sports betting signals a notable development, hinting at potential opportunities for laying the groundwork in other states. As the industry shifts its focus towards online casinos, lobbying efforts and strategic initiatives will likely intensify, setting the stage for future growth beyond 2024.

What’s next for daily fantasy sports?

Prior to 2023, the emerging sector of daily fantasy sports was rapidly accelerating, and it may still be on the path of progress. However, for the first time, the industry began to face significant challenges.

This niche within the broader industry capitalizes on the concept of allowing users to engage in parlays against the house, based on the statistical performances of players. This is all under the umbrella of game of skill and fantasy sports legislation nationwide. Operators in this realm have witnessed exponential growth, particularly due to the influx of new DFS (Daily Fantasy Sports) companies catering to states that haven’t legalized sports betting. Notably, this includes the three largest states in the country: California, Texas (where sports betting is not legal), and Florida (where the Hard Rock’s monopoly was only recently reinstated late the previous year).

However, the swift ascent of this nascent industry has attracted the scrutiny of state regulators and law enforcement. For instance, available data suggests that PrizePicks may surpass DraftKings and FanDuel in the DFS domain due to its more dynamic fantasy offerings, despite neither of the sports betting giants offering DFS parlays against the house.

Regulatory scrutiny is intensifying, notably in Florida, where authorities issued cease and desist letters. However, no operators have withdrawn, and in California, where the attorney general has been called upon to examine the industry. Furthermore, Florida’s legislators are poised to debate new laws aimed at regulating the sector, which may include clear definitions of parlays versus house bets as forms of sports betting.

The outcome of these regulatory challenges will play a critical role in determining the industry’s long-term survival. Should operators be forced to exit markets like California and/or Florida, it’s difficult to envision a scenario where anyone but the largest companies manage to stay afloat. Moreover, continued setbacks could raise concerns over whether processing payments for the industry becomes more problematic.

Amidst this backdrop of regulatory uncertainty, especially concerning the future of open sports betting markets in states like California, Texas, and Florida, companies like DraftKings and FanDuel are not ready to concede these lucrative markets to competitors like PrizePicks. DraftKings, for instance, has introduced its “Pick 6” offering, a peer-to-peer pick’em game, hoping it finds the perfect balance between legality and user engagement.

What happens around responsible and problem gambling?

Last year, the expansion of sports betting, becoming increasingly prevalent, attracted significant negative media attention. Concerns escalated as more people reached out to gambling hotlines, sparking intense discussions on how the sports betting industry could enhance its support for individuals before and after encountering problems with sports gambling. Efforts to regulate marketing strategies that proved too effective were mixed; some attempts were strategic, while others lacked finesse.

However, a unified strategy that garnered consensus among all stakeholders remained elusive. The responses were largely ad hoc, aimed at tackling emerging issues and concerns without a comprehensive plan.

As 2024 begins, the industry still lacks a clear direction for the future. There’s no definitive strategy that has achieved the collective agreement of operators, responsible gambling advocates, policymakers, regulators, and other key players in the sports betting ecosystem, leaving the path forward uncertain.

A potential initial measure could be a Congressional bill reallocating hundreds of millions of dollars from federal excise tax revenues to state-level resources dedicated to addressing problem gambling while also supporting nationwide research on sports betting. States have not allocated sufficient funds to mitigate the social repercussions of widespread gambling, including, but not limited to, sports betting.

The American Gaming Association opposes this bill, advocating instead for the complete abolition of the excise tax. This tax is a remnant of past federal regulations that inadvertently affected the expansion of sports betting. The likelihood of passing a federal bill remains uncertain. It is expected to encounter significant resistance, particularly in an election year where little progress is made on any policy issues in the nation’s capital.

Nevertheless, we should anticipate developments toward more effective solutions for responsible and problem gambling in the coming year and beyond. It is my belief that all involved parties are eager to identify and implement workable solutions before the issues intensify.

The ongoing discussions surrounding responsible gambling in the sports betting industry underscore the importance of addressing societal concerns alongside market expansion. While negative media attention has brought these issues to the forefront, the lack of a unified strategy highlights the complexity of finding consensus among diverse stakeholders. As we embark on 2024, there’s a shared recognition of the need for proactive measures to support individuals affected by problem gambling. It’s imperative for the industry to prioritize responsible gambling initiatives and collaborate toward sustainable solutions.In the coming year and beyond, we can expect heightened efforts toward addressing responsible gambling concerns within the sports betting industry. While the lack of consensus on a unified strategy may persist, there will likely be incremental steps toward implementing effective measures at both state and federal levels. Despite potential challenges, there’s a growing acknowledgment of the need for adequate funding and research to mitigate the social repercussions of widespread gambling. With stakeholders across the board expressing eagerness to find workable solutions, there’s optimism for progress in this critical area.

Conclusion

In conclusion, the first quarter of 2024 has been a pivotal time for the sports betting industry. We have seen significant developments in both the market expansion and regulatory challenges facing operators like DraftKings and FanDuel. While these companies continue to dominate with their dynamic fantasy offerings, they also face increasing scrutiny from regulators in states like Florida and California.

One critical issue that has come to the forefront is responsible and problem gambling, as the expansion of sports betting continues to attract negative media attention. While there have been efforts to address these concerns, a unified strategy remains elusive. However, it’s encouraging to see stakeholders coming together to prioritize this issue and work towards sustainable solutions.

Looking ahead, we can expect continued developments in both market expansion and regulatory challenges, as well as increased efforts towards responsible gambling initiatives. As the industry faces new hurdles and opportunities in the coming year and beyond, it will be essential to strike a balance between growth and responsibility to ensure long-term success. With that said, the future of sports betting remains uncertain, but there is optimism for progress and collaboration among all involved parties. So stay tuned for more updates and developments in the exciting world of sports betting. Until then, let’s continue to closely monitor the evolving landscape and its impact on the industry. Together, we can navigate these challenges and seize the opportunities that lie ahead.

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