IGA Tradeshow: Sports betting thrives as igaming lags despite its potential

April 11, 2024 4:35 PM
Photo: CDC Gaming Reports
  • Rege Behe, CDC Gaming Reports
April 11, 2024 4:35 PM
  • Rege Behe, CDC Gaming Reports

What’s the state of sports betting nearly six years after the repeal of the Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act?

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According to Joe Asher, IGT president of sports betting, it’s “gone pretty well,” despite issues concerning the Los Angeles Dodger superstar Shohei Ohtani and Toronto Raptors reserve Jontay Porter.

“Some integrity-type issues have come to the fore,” Asher said during Wednesday’s “C-Level Summit Roundtable: CEOs, Leaders, Legends: The Team at the Top” at the Indian Gaming Association Tradeshow & Convention in Anaheim. “But it’s a separate discussion. Broadly, billions of dollars of tax revenue are being generated and tens of thousands of people are working in the industry. Clearly, the public thinks it’s something very positive.”

Sun Gaming & Hospitality CEO Bobby Soper agreed with Asher’s assessment, noting that sports betting has been accretive without “a ton of cannibalization.

“Close to 75 percent of signup online, both for igaming and sports wagering, are people that aren’t currently in the database of land-based operations,” Soper said. “And it’s been a needle mover on the EBITDA line, so I think there’s a ton of upside for tribes.”

Changers are almost inevitable, however, in sports-betting’s roster of available wagers. USA Playtech Chief Commercial Officer Marcus Yoder said due to increased regulatory scrutiny, prop bets, which depend on individual players achieving a set statistic (for instance, points or rebounds in basketball, rushing yards or tackles in football), will be banned at the collegiate level.

“I think by the end of the year, the NCAA will come out and absolutely put a ban on all player prop bets,” Yoder said. “It’d be hard to completely ban betting on all NCAA sports. People would go back to betting with blacklist operators.”

Whatever changes are made, the prospect of igaming lurks. Soper believes igaming is the “endgame” for operators, but so far adoption has been slow, with only seven states – New Jersey, Delaware, West Virginia, Pennsylvania, Michigan, Connecticut, and Rhode Island – permitting online casino-style games.

According to Soper, igaming adoption has been slow because legislators “are going to authorize only what they think is acceptable to their constituents, as a general rule. Obviously, there’s a lot of back and forth. I think igaming is a whole different level as it relates to speed and volumes relative to sports betting, number one. And number two, sports betting is generally more accepted.”

Soper added that daily fantasy games were instrumental in paving the way for the acceptance of sports betting. “I think it made people more comfortable with sports betting, even though they’re different.”

Asher noted another factor in the relatively quick adoption of sports betting compared to igaming: the consumption of sports in the U.S. is at an all-time high. “The sports leagues got behind sports betting in a significant way. The major media companies got behind sports betting in a major way. And you don’t see that in respect to igaming.”

But the panel agreed that igaming is inevitable and just a matter of time.

“If it was just completely a fiscal decision, then pretty much all the states would have already legalized icasino,” Yoder said, noting the jurisdictions that have legalized igaming “generate the exact same amount of GGR” that states hosting sports betting accrue. “It’s a much greater margin than the four or five percent – maybe you get 10 percent – in sports. You’re looking at 12-14, 15-16 (GGR) in icasino. But outside of a serious budget deficit or a coronavirus version two or whatever would happen to cause a serious shutdown, then (adoption) is still going to be slow. It’s going to be very slow.”