Britain’s Bookmakers Mining for Gold in US Sports Betting

UK and US flags together
UK bookmakers are looking at the US sports betting market as being very lucrative and are making strong moves to take advantage of it.

30-second summary

  • Sports betting became legal in the United States in May 2018
  • Since then, UK bookmakers have been trying to establish themselves in this nascent sector
  • William Hill, Paddy Power Betfair, GVC, and 888 are the main ones

Sports betting legalization

In May 2018 the federal ban on sports betting in the United States came to an end. This was after many years of resistance from the major sports leagues. But, since the ban was lifted, most of those leagues have embraced sports betting.

They are trying to secure their own slice of this lucrative pie. Experts estimate that the black market for sports betting before legalization was around the $150bn mark (£113bn) annually. Taxes on this revenue can be put to good use by the states that make sports betting legal.

So far, New Mexico, Delaware, West Virginia, Mississippi, Pennsylvania, New Jersey, and Rhode Island have opened sportsbooks and many other states are moving to legalize sports betting. Therefore, there is a lot of opportunity for stakeholders in the space to make the most of this significant expansion.

British bookmakers closing in

Sports betting has been a popular pursuit in Britain for decades. Horse racing and football games have long been attractive for bettors.

British bookmakers have significant operations in Britain and in Europe as a whole. While some have tried to make headway in other markets, such as Australia and Asia, all eyes are now on the United States.

Many see this as being a new gold rush. There could be as much as $19bn (£14.4bn) in revenue available for sports betting operators by 2023. Therefore, it is important these bookmakers get their foot in the door at the beginning, before American competitors have time to form and stake a claim.

Several British bookmakers already have partnerships with casinos in the United States. The most notable are William Hill and Paddy Power Betfair (through a majority stake in former daily fantasy sports platform FanDuel).

These bookmakers are facing problem closer to home, so they are hoping the US could be a lucrative new revenue source.

A significant source of revenue in the United Kingdom for these bookmakers was through fixed odds betting terminals. However, studies show that these terminals are very addictive and are a major issue for problem gamblers. Therefore, the authorities have taken a step to reduce the impact of these terminals by lowering the max stake from £100 ($132) to £2 ($2.64). 

This could lead to the closure of more than 2,000 betting shops and the loss of thousands of jobs. There will also be a shortfall in government revenue as they will receive less taxation revenue. Therefore, the tax rate for online operators is being increased.

Making moves

William Hill already has a presence in Rhode Island, Delaware, Pennsylvania, Mississippi, West Virginia, New Jersey, and Nevada. The company has been operating in the US since 2012 when it entered the Nevada market.

Its first US sportsbook opened in June 2018 at Monmouth Park in New Jersey. William Hill is the only British bookmaker operating in each state where sports betting is legal. It also has several partnerships in place.

One is with the International Gaming Technology (IGT) company, which will allow them to partner with US lotteries on sports betting. The company also has a partnership with Penn National Gaming.

Finally, a deal with El Dorado Resorts will last for 25 years and will be in effect at another 26 properties in the near future. In return, El Dorado gets a 20% stake in William Hill’s US operations and $50m (£37.8m) in William Hill stock.

Increasing competition

Shortly before the federal ban was ended, Paddy Power bought a majority stake in FanDuel, gaining instant access to 8 million customers in 41 states.

FanDuel has since opened numerous retail sportsbooks and online offerings in the United States. GVC, the owner of Ladbrokes Coral, is in a deal worth $200m with MGM casinos in order to develop Roars Digital.

This will be the body that provides the sportsbook for every casino under the MGM name. MGM recently became the official gaming partner for Major League Soccer (MLS). 

The 888 platform is also looking to expand into the United States, targeting online sports betting. They are planning to use their proprietary technology to make them stand out from this crowd. To date, only New Jersey, Pennsylvania, and West Virginia have legal online sports betting.

With Americans being so passionate about their sports, this is certainly going to be an exciting time for key stakeholders in the sports betting space.