Florida Pessimism and Mobile Revolution in Iowa

A new year has dawned, but there has been no let-up in the pace of change in the US sports betting market as a number of states wrestle with change. 

One of those jurisdictions that are grappling with the issue of sports betting in Florida. One of the four largest states in the US by population, none of which have full legalization, Florida is set for another sports betting battle in 2021, though it is likely to be a losing one, according to reports. 

State senator Jeff Brandes is once again leading the way, with a new piece of legislation, SB 392, that is not considered likely to fare any better than his attempt last year. The reason for its likely failure is that it doesn’t include the dominant force in Florida gambling, the Seminole Indians. The Seminoles believe they have the legal right to gambling exclusivity in the state, and there is a long-running dispute between them and the legislature. 

Senate President Wilton Simpson has been leading negotiations with the Seminoles against a backdrop of urgently needed revenue for the state coffers, but all the indications from Sen. Simpson’s office are that successful legislation is unlikely in the near future. 

Mobile Arrives in Iowa

There is more positive news from the state of Iowa, where fully mobile sports betting is now possible. Technically, mobile betting has been permissible since the sector was launched in August 2019, but until now, customers have had to register in person. That has changed, which is likely to lead to considerable upheaval in a market that had hitherto included just eight operators. 

There have already been some moves towards a more competitive market. BetMGM has announced that they have gone live in the state, and the combination of new operators and betting customers could help to push Iowa towards the $100 million monthly turnover level this year. So far, the record for Iowa is the $87.2 million handle from last November. The change also means that only Illinois and Nevada have in-person registration, although Illinois has suspended their rule since the summer. 

Nevada Boots US Handle

With figures for November coming in, the US sports betting industry as a whole has now passed the $3 billion handle mark. Nevada pushed the nation over the top, recording an impressive $609.4 million figure for the month. In terms of revenue, Nevada took $61.8 million from sports betting, representing a 10.1% hold, with the vast majority of revenue ($56 million) coming from football. 

A clearer picture of the overall US figures will emerge later in the month, as Illinois reports its figures a month later than other states. 

Elsewhere, it is believed that both Virginia and Michigan will be in a position to launch online sports betting in January. The full list of operators who will make up the Michigan market is already known, but it isn’t yet clear which of the 25 applicants for a Virginia license will be up and running this month, with only around half that number likely to get a license ahead of the Super Bowl. 

Big Deals Getting Closer

Consolidation has gone hand in hand with expansion in the US sports betting market, and that trend is continuing with two big deals inching forwards. 

European betting group Flutter has closed a $4.2 billion deal to purchase 37% of FanDuel, one of the top two US sports betting operators. Flutter now owns 95% of FanDuel, with Boyd Gaming owning the remaining 5%. Casino group Caesars is also closing in on a big deal, clearing antitrust approval for its $3.7 billion William Hill takeover, which it hopes to complete before April. 

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