2019 gave us the first full year of legal sports betting in the US. And boy did it teach us a lot. Largely, there is only one way to go when it comes to launching legal sports betting.
Mobile means money
If a state allows full-scale mobile sports wagering it is going to make money.
It’s no coincidence the six states (New Jersey, Pennsylvania, West Virginia, Indiana, Oregon, and New Hampshire) that allow its residents to bet as and when from the comfort of their sofa, are profiting from legal sports betting in a big way.
In PA, 87% of wagers are placed anywhere within state lines via online betting apps, a fact that saw the Quaker State generate betting handle of $1.5 billion (the third-highest of any state in 2019) and state revenue of $118 million: the market only launched in May!
That number is even more impressive when you consider the $10 million licensing fee and 36% tax rate dumped on sportsbooks - there were even doubts as to who would accept such terms.
Yet, when balanced up with the inclusion of mobile wagering, those hard-hitting numbers become easier to digest, hence why the two biggest sportsbook operators in the US in FanDuel and DraftKings are fighting it out for market share.
NJ and PA are reaping the rewards of sports betting for one reason and one reason only - mobile
The appeal of mobile wagering isn’t limited to Pennsylvania of course. New Jersey took $4.6 billion in sports bets in the first twelve months (bettered only by Nevada) 88% of which came online.
You get the point. NJ and PA are reaping the rewards of sports betting for one reason and one reason only: the demand for US sports bettors in 2020 is betting (freely) from a mobile app and the two states are delivering exactly that.
In-person registration doesn’t (mean money)
Rhode Island is perhaps the best (or worst) example - however you want to put it - of how in-person limiting sports betting does nothing for the state coffers.
While RI sports betting handle has been growing steadily - $28.3 million, of which $5.9 million came online toward the end of 2019 - the figures pale into insignificance compared to NJ and PA. The reason? Having to register for mobile accounts in person.
There must be nothing more frustrating for first-time bettors, who, having decided they want to bet, proceed to download the app only to realize a trip to a casino is needed to activate the account.
The numbers show as much with it estimated only 45% of mobile registrations lead to active accounts. It’s fair to hazard a guess at the conversion being higher if such a restriction didn’t exist.
Bettors will do most things to bet on mobile
And that includes paying for a train ticket for the sole purpose of crossing state lines to wager legally. This is the state of play of course for New York bettors, who are longing for the day their own state expands sports betting, online.
There are seven retail sportsbooks in total (four commercial and three tribal) in NY state currently, most in upstate NY. For many, the only way to bet online legally without spending two hours driving to a casino is by paying a visit to neighboring New Jersey.
New Yorkers view taking a train or sitting in a subway station as a far more convenient way of wagering on their favorite sport
This latest trend reinforces the need for NY to implement mobile betting sooner rather than later. It’s almost amusing that rather than travel to a physical casino in their own state, New Yorkers view taking a train or sitting in a subway station as a far more convenient way of wagering on their favorite sport.
Collecting winnings is one small example. Betting online in NJ means you receive money instantly to your betting account as opposed to NY sports betting where you need to take time out of your day to go and collect your money. Who believes anyone has time for this in 2020?
The state of affairs doesn’t say much for New York sports betting right now. On the other hand, the potential of NY online sports betting in the not-too-distant future (we hope) is as clear as day, or night, depending on how late your train is!
Not just a money maker
While the importance of mobile is apparent in terms of the financial side of things, it’s important to highlight the other benefits of mobile sports betting.
For instance, how betting from a mobile app can be used to aid problem gambling. An unusual statement perhaps but the amount of data collected from a mobile device allows operators to identify problem gamblers and place the necessary safeguarding measures in place quicker.
More data means more insight into the habits and behavior of gamblers most at risk. Being able to monitor this accurately, has to be positive.
Let’s not forget though, the fundamental reason for introducing legal sports betting is to wipe out the illegal market. In the US it’s estimated between $100 and $150 million is lost to offshore and illegal sportsbooks each year.
Mobile betting will, eventually, end illegal online gambling for good
Even with legal sports betting, it’s naive to think players are going to opt for traveling to a casino over betting on an unregulated site, which despite the risks involved, is the more appealing option, as discussed. With a legal means of betting online in place, however, would players still put themselves at risk? Of course not.
Mobile betting will, eventually, end illegal online gambling for good. The sooner more states introduce mobile sports betting, the sooner unregulated betting will be a thing of the past.