Author Archives: kylew

The Latest on Sports Betting in Ohio

Since the overall ban on sports betting was struck down in the United States many years ago, a plethora of states have quickly moved to both legalize the activity and implement both online and in-person betting operations. Pennsylvania, New York, and New Jersey all come to mind when thinking of states the passed legislation and began accepting bets in what seemed like the blink of an eye.

On the other side of the coin however, there are states like Ohio and Maryland, both of which passed legalized sports betting legislation without too much trouble but still, to this day, have not accepted a single online wager. Maryland recently moved to allow casinos and racetracks to accept in-person wagering, but Ohio has been treading water for the better part of a year now. Finally, there seems to be light at the tunnel for Buckeye state sports bettors.

Online Betting in Time for Super Bowl 57?

Online sports betting was officially legalized in Ohio last December, but Ohioans have been waiting nearly three quarters of a year without receiving much guidance with regard to when bets can be placed. This week it was announced that online sports betting in Ohio will be live in January of 2023, meaning that bettors should be able to place wagers on both the collegiate football National Championship as well as the NFL’s Super Bowl.

Bettors will be greeted by a number of online operators, but it seems that in-person sports betting will be a major deal in Ohio as well. Just this week, it was reported that Kroger’s, a national grocery store that has a massive presence in Ohio, has applied for more than 40 betting licenses. According to reports, the grocer outlet is going to set up betting kiosks inside their stores, meaning you can both shop for food for the game and bet on the game all in one location.

What About Maryland?

The news this week is great for residents of Ohio, but for Marylanders it comes as a sort of slap in the face. While Ohio legalized sports betting less than a year ago, Maryland is going on nearly two years since sports betting legislation was passed. That bill was signed into law back in November of 2020 and even though sports betting is now legal at the state’s few casinos, online betting is still shrouded in mystery.

We wish we could convey some good news with regard to a projected starting date for online sports betting in Maryland, but there is no concrete date set. The going estimation is that online sports betting will go live in the second half of 2022, however we are already more than halfway through the second half of the year and there is no end to the waiting in sight.

On the bright side, Marylanders can expect up to 50 mobile betting operators to exist in the state, a number that dwarfs most other states with legal online betting.

Sports Betting To Finally Launch In Michigan

Residents of Michigan may be noticing an increase in sports betting advertisements from companies such as FanDuel, DraftKings, and other top sports betting platforms. Offers such as free sign up bonuses mark the introduction of legal sports gambling to the state.

Next Steps

A year ago, Governor Gretchen Whitmer signed legislation to legalize sports gambling and online betting in Michigan. Under the new legislation, sportsbooks have had to seek individual partnerships with brick-and-mortar casinos across the state. This may account for the long wait residents have had to endure before they can place their first legal sports bets in the state. Last month, the Joint Committee on Administrative Rules waived the 15-day review requirement for approval of the final rules regulating online gaming. It is now up to the platforms themselves to obtain official licensing and launch to bring online sports betting to Michigan. Residents will have to continue to wait for an official launch date from the Michigan Gaming Control Board. According to Executive Director Richard Kalm, the official launch date will depend on how quickly the major platforms can come under the state’s regulatory requirements. “The platform providers’ ability to meet the requirements of the laws and rules will determine which entities can be licensed for launch first,” he said.

Residents of the state can expect a similar sports betting experience to other states in the U.S. that have legalized the practice. Residents will need to be over the age of 21 to place a legal sports bet. Platforms will also utilize geolocation technology and identity verification to ensure that bettors are in compliance with state law. Once the platforms are licensed, they will offer wagers on all professional and college sporting events from soccer to baseball and basketball. The sports betting legislation provides for dedicated revenue from the practice to the state’s School Aid Fund and the First Responder Presumed Coverage Fund. An 8.4% tax will be placed on winnings from retail sports bets and a range from 20% to 28% on all online sports wagers.

A Potential Revenue Builder

Initial projections show a huge revenue boost for the state which has been hit hard by the Covid-19 health restrictions and related shutdowns. The three commercial casinos in the state are currently closed in accordance with health guidelines. The tribal casinos in Michigan are not required to adhere to those same health guidelines however, two have voluntarily closed down. The three commercial casinos, MGM, MotorCity, and Greektown, were operating under reduced capacity prior to the most recent closures. As of the year end, the revenues for all three were down roughly 54% from the same period last year.

In states where sports gambling is already legal, the data reflects that patrons are utilizing the freedom to place their bets online, in the face of casino closures. In states such as New Jersey and Pennsylvania sports gambling has made up 43% and 28% respectively of all gambling revenue. Industry experts expect that Michigan could experience a similar boost once it gets its own sports betting industry up and running.

Will Oklahoma Legalize Sports Betting?

Amid the Covid-19 related shutdowns, many states are looking for new and lucrative ways to raise state funds. While many states have approved the practice of legalized sports betting, with three new states approving ballot questions this past November, odds look bleak as to whether Oklahomans will see a change in their state law anytime soon.

Not a New Issue

The question of legalized sports betting has come up in Oklahoma before. Unfortunately support for deciding the issue has time and time again failed to gain any traction in the state legislature. The issue was placed on the back burner again as the Governor and the state legislature hashed out a hotly debated tribal gaming issue. In October, Governor Kevin Stitt elected to forgo an appeal of a federal court ruling that allowed tribal gaming compacts to automatically renew for 15 years. At the time, Governor Stitt was trying to negotiate a higher “exclusivity fee.” Currently, tribes in the state pay between 4% and 10% of gross revenue for the exclusive right to operate Class III gaming. The months long battle involved disputes between state legislators, Governor Stitt, and the federal government over the Governor’s power to unilaterally renegotiate these fees. That dispute has largely been resolved and the tribal gaming compacts are generally considered to be renewed. Perhaps this frees up lawmakers to take up the sports betting issue.

Bi-Partisan Cooperation Required

“There’s no clock ticking on when this needs to get done,” says Matthew Morgan, Chairman of the Oklahoma Indian Gaming Association. “I guess it could come up [in the] next legislative session, but it may not.” He went on, “I don’t think you’d see most tribal leaders in a hurry to get this done. It needs to be done correctly. And that’s probably going to take time.” That time may have gotten longer in the wake of the recent tribal gaming compact dispute. According to Morgan, any discussion over legalized sports betting would need to begin with a mending of the strained relationship between the Governor’s office and tribal leaders in the state. “That relationship between the governor and tribal leaders needs to be repaired,” he said.

“The governor has been supportive of negotiating with Oklahoma’s tribes in good faith to expand opportunity for all parties and remains committed to working with all Oklahomans on top ten solutions that deliver a stronger, more prosperous future for our state,” said Baylee Lakely, spokeswoman for Governor Stitt. In the Governor’s version of compact negotiations, he included a provision for “event wagering” however those provisions were rejected by the Oklahoma Supreme Court along with Stitt’s authority to unilaterally renegotiate the gaming compacts. Lakely went on, “in April 2020, Governor Stitt negotiated new gaming compacts with the Otoe-Missouria Tribe and Comanche Nation. The new gaming compacts demonstrated the state could offer unique, thoughtful opportunities for each tribe while also achieving fair-market rates, as high as 13%, for Class III gaming operations. Among other provisions, the compacts stated sports betting would be permitted to the extent it was authorized by law.”

Under current Oklahoma law, legalized sports betting would likely require approval by the legislature in order to go operational. “I’ve consistently said that I think sports betting or wagering is a potential negotiating point for the state in its compact negotiations with the tribes,” said Greg Treat, Senate Pro Tem in the Oklahoma Senate. “If an overall compact agreement is reached that is beneficial to all Oklahomans, I will consider it.”

Cautious Optimism for the Future

Morgan agreed with Senator Treat’s analysis, “I think he reads the landscape correctly. It has to be an agreement that benefits everyone.” He went on to caution that legalized sports gambling is not a silver bullet for state revenues. “You’re hoping for 3 to 4 percent at the end of the day. I don’t like people talking that ‘We’re going to get hundreds of millions of dollars’ but it would help,” he said. When asked on his opinion of the chances on legalized sports betting in Oklahoma he said, “I don’t like to predict … I think tribal leaders are willing to have that conversation, but it has to benefit everyone. And there has to be respect. And it was to be in the parameters of what our markets will bear. That conversation has to be precise of what that will look like. Sports betting, whatever form it might be … a very important aspect is: What would that revenue fee-sharing look like? Everything helps, when the state’s looking for money, when tribes are looking … something like sports betting could help.”

Massachusetts Sports Betting Rejected in 2020

After two days of negotiations and deliberations, the state Senate in Massachusetts has concluded its work on the state budget. The budget, totaling nearly $46 billion, will control the fiscal year which began roughly four and a half months ago. Yet again, sports betting has been left out of the legislative list of priorities.

The budget was approved unanimously. However, vigorous debate on Wednesday evening pointed to a less than absolute partnership on the part of lawmakers to agree on what steps need to be taken to move Massachusetts out of the current economic downturn. “The budget, I think, is a really strong, responsive budget to the situation at hand and trying to really help the residents of the commonwealth, said Karen Spilka, Senate President. The next step is to send the state budget to a conference committee including a group of three senators and three representatives. They will compromise and finalize any discrepancies before putting a final version before both branches of the state legislature for a vote.

Michael Rodrigues, Chairman of the Senate Ways and Means Committee said he is optimistic that deliberations will be speedy and effectual. But many note that serious issues still remain undecided. Policing reform, climate change policy, and health care reform have all been stuck behind heated debate in various conference committees.

“I think we realize that we need to get it done. It is the middle of November and we have six or seven weeks left in the session. I believe we will get it done,” said Splika of finalizing some of these unresolved issues.

Where is Sports Betting?

One major issue on the minds of many Massachusetts residents is the legislature’s continued inaction on legalized sports betting. Minority Leader Bruce Tarr introduced an amendment to the state constitution to legalize sports betting. It was rejected outright, without a roll call vote. The amendment would have legalized sports betting in Massachusetts, allowing casinos, racetracks, and online platforms to become licensed sports book operators. His amendment set aside registration fees and other revenue from the industry to the state’s economic recovery fund. This would help jump start the recovery out of the current downturn caused by the Covid-19 pandemic.

Initial estimates state that annual state revenues from sports betting in Massachusetts could well exceed $20 million and reach as high as $35 million. Currently, the two casinos in Massachusetts add roughly $21 million to state coffers each month.

While the state House of Representatives approved legalized sports betting in an economic development bill, the state Senate has been far less keen to introduce the practice to Massachusetts.

A Call for Legalization

This past Friday, every major sports franchise in Boston as well as market leaders in the gambling industry penned a letter to the state legislature. In their letter, they attempt to get across the importance of legalized sports gambling and the benefits that Massachusetts can expect from the practice.

“Massachusetts has already lost jobs that could have been housed here by not acting sooner on sports betting. As other states legalized and launched sports betting, DraftKings has had to locate certain jobs outside of Massachusetts. The Covid-19 pandemic also has hit our casinos hard, and MGM-Springfield has had to layoff and furlough hundreds of workers in Western Massachusetts,” reads the letter. “A legalized sports betting framework would not only allow us to preserve jobs, we fully anticipate that DraftKings, MGM, and others will be creating additional jobs in Boston, Springfield, and other regional hubs. Conversely, if sports betting is not passed, we anticipate that additional jobs will be lost and others still will be housed in states other than Massachusetts.”

Next Steps For Maryland Sports Betting

Voters in the state of Maryland approved ballot question number two, which authorized the inclusion of sports and event gambling to the state’s commercial gaming industry. When the votes were tallied, over 66% of Maryland voters were in favor of the sports gambling measure.

Where We Go From Here

Moving forward, the Maryland General Assembly is slated to take up the issue during their 2021 session. Still to be decided are questions such as the regulatory framework, an application and licensing system, and how the industry will be taxed.

“The devil’s in the details, and there will be many details to come,” says Gordon Medenica. Medenica is the Director of the Maryland Lottery and Gaming Agency, which is in charge of oversight and regulation of casinos and the greater commercial gaming industry in Maryland. Many in the Lottery and Gaming Agency were optimistic that the measure would pass and began drafting a loose framework for regulating the new state gambling activity. “We have a vague sense of who the players will be, how it would be structured. All of that is dependent on what the actual structure will be that the legislature will decide upon when they reconvene in January.” The legislature will still need to rule on how many licenses will be up for grabs, how the taxes will be collected and where those funds will be directed in the context of the broader state budget.

State Revenues

According to the strict text of the sports betting measure, the gaming expansion would be “for the primary purpose of raising revenue for education.” However, the language does not specify if that means the state’s Education Trust Fund, the “lockbox” where current casino and lottery tax revenues are kept, or to some, as yet unnamed, new education initiative. Current estimates state that the revenues generated by taxing sports gambling in Maryland could exceed $18 million assuming a tax rate of 20%.

“People need to understand the difference for the top line versus the bottom line,” says Medenica. “There’s a lot of wagering activity, but it doesn’t translate into a lot of hold, or profit, at the end of the day.”
In relation to the state revenues generated by lottery and casino taxes, over $1 billion, these are relatively low numbers. But both state policy makers and leaders in the casino industry agree that the push for legalized sports betting in Maryland was not about the money. The overarching goal was putting a stop to illegal operators in favor of pushing sports bettering traffic to legitimate casinos and racetracks. Once there to place their sports wagers, the hope is that patrons will stick around to gamble on races, slot machines, and table games.

Where to Wager

Another question that has been left on the table is where sports gambling will be offered. Both race tracks and casinos in the state are vying for greater control over the new activity and each feel that they should be the only situs approved for accepting sports wagers. One of the major casino operators, Cordish Gaming which owns Live Casino & Hotel in Hanover, has relaxed its firm stance against the race track industry being issued licenses. Last month, the CEO of Cordish Gaming Group, Joe Weinberg, said that the company feels that licenses “should be limited to the casinos and to the Maryland Jockey Club.” The Maryland Jockey Club operates the race tracks located at Laurel Park and Pimlico Race Course.

The Chief Marketing Officer at Live Casino, Jake Joyce, said in a statement, “the aid Maryland receives through sports betting will depend entirely on how it is implemented. The way to maximize new taxes for the Education Trust Fund is to have sports betting controlled by existing, licensed gaming entities in the state. These operators should be required to invest in facilities and systems that ensure it is done right and grows other important gaming taxes for the state.”

Live Casino & Hotel has already begun work on a brand new ‘Sports & Social’ sports betting facility. The $12 million concept will host over 50 large screen televisions, bars, casino games, and both self service terminals and live teller kiosks for placing sports bets. In addition, the casino has already announced a partnership with national sportsbook, FanDuel.

Other large state casinos have expressed an eagerness to bring the first sports book to the state. Horseshoe Casino in Baltimore, is looking forward to applying for a sports betting license. The casino announced, “we look forward to working with state legislators in a program that will ensure Maryland casinos remain competitive with those in neighboring states in order to maximize revenues for Maryland schools.”

An Online Option

According to Medenica, the expectation is that a significant portion of sports betting transactions will be conducted online. However, the legislature has yet to signal a legal framework is being created as of yet. “The experience in New Jersey, where sports wagering is already legal, suggests that 80% of sports betting occurs on mobile, and is dominated by some very large players.” Medenica went on, “certainly, it is our sense that it would be best to allow major licensees to offer some mobile alternative.” While the New Jersey model is acting as a guide, Medenica is pooling the collective knowledge of twenty-one states, including Washington D.C., in helping to determine what decisions will work best in Maryland.

One of these decisions will be how many “skins” a sports betting operator will be allowed to host. While New Jersey allowed each operator to conduct three different skins, according to Medenica, “a good lesson we have learned is that’s probably way too many.”

What to Expect

When the first legal sports bet will be placed in Maryland depends largely on how fast state legislators reconvene. In addition, exactly how comprehensive that legislation turns out to be will go a long way in determining the length of the licensing process. Medenica thinks that Maryland residents will be able to walk into sports books by the Fall of 2021.

“I think if we had a very clean, straightforward bill that just granted the right to the casinos and the horse tracks, all of them already have relationships with back end betting providers and they could get up and running very soon. But to the extent that the bill becomes very complex and involves a lot of licensing and compliance procedures, that certainly will add costs and time and delay.”

Three More States Approve Sports Betting in the Wake of 2020 Election

Maryland, South Dakota, and Louisiana have joined 21 other states in legalizing sports betting. For big names in the industry like FanDuel and DraftKings, this represents a windfall and an exciting new chapter in the legal sports wagering market.


Voters in Louisiana approved a sports betting proposition on their ballot this past week. This marks the first such move in the state towards a change in the law.

The gambling industry in the state is moving quickly to get the first sports book up and running. Plans have already begun at L’Auberge Casino. “It’s where our guests could come, place their wagers, watch games, enjoy some food, and relax. We would build out a whole new section for that,” said Kim Ginn, the General Manager of L’Auberge Casino. She went on, “It’ll go in the legislative session starting in April. Once it’s made into law, then rules have to be made by the Louisiana Gaming Control Board, which controls us.”

The state legislature approved the bill early in 2020 to add the sports betting question to this year’s ballot. The final tally saw fifty-five out of Louisiana’s sixty-four parishes voting for the measure. However, it will be some time before the first wagers are cast. Mike Noel is the Lieutenant Colonel for the Louisiana Gaming Control Board. He doesn’t believe residents will see open sports books opened until at least 2022. “It’s just the way the process works. The legislature has to lay out the framework, and then the rule-making process is a four to six-month process. Once that happens, the entities that wasn’t to participate will have to apply and get licensed,” says Noel.


Maryland voters responded positively to question 2 on this year’s ballot, approving the expansion into legalized sports betting. Maryland’s ballot measure added the proposition that revenue generated from the sports gambling industry would be funneled primarily into the state’s public education system.

The measure passed with nearly 70% approval in the state. In addition, the Maryland legislature has expressed near unanimous support including Governor Larry Hogan.

“Question 2 provides a critical revenue source for public education without raising taxes on families and businesses. This initiative builds on the very successful ‘Hogan Lockbox,’ which puts casino revenues in a lockbox dedicated to education. We are already funding our K-12 schools at record levels, and this is another way to ensure that is the case for years to come,” says Governor Hogan.

Maryland State Senator Craig Zucker posits the new sports gambling measure could bring in millions to the state education coffers. “The lowball assumption is that Maryland will get an additional $20 to $40 million in additional revenue from sports betting,” says Zucker.

South Dakota

Constitutional Amendment B will bring sports betting to Deadwood, South Dakota. Nearly 60% of South Dakota residents approved the measure to authorize sports betting in both Deadwood and the state’s Native American reservation casinos.

“Obviously, we’re encouraged by this. This is pacing a little bit better than we did in 2014 with craps and roulette,” said Mike Rodman. Rodman is the Executive Director of the Deadwood Gaming Association. He went on, “we’re thankful to the voters of South Dakota for giving Deadwood this opportunity. We will reach out to the administration to see if they want to start working on some draft legislation for the 2021 session.”

The state constitution currently authorizes Keno, craps, roulette, slot machines, and limited card games in Deadwood casinos. The recent ballot measure now allows the state Legislature to include sports wagering as yet another form of gambling in Deadwood.

Circa Sports May Have Cracked The Code On Sports Betting

According to Circa Sports director Matthew Metcalf, the key to a profitable and popular sportsbook is the machine operating behind the scenes. He has made it his career goal to assemble top talent at the Las Vegas sportsbook in order to offer his customers the best available products. He is not one to sit on the sidelines either. Metcalf has made a name for himself in this business by constantly scanning his surroundings and looking for ways to improve.

A Florida native, Metcalf graduated from the University of Florida in the early 2000’s and immediately set his sights on Las Vegas. He reached out to the top sportsbooks in town and secured a job under the leadership of Jay Kornegay who at the time was heading Imperial Palace and is now an executive at Westgate Las Vegas SuperBook. “That meant everything to me,” says Metcalf. “It was my single-minded focus. All I wanted to do was come out and work for a sportsbook in Las Vegas.” Metcalf learned under Kornegay for several years until he decided to pursue a professional career in gambling focusing on college football and NASCAR. It was this experience, on the other side of the betting counter that has largely driven his vision for the Circa Sportsbook.

“I really didn’t understand how much I loved the customer service part of the [sportsbook] job until I quit to bet sports and saw how a lot of bettors were disrespected,” says Metcalf. “Not everyone was treated the same when they came in. It almost got to a point where I was offended on behalf of sports bettors, and I decided if I got back in the position, I was going to make sure I righted a wrong that had existed, not at all sportsbooks but many, for the last 20 years.”

That opportunity presented itself when Metcalf linked up with Derek Stevens, who at the time was trying to gather talent ahead of breaking ground on his brand new $1 billion resort. The two quickly came to realize that they shared many of the same goals when it came to building out a premier sportsbook. “Matt really clearly showed what his thought process was on how to build this business, how to build a book from scratch,” said Stevens. “We spent a lot of time together. A lot of lunches where we would have an idea and it would just snowball.”

Bennett and Benson

The first two additions to the team were Chris Bennett and Jeffrey Benson. According to Metcalf, both Bennett and Benson were essential hires because they shared an understanding of that unique perspective of both the customer placing a bet and the sportsbook. “When I got hired for this job, I had a list in my head of exactly where I wanted to go,” says Metcalf. “I didn’t get everybody I wanted, and I still haven’t, but I knew Jeff [Benson] from Palace Station as the best customer service person in the entire town. And Chris [Bennett], I had been with him at the Hilton. I had to get Chris.”

Bennett is the sportsbook’s manager and specializes in the baseball sector. Together with Jeff Davis, a former Caesars executive and expert in NFL and NHL, Bennett runs more of the day to day operation of the Circa Sportsbook than anyone else. “I’ve been fortunate to work with a lot of well-respected people, but Chris, man, he is so sharp,” says Nick Kalikas, another member of the Circa team. “He’s so on top of everything. I don’t think people understand the mind this guy has. He’s phenomenal and makes sure the ship runs tight all along the way.”

Bringing In Outside Minds

The guiding principle behind Circa Sports has been to offer customers some of the highest betting limits in Las Vegas across all of its sports offerings. When Metcalf took a good look at their position in the UFC and mixed martial arts betting market, he saw that potential profits were being missed. “I had no clue how big UFC betting was. I’m not a UFC fan and I didn’t understand how much write we would have in it and how important it was going to be to our bottom line,” said Metcalf.

His solution was to bring in top industry talent, Nick Kalikas. Kalikas was a consultant for a few of the biggest sportsbooks in the world up until rather recently when he decided to bet on his own, fulltime. That is, until he met up with Metcalf and the two were able to pool their ideas. “There were so many similarities between the two of us,” according to Kalikas. “From the first conversation we had, he totally got where I was coming from and why I stepped back and bet MMA for a while. We could relate to each other and that made things a lot easier for me, a lot more comfortable.” As a result, the Circa team has been able to manage its risk more effectively and has offered limits as high as $25,000 for certain bouts.

Future Plans

Metcalf is confident that he can bring this aggressive tack to bookmaking onto the Vegas stage and across all sports in the Circa repertoire. Together with owner Derek Stevens, he hopes the new Circa Resort will help elevate sports betting into a new era. “With the quantity of sports that’s now necessary to book, you’ve got to have specialists in every area. The team Matt put together is pretty terrific,” says Stevens.

As for the future of Circa Sportsbook, Metcalf had this to say, “The next step is to continue to get more people in here to experience the product we’ve built and the room we’ve built. And, at all points, treat them the way we would want to be treated if we were betting. I don’t think you can go wrong with that, and that will lead us to all our other goals.”

Voters To Decide If Maryland Will Legalize Sports Betting

The voters in Maryland will see a ballot question in November regarding the legalization of sports betting. Question 2 will state plainly, “do you approve the expansion of commercial gaming in the State of Maryland to authorize sports and events betting for the primary purpose of raising revenue for education?” If the ballot measure should pass, the Maryland legislature will work to lay out a framework for the industry in the new year.

Senator Craig Zucker of Montgomery sponsored the recent legislation. “I feel like we would have had a more comprehensive piece of legislation to present the voters had a global pandemic not happened.” He went on, “we just made a judgement call to get it on the ballot and allow voters to have their say.” The legislation he proposed included mobile wagering as well as brick and mortar sports betting instillations. His bill passed the state Senate unanimously however, the House was only able to approve a paired down version before the legislative session was ended early due to the Covid-19 pandemic. Senator Zucker expects that the mobile gaming issue will ultimately be approved. “I can’t imagine a scenario where we wouldn’t allow mobile betting. Eighty to ninety percent of sports betting is done online.”

Specifically For Education

Industry experts have estimated that legal sports betting could raise annual revenues for the state of roughly $20 million. Both the legislation and ballot question itself specify that these funds would be set aside for state education initiatives.

“Given the horrific economic impact of Covid-19, any additional revenue that we can get that would help toward education is important,” said Senator Zucker. This is a key time for the state to be raising education funds. Just this past March, the state legislature passed the Blueprint for Maryland’s Future, a bill aimed at education reform in the state. The bill was comprised largely of recommendations by Maryland’s Commission on Innovation and Excellence in Education. Unfortunately, the economic downturn associated with the Covid-19 pandemic put pressure on lawmakers to keep spending down. Governor Larry Hogan vetoed the multimillion-dollar bill in Spring of this year.

Not all lawmakers were behind the bill. Delegate William Wivell voted against the sports betting legislation and was one of only three legislators to do so. “The legislature has a spending problem, and the amount of revenue that’s going to be generated by sports betting is not going to bail them out of that problem,” said Wivell. He also expressed concern about widening the scope of gambling within the state. “I just think at some point we have to set limits on what we’re gambling on. We don’t have to bet on everything.”

A Growing Trend

Sports betting is a major industry in the United States and several states have taken active measures to bring the practice under a legal framework. New Jersey, Pennsylvania, West Virginia, and Washington D.C. have legalized sports betting as has Delaware and Virginia. Many in the state of Maryland do not want to be left behind and lose out on beneficial state revenue streams. “I hope Maryland voters approve this, because if we don’t get this done in November, by the time voters have an opportunity to vote on it again, maybe 75% of all states in the U.S. will have sports betting up and running,” said Senator Zucker.

Tennessee Set to Launch Sports Betting In November 2020

Tennessee approved three sports betting licenses at the end of September and looks on track to bring a sports betting market to the state before the end of the year. The Tennessee Education Lottery Board’s Sports Wagering Committee is charged with processing license applications. The Committee has conditionally approved licenses for BetMGM, LLC, Crown TN Gaming, LLC which owns DraftKings, and Betfair Interactive U.S., LLC which owns FanDuel.

In addition, the Sports Wagering Committee approved a number of licenses for suppliers and vendors, bringing the count well past 30 and giving the Tennessee sports gambling market a healthy diversity of online sports gambling options. The Sports Wagering Committee is scheduled to convene again in mid-October in order to review more applications and digest feedback from the sports betting operators that have already been issued licenses. There is currently no limit to how many licenses can be approved. Every license holder will be required to adhere to strict guidelines as set down by the Tennessee Education Lottery Corporation which is responsible for regulation of online sports wagering in the state.

Concerns had been expressed about how disruptive getting the industry up off of the ground in Tennessee would be. “I think people in Tennessee will be very familiar with the companies based on the fantasy sports side of things.” Brian Pempus is an industry expert from New Jersey and works for one of New Jersey’s online gambling platforms. He has seen all three operators succeed quickly in the New Jersey market and in other legal sports betting states across the country. He went on, “it was a very seamless transition for them to go into real money traditional sports betting.”

Legislative History

Online sports betting was legalized in Tennessee on July 1, 2019 despite opposition from Governor Bill Lee and by a very narrow margin in the state legislature. He stated that he did not believe that, at this time, passing online sports wagering legislation was “in the best interest of the state.” The Senate passed the bill with a vote of 19 to 12 and the State House of Representatives passed it 58 to 37. Yet the industry is estimated to bring in roughly $50 million each year into state coffers. That is much needed state revenue that will be set aside for education initiatives, local government budgets, and gambling addiction treatment programs.

New Territory

However, like many states that have recently passed sports betting legislation, they have yet to see their first bet. The state does not have brick and mortar gambling venues so the online market will be a first for Tennessee.

In April of this year, the Lottery Board approved rules and guidelines to govern the sport. The process was lengthy, taking several months and seeing the creation of the mandated, nine-member, Tennessee Education Lottery Corporation and an advisory council. Currently the state law allows online sports wagering in a number of ways including, via the internet, mobile devices, and telecommunications. Patrons will be required to be physically located in the state and at least 21 years of age or older.

Caesars Acquires UK Bookmaker William Hill

Caesars Entertainment announced on Wednesday it is buying the United Kingdom bookmaker William Hill for $3.7 billion. Their stated goal is to increase their market share in the ever-growing legal sports betting industry in the United States. Caesars said in a statement that it is choosing to focus solely on the U.S. based assets held by William Hill. This indicates that it would seek a buyer of William Hill’s international portfolio.

Caesars Entertainment looks to have beat out Apollo Global Management Inc. who was also interested in acquiring William Hill. The pair had had close dealings in the past which made the purchase that more attractive. A joint venture was in place whereby Caesars would receive 20% of William Hill’s U.S. based revenue. In exchange, William Hill would have the right to offer its sports betting platform at more than 50 Caesars run casinos in the U.S. Caesars could have taken steps to terminate the relationship if Apollo’s bid had won out.

Caesars stated the partnership “needs to be broadened in scope in order to fully maximize the opportunity in the sports betting and gaming sector.” According to its own industry analysis, Caesars estimates that the U.S. legal sports and online gambling market could be worth as much as $35 billion.

An Optimistic Outlook

“The opportunity to combine our land-based casinos, sports betting, and online gaming in the U.S. is a truly exciting prospect,” said Tom Reeg, CEO of Caesars Entertainment. “William Hill’s sports betting expertise will complement Caesars’ current offering, enabling the combined group to better serve our customers in the fast-growing U.S. sports betting and online market.”

Roger Devlin is the Chairman of William Hill. He stated, “The William Hill board believes this is the best option for William Hill at an attractive price for shareholders. It recognizes the significant progress the William Hill Group has made over the last 18 months, as well as the risk and significant investment required to maximize the U.S. opportunity given intense competition in the U.S. and the potential for regulatory disruption in the U.K. and Europe.”

Perfect Timing?

From an outside perspective, this could just be a perfect storm of events and great timing for both companies. Legal sports betting has grown ever larger in the U.S. since the Supreme Court reversed PASPA in 2018. At the same time, the U.K. government has been tightening the leash on gambling operators. In 2018, the U.K. decided to limit the amount a company could charge on betting terminals and in doing so, erased the profit margins for companies like William Hill. Advertising in the U.K. has been heavily regulated albeit, in some cases, on a voluntary basis. Finally, taxes on sports betting have steadily increased in the United Kingdom.

“It looks like a logical and natural move of consolidation of this round of U.S. brick and mortar players acquiring online knowledge,” said Itai Pazner, CEO of 888 Holdings PLC. “I see a lot of opportunities in terms of mergers and acquisitions, either bolt-on M&A as we have been doing for the last few years, or something more strategic.”