The year 2018 was momentous and historic for sports betting. The activity enjoyed its most explosive proliferation in modern history. These five sports betting stories (in reverse order of importance) helped mark the tremendous change that the industry underwent in the past 12 months.
No. 5: The strange, sad saga of integrity fees
The decision to allow sports betting in the United States did not enchant the major sports leagues. The commissioners of the MLB, NBA, NFL, and NHL began separate campaigns about the proverbial can of worms now opened across the land.
To preserve the integrity of the game, or so they said, the leagues called for a percentage of all wagers to be paid to the leagues themselves. Presumably, the so-called “integrity fee” would allow the leagues to increase their enforcement and monitoring capabilities.
The leagues also demanded that sportsbooks use official data sources to generate their point spreads, moneylines and other statistical measures. Naturally, the leagues would designate the data source to be considered official.
The organizations also insisted that they have the right of refusal on betting types allowed for their sports. In other words, the leagues themselves would decide if wagering would occur on their games, and how wagering would proceed.
Mostly, all three of these lines of thought have met their end through discussions with various state-level officials and opinion pieces. However, league lobbyists and representatives continue to look for inroads with states considering legalization.
In some cases, they have found a modicum of success. So, their efforts will likely continue to dog the expansion of sports betting into other states.
No. 4: The first gaming-sports partnerships
However, the mostly failed efforts to grab money from sports betting led to the next phase for the sports leagues. Various sports entities are now striking marketing deals and strategic partnerships with gaming companies for the very first time ever.
The company has yet to pick up its fourth member, the NFL. However, MGM does now have an individual partnership with the NFL’s New York Jets.
Other companies like William Hill and Caesars have struck similar deals with sports arenas, teams, and leagues. Almost all of these deals are nonexclusive. Still, leagues get the benefit of advertising in the stadiums and casinos. And the sportsbooks get to use league and team logos to promote their offerings.
No. 3: The rise of online sports betting in the US
New Jersey led the legal battle to offer sports betting inside its borders. The Garden State is also leading the country in sports betting technological innovation.
Technically, Nevada has offered sports betting through mobile apps for quite some time. However, 2018 saw the dawn of mobile wagering as a true force in sports betting.
Online sports betting in New Jersey has overwhelmed brick-and-mortar casinos as the preferred method of wagering. In November 2018, 72 percent of all sports bets occurred online.
Given online’s convenience and shifting demographics (younger, more tech-savvy players), this trend is likely to continue and intensify. Several of the other states who have legalized sports betting are making moves to bring online sports betting to life inside their jurisdictions.
Mobile wagering has also created an opportunity for some of the most groundbreaking innovation that sports betting has seen in years. Player-centric innovations like betting carousels, live ticket systems, and extraordinarily granular in-game betting options have changed the way that sports bettors approach their opportunities for play.
No. 2: The creation of sports betting states
Before May 2018, only one state (Nevada) could offer full-service sports betting to residents and visitors. By the end of 2018, seven other states launched sportsbooks active inside their borders.
States with legal sports betting are:
*New Mexico does not have an actual state law to allow sports betting. One of its tribal casinos began offering sports betting in October. The tribe believes its compact allows the practice. So far, there has been no ruling in court or legislative action in New Mexico to address this situation.
No. 1: The Demise of PASPA
Obviously, the removal of the federal prohibition on sports betting was the biggest story of the year. None of the stories above would have occurred if not for a favorable decision in Murphy v. NCAA.
The Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act (PASPA) had been the law of the land since 1992. The law prohibited wagering on sports except in Nevada and some specific exemptions in a few other states.
Court battles over the law, led by the state of New Jersey, eventually reached the US Supreme Court. On May 14, 2018, the nine justices ruled that PASPA violated the anti-commandeering doctrine of the 10th Amendment.
Thus, states were empowered to pass sports betting laws as they saw fit. Many, like New Jersey, already had sports betting laws on the books and were merely waiting for the federal prohibition to drop.
The rest was history. Laws and sportsbooks began to pop up all over the country.
With one swing of the gavel, an entire industry sprang to life. So far, the results are pretty promising. That’s is especially true in New Jersey, where sportsbooks in that state accepted more than $330 million in November alone.
So, it has been one for the record books in sports betting this year. There’s no reason to suspect that 2019 will be any different.