BOSTON – At the National Council of Legislators from Gaming States, PlayUSA spoke with Brandt Iden. He’s head of Government Affairs, US at Sportradar, and a former Michigan State Representative who was crucial in bringing in legal Michigan online casino games as well as sports betting.
Here’s Iden on what he predicts is on the horizon for the US online casino and gambling industries in 2022 and beyond.
Brandt Iden discusses future plans for 2023, US online casinos and more
Question: Are you surprised sports betting is legal in 30-plus states just four years after the repeal of PASPA?
Brandt Iden: I answer that a couple ways. I’m not shocked. I knew that once PASPA was overturned, we’d get here pretty quickly.
And I’m very confident that we’re going to continue to pick up states. I say that with knowing that we had a tough year this year, legislatively. Obviously, we’ve still got Massachusetts that is in play. That’s to be expected. I mean, it was an election year. It’s a redistricting year, a lot of things that play out there, and it’s tough to take gaming votes in a tough election year.
And I get that it’s tough to bring coalitions together to get over the finish line.
But now, we’re in 35 jurisdictions that are preparing for launch or have launched, and that’s exciting. I mean, that’s huge.
Generally speaking, is gambling expansion a bipartisan issue?
BI: You can’t get gaming legislation done without both sides. I mean, you’re never going to see a situation where even if you have majority control of one party in a state that a state can just push it through.
That is just never going to happen because of the factions. It takes people coming together. And it really is those folks from both sides of the aisle that want to look at this from, whatever it is,
“We want to regulate something that we know is going on offshore. We need to provide consumer protections.”
Those folks have got to get together and have the conversation. There’s no way to do this with just one party pushing it.
And so that’s why you see Republican sponsors, Democrat-sponsored Republican, and Democrats working together. Like we saw in Minnesota this year.
They didn’t quite get it over the finish line, but Senator [Karla] Bigham obviously worked closely with [Rep. Pat] Garofalo to try to get that thing done. And it’s a classic case of Republicans and Democrats trying to get it over the finish line.
Is passing iGaming legislation going to dominate the industry’s focus for the next few years?
BI: Absolutely, the industry needs to start working more toward iGaming. And the reason for that is, from the state perspective, from the revenue side, this is all iGaming-driven.
If you look at the $120 million that came in last year to the state of Michigan, 80% of that is iGaming revenue. That’s the majority of the revenue that comes in. And, so, if you’re looking to pad the budgets, it’s iGaming revenue.
At the same time, I am a little surprised, and I’d like to see more states work on pushing sports betting and iGaming simultaneously. Because if you’re going to push that boulder up the hill, you might as well do it once. You might as well take a big bite at it. But in this industry, traditionally, what we see is slow steps.
Race tracks lead to casinos, brick-and-mortar casinos lead to iGaming. We take slow steps in this industry anyway, so that doesn’t surprise me, but I would like to see more iGaming.
Will iGaming become the focus in places that haven’t legalized sports betting yet?
BI: Yeah, it’ll be iGaming. You’ll see a lot of the extreme pivot to iGaming. You’ll see the operators come back to those states where we’ve had success with mobile sports.
And we’ll start talking about iGaming. And I think that will run simultaneously with those big states. We’re still waiting to see what happens in California. We’re going to continue to work Texas. Florida’s Florida. We’re going to get there. We’ll figure that out.
And while all those things are going, you’re going to start to see the next legislative cycle, more talking states about iGaming, and that’s going to be coming from a stakeholder/industry perspective.