Legal online gambling is half the age of the College Football Playoff. Neither has hit double digits in age, but what they each have in common is they both ushered in change.
Some online gambling operators have influenced and shaped how we view the US online gambling market. People like Sara Slane, Jason Robins and Jay Snowden have pushed the online gaming industry forward. From a company perspective, operators like Penn Entertainment, DraftKings and a host of others are thinking of new and inventive ways to keep online gaming fresh.
Similarly, there are college football coaches and teams that come along and change how we view the sport. I think of coaches like Hal Mumme, Mike Leach and Sonny Dykes and how they implemented the Air Raid offense. I think of the Miami Hurricanes of the ’80s, the Florida State Seminoles of the ’90s, and the Alabama Crimson Tide of the 2000s, each with their own unique impact on the sport.
On both the gambling side and college football side, there are legacy names, proven brands and those aiming to disrupt the establishment.
Personally, this list could be 10 deep. But for the sake of time, we will discuss five influential iGaming brands and their college football counterparts that have impacted online casino gaming and online sports betting.
A quick history lesson on legal online gambling
In simple terms, online gambling was only available in Nevada prior to 2018. I say “simply” because there were a few other states that were allowed to have online gambling but at the time, it wasn’t very popular. After the fall of the Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act (PASPA) in May 2018, the flood gates opened and each state was allowed to decide if it wanted online gambling.
New Jersey became the first state with legal online sports betting. Shortly after, states like Pennsylvania, West Virginia, Delaware and Rhode Island followed its lead. Now, online gambling is available in 26 states and Washington, DC.
While not every state has online casino games, each state does have its own version of sports betting. Currently, online casino gaming is only available in five states: New Jersey, Pennsylvania, West Virginia, Michigan and Connecticut.
The top of the mountain: DraftKings
College football comparison: University of Alabama
When I think about an iGaming company sitting atop the gambling world, I instantly think of DraftKings. Since the fall of PASPA in 2018, DraftKings has positioned itself as one of the top online gambling operators in the US. It quietly transformed its daily fantasy sports players into a legion of loyal sports bettors.
Not only that, but much like how The University of Alabama recruits five-star athletes, DraftKings also has an eye for talent. It recently completed the acquisition of Golden Nugget Online Gaming to help further enhance its online portfolio. With the addition of Golden Nugget, DraftKings once again has the opportunity to leverage thousands upon thousands of online casino players.
It’s these chess-level power moves that make me associate DraftKings with the Crimson Tide. Since 2009, Alabama has won six National Championships and gone 81-4 solidifying itself as one of the greatest programs in NCAA history.
Although DraftKings may not be the top revenue earner or the leading operator in any particular state, it sits atop the mountain and has become a household name in the iGaming industry. For that reason alone, DraftKings is comparable to Alabama.
Legacy names: William Hill
College football comparison: University of Notre Dame
Before the days of DraftKings and FanDuel, one company connected the words sports and betting. To me, my road to the gambling industry began with the name, William Hill. Since 1934, the UK bookmaker has been a recognized name and staple in the gaming industry. When online gambling became legal in the US, the company brought its legacy name over to the states and easily made an impact.
Even though William Hill’s US business was acquired by Caesars Entertainment for $3.7 billion, the lasting impact of the company remains. Although Caesars Sportsbook is the face of betting, its foundation comes from William Hill. And when I think of legacy college football teams, well, The University of Notre Dame is what comes to mind.
Experts have a saying, “when Notre Dame is good, the sport of football is good.” Although the team hasn’t won a title since 1988, its name alone is synonymous with success. One of the teams greatest achievements is finishing the year ranked in the Associated Press poll 56 times.
Consistency matters: 888 Holdings
College football comparison: North Dakota State University
If you were to ask a casual gambler if they ever heard of 888 Holdings, the odds are, they probably haven’t. Regardless, 888 has one of the largest collections of online gambling options, including online poker, casino and bingo games. It primarily operates overseas, but through various business dealings has found life in states like Colorado, Indiana, Iowa, Michigan and New Jersey.
It’s only fitting that 888’s college football counterpart is another team many have never heard about. Since 2011, the North Dakota State Bison are 9x-National Champion and have gone 130-7, including three undefeated seasons in the Football Championship Subdivision (FCS). North Dakota State’s proven record of success is comparable to what 888 Holdings has created.
Although its reach is limited, and its name might not be too recognizable, 888 represents a company making an impact in the online gaming market through consistency, similar to the mighty Bison of North Dakota.
New kids on the block: Penn Entertainment
College football comparison: Clemson University
When you discuss new and inventive ways to acquire customers, Penn Entertainment is the obvious choice.
On August 19, Penn acquired 100% of Barstool Sports completely transforming how customers consume gambling content.
No longer are gambling brands just outlets to display betting odds or a home for online slots. Now, they are entertainment hubs where customers come to consume content like podcasts and sketch comedy as well as a place to make bets. Penn figured out they could leverage social media influencers when it came to marketing and advertising to acquire the modern-day gambler.
Since the inception of the College Football Playoff, the Clemson Tigers have been a part of six out of eight tournaments. Additionally, the Tigers have played in four championship games, second only to Alabama, and are two-time National Champs. They represent the new kids on the block, the disruptors, the ones trying to dethrone the elite every season. The Tigers bring a swagger, and fresh take to College Football, much like Penn brings to online gambling.
Penn might not put up numbers like FanDuel or Caesars but what they are doing is evolving quicker than any company operating today.
The old guard: Las Vegas Sands
College football comparison: The NCAA
Sometimes you get an institution that clings to the old ways. That is the NCAA. The NCAA stuck to their Bowl Championship Series format when college football enthusiasts pleaded for a playoff format similar to all other sports. Eventually, the College Football Playoff Committee was created and, with it, a four-team playoff. Although the four-team structure was not greeted with open arms, it did usher in a new era.
The founder of Las Vegas Sands, the late Sheldon Adelson, was one of the biggest opponents of the spread of online gaming. In the casino mogul’s eyes, online gambling threatened his retail casino empire. Sands was part of the old guard which wanted to keep things as they were.
But there comes a time when you either change or you get left behind.
PASPA eventually fell and with it came the spread of legal online gambling. Las Vegas Sands has since abandoned the US casino industry in favor of Macau. Regardless, the company did its part by uniting industry experts, companies and legislative lawmakers to bring legal online gaming to the masses.