PlayUSA Rewind: 2019 Sports Betting Numbers, A New Kentucky Bill, NV Casino Updates

Posted on January 22, 2020

The first full year of legalized sports betting outside of Nevada is in the books.

And, according to the figures, it did not disappoint.

While Pennsylvania and New Jersey bask in the glow of titanic state-sanctioned industries, other states are continuing to find ways to integrate legalized wagering. The latest effort comes from Kentucky. Surely, more will follow.

Once again, so much to unpack, so let’s get to the Rewind.

Pennsylvania, New Jersey sports betting took off in 2019

What a year for legalized sports betting. Particularly, there were two states we expected to do well but really kicked it into high gear.

The Pennsylvania sports betting market, particularly after the advent of online wagering, shined in 2019. In December alone, the PA industry took in a state monthly record of $342.6 million in wagers. Nearly 87% of that total came via mobile sportsbooks.

Last year, Pennsylvania saw regulated online sports betting come to life and expand to eight sportsbooks. And as Play Pennsylvania detailed, monthly handle via betting apps has spiked 477% since going live in July.

In 2019 alone, bettors in Pennsylvania laid down nearly $1.5 billion with legal books. However, Pennsylvania still looks up at New Jersey.

With a whopping $557.7 million wagered in December, the Garden State wrapped up 2019 with an astounding $4.5 billion in handle.

Like Pennsylvania, New Jersey has watched online betting quickly take hold. In December, nearly 90% of all bets went through an online sportsbook.

Both states were expected to rise to prominence after the US Supreme Court repealed PASPA. Both have answered the call to this point. Now we’ll see how they can improve and escalate even higher in 2020.

Is Kentucky sports betting on the horizon?

Gov. Andy Beshear provided some fodder during his State of the Commonwealth address.

He emphasized the need to “create the new revenue to meet the growing needs” of Kentucky. He noted how the state is “watching more than $500 million in gaming revenue go across the border to states like Indiana, Ohio and Illinois.”

Then, Beshear announced that Rep. Adam Koenig has filed a bill to legalize sports betting. It has the governor’s full support.

After multiple bills arose and fell short in 2019, both Beshear and Koenig express optimism about the latest filing, which removed the previously proposed stipulation that no bets can be placed on Kentucky-based teams and events.

On top of it all, Koenig’s bill would legalize online poker and daily fantasy sports. While online casinos remain out of the picture, Beshear said there could be more conversations down the road:

“I hope that isn’t the end of the conversation, because right now all of our neighboring states — all of them — most of them Republican-led, have embraced expanded gaming while we are being left behind.”

The bill received a unanimous 18-0 vote in the House Licensing, Occupations and Administrative Regulations Committee and is expected to get approval soon on the House floor.

Nevada casinos get new owners

A new team has taken over Las Vegas real estate occupied by MGM Grand and Mandalay Bay.

MGM Growth Properties LLC and Blackstone Real Estate Income Trust, Inc. have entered into an agreement to form a joint venture and acquire the real estate assets of the two properties for $4.6 billion. MGM Growth Properties will own 50.1% of the venture, while Blackstone will possess the remainder.

Once the deal is closed, MGM Resorts International will continue to manage and operate both MGM Grand and Mandalay Bay. The deal is expected to finalize in the first quarter of 2020. With both casinos spanning some 226 acres on the Strip, MGM Resorts’ annual rent will stand at $292 million.

Blackstone continues to add Strip properties; recently the group acquired the Bellagio for $4.25 billion.

Up north, Harrah’s Reno will soon have new ownership. Caesars Entertainment confirmed that a CAI Investments affiliate will acquire the property for $50 million.

Caesars has leased Harrah’s via VICI Properties, which will split the sale’s proceeds with Caesars.

Over the first half of the year, Harrah’s will continue to be part of the Caesars Rewards network. Then, new ownership – Reno City Center LLC – will take over and the property will transition into a “mixed-use, non-gaming property.”

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Grant Lucas

Grant Lucas is a longtime sports writer who has covered the high school, collegiate and professional levels. A graduate of Linfield College in McMinnville, Grant has covered games and written features and columns surrounding prep sports, Linfield and Oregon State athletics, the Portland Trail Blazers and golf throughout his career.

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