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Steve Friess: If DraftKings, FanDuel Let You Use The Same Mobile Gambling Account In Every State, Why Can’t Everyone?

It’s only a matter of time before national sportsbook apps figure out what they’re missing when it comes to access across state lines.

Steve Friess State of Play Universal Apps
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State of Play is a column that focuses on the trending stories in the casino and gambling space with sharp and clever insight from senior staff writer Steve Friess. Over his 25-year career, Friess has contributed to publications such as Newsweek, Time, New York Times and more.


 

BetMGM last week sent an excited email to certain customers under the subject header: “Important Update to Your Account.”

“Betting nationwide just got easier!” it blared. “Your e-mail ID and account balance travel with you.”

Great, I thought. I had just finished a weekend road trip from Michigan to my nephew’s wedding in Kentucky during which I spent a collective 12 hours in a car passing through a godforsaken wasteland known as “Ohio.” Even though I’m a regular BetMGM user in Michigan and also have accounts in Nevada and New Jersey because of past travel, I nonetheless was forced to sign up again in Ohio to place some wagers.

Days later, when this email popped up, it felt like someone in Vegas was reading my mind. The next time I have to go down there, I thought, it’ll be an easier, more rational user experience.

Except it won’t be. At least not yet.

BetMGM universal account has limits

Yes, BetMGM is finally enabling players to use one online account that can be accessed in multiple states, but only in certain states. Had I not signed up for the Ohio account days earlier, I’d never have known; this only works for players in Louisiana, Maryland, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Virginia, Washington D.C., and Wyoming. Not for Michigan, New Jersey or Nevada.

How strange. BetMGM is live in 20 states and D.C. but for some reason its systems can only handle a universal account for six states and D.C.? Why?

At first I assumed there was some regulatory and/or technological explanation. And, in fact, a caveat in the fine print of the email seemed to suggest this:

“Due to differing state regulations, any funds deposited with a credit or pre-paid card in an authorized state cannot be withdrawn in an unauthorized state.”

But then I looked around at other apps that are present in multiple states. It absolutely doesn’t have to be this way.

Here’s how certain sportsbook work

There are too many apps that exist in more than one state to do a definitive inventory of how each work across the U.S. These, however, are among the most prolific and ones that I have used for sports betting.

Here’s the state of play for intrastate account use:

  • DraftKings, FanDuel, and Bet365: A specific person can only have one account, and that user name and password work everywhere it’s legal to bet. I wasn’t a fantasy sports player, but I suspect this is a legacy of the tech-first foundations of both apps. You know, because it’s so obvious and intuitive. Bet365, being a newcomer with only a few states right now, seems to have gotten started the right way.
  • PointsBet: One account works in any state or territory where they exist, but users can’t access bankroll from their play in other states. A message indicates: “The funds in your wallet are region specific. In order to place a bet, you will need to deposit funds for this region.”
  • WynnBet, BetRivers, Golden Nugget and Betfred: All four force users to open new accounts in every jurisdiction. This also means that in every new jurisdiction, players can access the welcome bonus offers. Amusingly, Betfred goes through the trouble of warning new account holders that they may only use a welcome bonus in one state, but they didn’t stop me from getting the goodies more than once.
  • Caesars Sportsbook: The worst of all worlds. Users must have separate accounts for every jurisdiction, but the system recognizes that a particular person has an account elsewhere and blocks that person from accessing the welcome offers. When I signed up in Ohio on my road trip, I neither could access my money from my Michigan account nor enjoy the new-user perks.

BetMGM falls oddly in the middle now. Some of its states allow the accounts to be used from one place to another and some don’t. You do get to access the welcome bonuses if you create a new account in a state that isn’t touched by the six-states-plus-D.C. alliance or any other state you already have an account.

Will these apps figure it out?

None of this makes much sense — especially for providers like BetMGM and Golden Nugget with national tie-ins to brick-and-mortar casinos and other resort options for which accumulating rewards points is a draw. It’s far more attractive and motivating to the user to be able to amass those points in one easy-to-access account.

Instead, if I am forced to create a whole new account in a new state, I’m just going to look for a welcome package that I can exploit. That’s what I did in Ohio on my road trip; there was a terrific welcome bonus from BetFred that involved betting $2 and then getting $100 in betting credit. By the time I was safely back in the nirvana that is the Wolverine State, I’d spent the day betting on baseball (and keeping the kids from killing one another) and cashed out up $120.

Had BetMGM had a seamless approach for me, I would’ve taken my BetFred winnings and put them on BetMGM to play a bit there. I like the BetMGM app the most, but I go where the money is.

It’s only a matter of time before these apps figure out what they’re missing here. BetMGM and the others that give redundant “welcome” bonuses to existing customers are wasting their promotional dollars. Any excuse these companies provide are belied by the universality of FanDuel and DraftKings, which have been operating longer than anyone else.

This should be a no-duh, though. We all have so many online accounts. We all struggle to keep track of our passwords and usernames. Can you imagine if Target or Amazon forced you to have different accounts in every state? If you had to finagle your browser and your geo-location options to let you into Target in another state to check on an order?

You’d think that was nuts. And not the good kind.

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Steve Friess writes the State of Play column for PlayUSA twice a week. He's a veteran gambling-industry reporter who began covering Las Vegas in 1996 and covered the openings of resorts in Asia, Europe, and across the U.S. His bylines have appeared in The New York Times, Playboy, New Republic, Time, BusinessWeek, Newsweek, New York magazine, and many others. He, his husband, their children and three Poms live in Ann Arbor.

View all posts by Steve Friess

Steve Friess writes the State of Play column for PlayUSA twice a week. He's a veteran gambling-industry reporter who began covering Las Vegas in 1996 and covered the openings of resorts in Asia, Europe, and across the U.S. His bylines have appeared in The New York Times, Playboy, New Republic, Time, BusinessWeek, Newsweek, New York magazine, and many others. He, his husband, their children and three Poms live in Ann Arbor.

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