California, iGaming Cannibalization, and Sports Betting Conspiracy Theories: An SBC Summit NA Notebook

Time to recap some of the best quotes from this year's SBC Summit North America conference, which touched on everything from the prospects for sports betting in California to the argument over cannibalization caused (or not caused) by iGaming.

Sports Betting Journalist
May 13, 2024 • 17:37 ET • 6 min read
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Sometimes you just gotta empty the notebook. 

The recent SBC Summit North America conference in Secaucus, New Jersey, involved a lot of interesting people saying a lot of interesting things about the current state of legal sports betting and iGaming. 

Some of that chatter made it into stories written by the Covers team that had boots on the ground at SBC. See here, here, and here, for example.

But there was a lot of chatter. And, candidly, not everything can be turned into a 600-word story. There aren’t enough hours in the day.

So, courtesy of Covers' Ryan Butler and Geoff Zochodne, what follows below is a collection of blurbs, numbers, and quotes summarizing and highlighting some of the more noteworthy things said during SBC Summit North America. Enjoy!

California Dreaming (for a long time): Good news: California tribes and commercial sportsbook operators are working to mend relations after a disastrous (and expensive) 2022 ballot campaign failed miserably and hurt both sides. Bad news: the rifts are not close to fully healed, and it's likely it will be 2027 (or later) until we see a legal sports bet in America’s most populated state.

Nevada Rep. opposes federal sports betting law: Nevada Rep. Dina Titus reaffirmed her opposition to sweeping federal sports betting legislation in a pre-taped message presented to conference attendees. Fear of federal regulation was a major topic of this year’s conference, especially after the increased scrutiny from several gambling-related scandals involving athletes as well as a bill introduced in Congress that would drastically curtail sportsbook advertising.

“We shouldn’t forget that the birth of our sector in the U.S. was enabled by the state of New Jersey telling the federal government ‘get out of my shorts’” – BetMGM CEO Adam Greenblatt, during his keynote panel at SBC. Gambling, Greenblatt said, is a states’ rights issue, as was underscored by the U.S. Supreme Court in its landmark 2018 decision striking down the Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act, or PASPA.

Bet the Under: U.S. sportsbooks are increasingly pushing bettors to bet the Over on player prop bets, said professional sports bettor “Captain Jack Andrews,” even when it's more advantageous to bet the Under.

But actually do bet the Under (in iGaming states): Eight was the highest number of legal iGaming states we should expect by 2025, a group of panelists said during an online casino session, compared to the seven that are live now. A (small) silver lining: panelists believe it could be closer to nine or 10 by 2027.

All aboard Alberta: Alberta, set to be the next Canadian province with a competitive sports betting and iGaming market, could be live by 2025, said Rush Street Interactive’s Bruce Caughill. It would join Ontario as the only such regulated province.

Place your bets: Alberta residents tend to bet more than their eastern counterparts, said Canadian Gaming Association CEO Paul Burns.

“Some people still don’t believe in the moon landing” - Scott Sadin, chief operating officer of Integrity Compliance 360. Sadin was speaking about being on the “frontlines” of various conspiracy theories that arise when something strange happens during a sporting event. However, 99% of the time the integrity-monitoring firm finds nothing further to investigate after digging into the sports betting data, he said. 

Dave & Busted: Dave & Buster’s plan to allow players to wager on games is already facing scrutiny from multiple state gaming regulators. Ohio Casino Control Commission Counsel Andromeda Morrison said her state was one of many already considering actions to ban these wagers.

Are you there, lawmakers? It’s us, the gambling industry: One recurring theme at SBC was that legislators could provide more clarity to operators and regulators. That is, of course, if lawmakers were to pass more gaming-related legislation, which may be less of a priority for them. Updating laws around fantasy sports contests, for instance, could help resolve arguments about what is and what is not allowed in any given state when it comes to pick’em contests versus the house. In the absence of such clarity, you can have various lawyers arguing various interpretations of existing law.

“Laws need to be developed and upgraded because of technology. That’s hard to do” - David Rebuck, the recently retired director of New Jersey’s Division of Gaming Enforcement.

 

“We’re not like the NFL and we’re not bringing in the money like the NFL is” - Nicole Pawlak, senior director of special projects for Athletes Unlimited. Pawlak said the network of professional women’s sports leagues has one of the more strict gambling policies, including a total ban on any sports wagering during a season. Education is key, Pawlak said, as a scandal could go beyond punishment for the player: sportsbooks may stop taking bets on Athletes Unlimited events altogether. 

“The numbers are not the numbers” – iGaming Capital Founder Melissa Blau, in response to claims online casino gaming cannibalizes retail casinos. Blau said stakeholders should look more holistically at revenue totals and not just pick aspects that fit their narrative.

“There are people in this process who are not being transparent” - Cordish Gaming President Rob Norton, in response to iGaming cannibalization claims. The cannibalization question was one of the hottest topics at this year’s conference.

"I'm disappointed to see that there are certain operators out there that are using this cannibalization argument to sort of weaponize the industry against itself" - Fanatics' Brandt Iden, referencing Cordish Gaming's iGaming opposition.

15-23%: the estimated cannibalization rate for brick-and-mortar casinos from iCasinos, per internal calculations provided by Cordish's Norton. This figure is far higher than what has been projected by much of the rest of the industry.

86%: the estimated portion of Ontario online bettors who use regulated sites instead of unregulated grey operators, per Burns.

“They’re criminals. They’re violating U.S. law” - Joe Asher, president of sports betting for IGT. Asher was asked to weigh in on how he feels about offshore operators and was succinct. He also added that he sees the treatment of those offshore gambling operators as a law enforcement matter, which may be tough for those in the legal gambling sector, as illegal gambling is not prioritized by authorities as much as other crimes.

 

$3.2 billion: the taxes FanDuel has paid since 2018, encompassing online sports betting and casino gaming, per FanDuel’s Caesar Fernandez.

Seven minutes: the amount of time after the SBC Summit opened before a panelist mentioned Jontay Porter, the former NBA player who was banned for life for betting on league games.

The “home” of the home run? BetMGM's Greenblatt seems to think that’s the case for his outfit. Greenblatt said BetMGM has seen a more than 200% increase in home run bets thanks to the various wagering options (such as parlays of same-game parlays) powered by data firm Angstrom Sports, which was acquired by BetMGM’s co-owner, Entain, last year. 

“Without sports betting, I think the Meadowlands would be closed” - Jeffrey Gural. The owner of the East Rutherford, N.J.-based horse-racing track said they lose “a lot of money” on the sport of kings, and called it “basically a dying business.” Fortunately, though, Gural said the Meadowlands partnered with FanDuel for sports betting, putting them in a dominant position in the Garden State.

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