Cover The Spread: PA Fantasy, NJ Betting Numbers Bode Well For Books

Written By Grant Lucas on October 19, 2018
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Once again, a slow-developing sports betting industry in Pennsylvania seems to feed optimism.

Mere weeks before the first PA sports betting operations launch, the Keystone State has seen already-activated industries begin to boom — specifically in nearby New Jersey. To boot, Pennsylvania’s own fantasy sports industry has started to take off, thanks largely in part to football season.

As a result, despite being months behind other states with legalized sports betting (even New Mexico), Pennsylvania rides closer to its industry debut with as much optimism as ever before.

Once more, PA can glean from NJ

Since the Garden State launched regulated wagering in June, it has been a wellspring of information for Pennsylvania.

Regulations. Operating procedures. Mobile sportsbooks stemming from retail sites.

More recently, New Jersey provided a rosy source of optimism for the PA industry.

In September, with football kicking into full swing, NJ sports betting generated $24 million in revenue from some $184 million in handle. That came after three months in which New Jersey reported a combined $153 million in accepted wagers for $16 million in revenue.

During that same month, mobile sportsbooks became the go-to destination for bettors, as those products contributed about $104 million in handle compared with $79.1 million wagered at on-site books.

In the week leading up to the NJ Division of Gaming Enforcement releasing these figures, DGE director David Rebuck told a panel at the Global Gaming Expo in Las Vegas that NJ sports betting’s numbers would “not disappoint.” For Pennsylvania, that certainly was the case.

What about elsewhere?

New Jersey stands as the most appropriate comparison for the future of PA sports betting. Other state industries, however, indicate similar trends.

Take West Virginia, for example. Since launching in August, the Mountain State has taken in $10 million in handle for $2.3 million in revenue, largely due to the beginning of football season.

In Delaware, the first state to roll out legalized sports betting outside of Nevada, sports betting has led to over $5 million in revenue. Of that, $3.15 million came during the first month of football.

Mississippi proved no different. In September, the industry’s first full month, the Magnolia State accepted $5.5 milion in handle.

While the sample size is small, each market follows a similar trajectory. Pennsylvania certainly aims to kick off its industry on a high note. And really, state regulators and operators need not look outside its borders for the future of sports betting.

PA hoping to launch before end of football season

Ideally, Pennsylvania certainly would have liked to go live with its sports betting industry before football season. Yet capturing even part of the football season, even the tail end, would prove beneficial.

Once again, consider New Jersey’s September numbers. Roughly $90 million for completed events (not including futures) came through via football. Quick math shows that accounts for nearly half of the entire month’s handle.

Pennsylvania could even look inward for a confidence boost.

DFS foreshadows strong sports betting industry

Daily fantasy sports companies in the Keystone State generated more than $2.1 million in revenue and $320,000 in taxes in September, the first full month of the NFL season. That total more than doubled figures from August, during which time DFS accounted for $943,000 in revenue and $141,000 in taxes.

The DFS market is more niche than sports betting, yet the industry still provided a boon for Pennsylvania last month. With a more widely cast net, those numbers should only swell once regulated wagering gets its footing in PA.

Jumping back to the New Jersey sports betting numbers, residents from Pennsylvania — and New York, for that matter — certainly contributed. Philadelphia sits mere miles from the NJ border, which, essentially, is as far into the Garden State as you need to be in order to participate.

Pennsylvania boasts a population of nearly 4 million more people than New Jersey. Three sportsbooks could potentially open before 2018 concludes. There are also another three joining the fray, pending approval from the Pennsylvania Gaming Control Board later this month.

As a result, the sports betting industry in Pennsylvania could accomplish what Rebuck predicted what his state’s September numbers would do to the industry: Stun.

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Grant Lucas

Grant Lucas is a longtime sportswriter 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 and the Portland Trail Blazers throughout his career.

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