Could COVID-19 Actually Aid US Legal Betting?

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It has been nothing but bad news the last eight weeks since COVID-19 took over the global way of life. Everything that we know, love and expect have been turned upside down by coronavirus and the resulting changes to the way that we go about our daily lives look as though they will be forever altered.

The US legal sports betting scene is one industry that has been hit particularly hard by the virus but through all of the negative has emerged a school of thought that global shutdown of sports and global casino operations could actually help. A lot has been learned the last few months. Now it is up to states and casino operators to seize upon those lessons and strengthen what had been a rock-solid business pre-COVID.


COVID could bring more states into the fold

There has been an enormous cost associated with COVID-19, both human and financial. While states will never be able to recover the human cost, legislators will, and can be tasked with making up for the seemingly insurmountable financial costs. One way being floated by some is for previously reluctant states to expedite the legalization of sports betting in order to benefit from the tax dollars associated with the platform.

Perhaps the biggest example of a state that could benefit from legalizing sports betting is California, an enormous population base that is projected to have a $54.3 billion shortfall. Some think the idea of legalized sports gambling will get a more positive reception in the next legislative session and that lawmakers now see the tax revenue generated from such a platform as crucial to the state digging out of their present budgetary hole.

“We think that this legalization process that is happening at the state level stands to accelerate" Penn National Gaming CEO Jay Snowden recently said in an interview.


The rise of mobile betting

One of the true eye-opening legal betting trends in the US since the Supreme Court’s decision to overturn its ban in 2018 has been the mobile betting takeover that has transpired. Some, like New Jersey, Pennsylvania and Indiana (three of the four most successful, bet-friendly states) have embraced the platform fully and have since consistently reported over 85% of their monthly handles coming via mobile apps. Mobile is a huge revenue generator, rendering brick-and-mortar facilities as secondary earners for participating sportsbooks.

Other states like New York have so far shunned mobile betting, opting to stick with four upstate retail casinos for sports betting - and they have suffered in comparison. Their biggest revenue month came in January when $1,943,361 was the amount made. New Jersey recorded $53,561,626 during the same period and Pennsylvania saw $31,580,803 in revenues that same month. The reason? You guessed it... strong mobile platforms.

Nevada, the grand-daddy of legal betting just started identifying their mobile betting numbers in January when just 49% of their monthly handle came in via the internet. In March, when the retail locations were shuttered, that number grew to 63%.


The importance of mobile betting

With no retail casinos operating at the moment, mobile betting is the only game in town and those that rely on it are awfully happy they have it. Those states that had been considering a strong retail angle with a lesser mobile presence are surely refocusing on how to best roll out sports betting in their states.

One state, Tennessee has even opted for a mobile-only legal sports betting platform and are prepping to be up-and-running by late summer, in time for the NFL season. Somehow, online casino games can only be accessed by those located within New Jersey, Delaware, Pennsylvania and Nevada to some extent. That stat figures to change once we can all catch our breath and everything returns to normal.


Legal sports betting as viable as ever

With the tax revenues that states like New Jersey and Pennsylvania had been enjoying prior to the coronavirus pandemic, other jurisdictions are going to be forced to look at legal sports betting as a viable option to solve their inevitable budget shortfalls. Although the revenue from sports betting will hardly put a dent into the intense budget deficits of states, at least tax dollars will be a positive step. Every little bit helps.

Look for prospective state legislatures to put their foot on the gas toward legal sports betting. It can also be assumed that most states that don't have their own legal platform yet will be leaning heavily on a strong mobile presence.

Only 18 states have legalized sports betting so far leaving many more states that will be going to school on just how COVID-19 has affected their sports betting platforms.

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