The COVID- 19 pandemic has forced a lot of change globally and its impact is being felt in the blossoming legal sports betting industry in the US. With retail sportsbooks still closed in some areas and in various stages of re-opening in others, bettors are increasingly avoiding casino floors out of COVID fears and their somewhat restrictive coronavirus rules. The trend pre-coronavirus was toward mobile sports betting but the virus has only accelerated the rate with which customers are placing wagers from the comfort of their own homes.
Legal sports betting in the US had been showing its affinity for mobile sites for months prior to the coronavirus shutdowns. But the deeper we dig into the impact of COVID-19, the more we see just how important betting apps have been to their providers and the states that host them. Providers with no mobile capabilities have had zero revenues in the last few months and states that support a retail-only platform have earned zero much-needed tax revenue over that span. Mobile apps and mobile-friendly states on the other hand have at least been able to still operate, although it has been in a somewhat limited capacity.
Mobile a Budget Deficit Mitigator?
During the height of the coronavirus shutdowns, all of America’s brick-and-mortar casinos were closed making the need for a strong mobile presence essential for gambling providers and states that count on the tax revenue that those casinos generate.
Interestingly, debates over the merits of legal sports betting in states have brought to the forefront the intensifying budgetary holes that states are finding themselves in thanks to COVID-19. Budget concerns are the main reason lawmakers in a host of states have changed their views on legal sports betting as a mitigator of the coronavirus holes they are in.
California is facing a $54 billion budget shortfall and came close to legislating some form of legal betting, the state of New York, which is home to a retail-only betting platform has been quietly considering mobile betting thanks largely to its $17 billion deficit and other states like Louisiana, which was considered one of the longshot=states to consider legal sports betting are suddenly partially on board, thanks to the deficits they are staring at.
The Strong Getting Stronger
It has become obvious that those states with mobile sports betting platforms have become the “haves” while those who are lagging behind in adopting a strong mobile presence are becoming the “have nots”.
States like New Jersey, Pennsylvania, and Indiana has risen up the ranks in terms of the most bet-friendly largely because of their ability to generate between 85%-90% of their impressive monthly handles through betting apps. Other states have opted for mobile-only legal sports betting platforms in order to maximize tax revenue and minimize the regulation that comes along with retail facilities.
West Virginia, among the smaller legal betting states just reported 98% of their handle from the last two weeks have come from apps, even though all but two retail casinos were open in the state.
On the other hand, states like New York have failed to embrace any online betting, opting instead to stick with its four upstate brick-and-mortar casinos. In turn, New York providers have earned exactly zero revenue and contributed no tax revenue to the cash-strapped state. Michigan, who recently legalized sports betting, will eventually host both mobile and retail with retail kicking off first. Those in charge are rushing to confirm mobile betting capability as they realize just how important it is for the state’s bottom line.
Nevada, the grandfather of legal betting states is officially in danger of losing their status as King. The state only started recording their mobile betting numbers in February when just 49% of their overall handle came from betting apps. That number climbed to 63% in March but likely won’t climb much more until the state amends its rule that customers must sign up in-person at a brick-and-mortar facility to become eligible to use a mobile app.
While mobile betting in Nevada is climbing, it still has a ton of work to do in order to get itself on par with the up-and-comers of the legal sports betting industry. New Jersey has already eclipsed Nevada in terms of overall bets taken in five times the last year and is threatening to overtake Nevada as the King of the Betting States – amazing as it seems.
Pennsylvania and Indiana aren’t far behind with Michigan threatening to rise into that elite class when their legal sports betting platform is mature.
Lessons have been learned the last few months and those lessons only strengthen the argument for a strong mobile betting presence in the states that have legalized since 2018 or are considering bringing a legal sports betting platform to their state.
Convenience is becoming key for bettors as is the ability to get in on the increasingly popular in-game wagers that mobile betting sites offer. Mobile apps are the future of gambling just as they are the future of how we live our lives.