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Quirky Law Keeps Oregon From Expected March Sports Betting Bump

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Quirky Law Keeps Oregon From Expected March Sports Betting Bump
A general of Moda Center on February 20, 2021 in Portland, Oregon. Abbie Parr/Getty Images/AFP

February proved to be a down month for the US legal sports betting industry but also represented a time of optimism ahead of what was billed as the biggest bet-on Tournament ever in the US – March Madness, for those states that allow mobile wagering on college athletics. Legal sports betting jurisdictions are waiting with eager anticipation for March’s sports betting figures and the first to report, Oregon, acts as a cautionary tale for states hoping to launch their own platforms going forward.

For the second straight month, the state of Oregon posted a handle-decline. The main reason however isn’t the disinterest in the NCAA Basketball tournament, it is the state’s reluctance to welcome mobile wagers on college sports. Oregon’s sports betting platform currently stipulates that bettors can only wager on college sports in-person, at a brick-and-mortar facility. There is no such thing as mobile college wagers in the state… and it hurt Oregon’s bottom line.

Oregon’s March

According to the Oregon Lottery, regulator of the state’s legal sports betting platform, sportsbooks took in $24.1 million in March which represented an unforeseen and disappointing 18.7% drop from February’s $29.6 million. March was the second straight month of handle declines after the state posted a record $34.9 million in January.

Gross Gaming Revenues also registered a significant drop. March saw Oregon sportsbooks make $1.37 million in revenues, down an eye-opening 48.8% from the $2.69 they made in February.

Not being able to bet on the biggest sporting event from the comfort of their homes dragged Oregon’s sports betting scene down, especially during this time of COVID upticks. As one of the smallest sports betting markets in the US, Oregon could have used some extra sports betting momentum in their attempts to not only spawn a bump in the betting handle but also tax revenues off the platform.

Driver of the Platform

Basketball was the biggest performer for the Oregon legal sports betting industry during the month of March, and it wasn’t just the NCAA Basketball Tournament! The Portland Trail Blazers led the way and helped basketball contribute $15.1 million toward the overall $24.1 million handle.

Parlay betting was the second-largest handle contributor. $6.5 million was spent on parlay bets in March in Oregon, with soccer generating $2.76 million, hockey $2 million, MMA $1.06 million, and tennis $1 million toward sportsbooks’ revenue.

Lottery Model Still Proving Ineffective?

The state of Oregon is one of a few jurisdictions in the US that is still running a single-source legal sports betting model. The Oregon Lottery continues to be the only game in the state and continues to lag behind other jurisdictions within the legal sports betting space. Simply put, single-vendor, Lottery models have been a disappointment in the US legal sports betting scene so far… and New York, incredulously, is about to adopt a similar approach.

There has been movement in Oregon on this front, however. Gov. Kate Brown-backed House Bill 2127 came to life in January and seeks to give regulatory duties for legal sports betting to the Oregon Racing Commission. This move would help the Oregon platform evolve, increase the number of operators in the state, and bring a robust and all-encompassing mobile and retail platform to Oregon.

While there hasn’t been any reported movement on the Bill, the fact that it exists with the blessing of the state’s top lawmaker is significant. As it stands, the state lottery’s Scoreboard app has squashed the potential of any of the big betting providers from making a home in Oregon and has subsequently stifled the market.

It is a proven fact that competition breeds success in sports betting markets in the US. Oregon is currently void of such competition. Its sports betting scene has suffered due to this fact. Hopes are that with the backing of Governor Brown, the Oregon market will evolve and snap its current two-month skid to bounce back in April.