Two of the more prominent sweats in the gaming community these past few months haven’t come on a casino floor or sportsbook. Instead, they’ve unfolded in a much more subdued environment: the legal arena.
The outcome of the landmark Murphy vs. NCAA case gave the long-awaited green light for states to begin considering the legalization of sports betting, both in brick-and-mortar locations and online.
Then most recent — which came to fruition Monday — was far less welcome. The Department of Justice followed through on what was a rumor for weeks.
New interpretation redefines assumptions
The news sent shock waves through a segment of the online gaming realm.
A quick refresher on what the Wire Act intends to prohibit is in order.
The law criminalizes the utilization of a wire communication facility:
- To transmit “bets or wagers;” or,
- “Information assisting in the placing of bets or wagers on any sporting event or contest.”
Additionally, it’s considered illegal to use the transmission of wire communications to provide an individual with any form of remuneration for either:
- “Winning bets or wagers;” or,
- “For information assisting in the placing of bets or wagers.”
One of the key distinctions of either provision: They apply only to interstate transmissions of any degree.
The decision on PASPA helped usher in legal, single-game sports betting in a state other than Nevada for the first time. However, given the Wire Act’s limitations, wagering remains fenced in within each jurisdiction.
Geo-fencing technology helps ensure as much on both the customer and operator side of sportsbooks.
Meanwhile, between the DOJ’s 2011 opinion and Monday’s memo, other forms of online, money-based gaming, e.g., casino games including poker, were tacitly deemed to be out of the Wire Act’s reach based on the previously cited wording.
The same held for online lottery sales.
Multiple states, activities potentially affected
The new reading of the Wire Act shoots down that assumption.
It notes that only one provision of the law singles out sporting events as the subject of the prohibition. The rest, it emphasizes, can be assumed to apply to all forms of money-based gaming.
Eventually, it also resulted in New Jersey, Nevada and Delaware establishing ongoing, shared liquidity with their online poker player pools.
Given that state lines are crossed in a manner of ways during business transactions under the latter arrangement, it’s precisely the type of activity this reinterpretation now places into legal jeopardy.
Such activity is now also believed to be outside the law; that is if this latest interpretation is actively enforced as such.
Uncertainty on enforceability abounds
And that is indeed the tipping point.
In the wake of Monday’s announcement, the optimistic view has been to point out the Trump Administration’s DOJ’s similar “walk-back” of an Obama-era memo offering guidance on more lenient enforcement when it came to marijuana-related transgressions.
The current DOJ’s communication on the matter last November directed US Attorneys “to use previously established prosecutorial principles” when enforcing marijuana-related federal law. As with online gaming, the release of that communication prompted initial concerns in a newly legalized and regulated market that remains only a handful of states in size.
However, there has been no subsequent tangible effect on that industry. States that had taken the step of legalizing the activity in some form remain unencumbered by the ruling.
A similar scenario could play out with this Wire Act “redux.”
One vastly important legal component at play — that even the DOJ memo acknowledges — is it represents an opinion and therefore does not carry the force of the law. It further concedes that the opinion could certainly be nullified via a court challenge.
Indeed, there’s already a precedent for such. Both the 1st and 5th Circuit Court of Appeals have previously ruled the Wire Act to strictly encompass sports betting.
So, is there any potential liability for intrastate sports betting?
Sports betting’s limitations under the Wire Act were already clarified under the prior interpretation of the law.
Thus, for the moment, the industry appears far less impacted by the potential fallout of this decision.
Yet, given the avalanche of uncertainty regarding the exact ramifications of the DOJ’s memo — particularly pertaining to what degree it will be deemed legally enforceable — there is still some apprehension.
For example, one significant open question: Whether any leg of an intrastate sports betting transaction digitally crossing state lines constitutes a Wire Act violation.
A strictly literal application of the law may conclude as much. In such a scenario, full intrastate solutions, especially with payment processing, may have to be found.
Intersection with proposed federal sports betting legislation?
Then, there’s one other intriguing angle to the entire discussion that involves another branch of the federal government – the Legislative.
The bipartisan Sports Wagering Market Integrity Act of 2018, introduced this past December by Sens. Chuck Schumer (D-NY) and Orrin Hatch (R-UT), interjects the federal government into the sports betting legislative arena as well.
However, it does so while acknowledging “each State may decide whether to permit sports wagering and how to regulate sports wagering.”
Rather than to impose any prohibitions, one of the stated intentions of the bill is to allow Congress to “provide law enforcement with additional authority to target the illegal sports wagering market.”
The latter wording is especially relevant in the wake of the latest developments. Any potential restrictions on regulated sports betting stemming from the latest interpretation would work at cross-purposes with the bill by once again driving the US sports bettor to offshore, unregulated sportsbooks.
Much like the company hosting the event, there are plenty of participants in this coming weekend’s DraftKings’ Sports Betting National Championship looking to replicate their daily fantasy sports (DFS) success in the sports betting realm.
The most prominent might well be Alex Baker, much better known in DFS circles as “Awesemo.”
Baker currently has the ranking of No. 1 DFS player in the world, by industry site RotoGrinders.
Therefore, he’s no stranger to live, high-stakes bashes, which DraftKings’ Sports Betting Championship promises to be. Last month, Baker held three seats in DraftKings’ DFS NFL Live Final.
Just a couple of months prior, he was a four-time qualifier in the site’s MLB Live Final. That was the second time he’d accomplished the feat; Baker snagged the same number of seats for the NBA season-ending extravaganza last spring as well.
Baker boasted a similarly prolific body of work in the prior two years, too.
His DFS success across multiple sports — he also currently ranks in the top five in PGA and NHL, and in the top 75 in MMA — should serve him well in an event where contestants will be free to wager on a wide variety of games until Sunday when the event draws to a close.
That same day, contest participants must plunk down at least $2,000 on markets for the Chargers versus Patriots, and Eagles versus Saints during NFL’s divisional round. None of the other sporting events unfolding that day qualify with respect to the contest’s leaderboard.
An aggressive approach will be key
Given his overall success, the fact that Baker holds a seat to the single-entry event is far from shocking. He won his way in through a $225 NFL qualifier contest this fall. If that wouldn’t have worked out, he was ready to foot the $10,000 direct buy-in to get in on the action.
In a conversation with TheLines.com, Baker elaborated on his overall outlook heading into the first-of-its-kind event.
Naturally, he wasn’t overly revealing when it comes to the more granular aspects of his planned strategy.
But, Baker did affirm his belief that anything resembling a cautious approach simply ain’t gonna cut it with regards to securing the $1 million grand prize — the amount awarded to the participant with the largest bankroll by weekend’s end.
“I think you have to take a very high-variance approach with nearly half the money going to first,” Baker said. “You also have to place as many bets as possible to increase your bankroll exponentially.”
Given that all bet types, live betting and cash-outs are considered eligible wagers as per DraftKings’ official rules, there’s no shortage of options through which to achieve that goal.
Will DFS skills play a role?
How much can Baker’s DFS talent help in this weekend’s sports betting-focused event? In his view, there’s a certain degree of overlap; yet, there are also enough differences to make it an unchartered territory.
Granted, he’s not a sports betting novice by any stretch. Baker concedes to having “dabbled some” in sportsbooks in the past. There’s also plenty of synergy with DFS when it comes to the type of research involved before decision-making.
Much like in DFS, “everyone will be using the best estimation of what happened in the past to try and predict what will happen in the future,” said Baker.
Having built player models for DFS purposes with success for multiple years, Baker is beyond well-equipped in this regard.
However, there’s naturally a gulf between assessing potential individual production as opposed to attempting to predict a team-centered outcome. Then, figuring out whether a point spread or projected total is exploitable is an even more precise practice.
The area where DFS acumen could move the needle the most may be in individual player props. An expert statistical modeler, the caliber of Baker, could certainly leverage his or her skills in predicting individual performance to achieve substantial success with such bet types.
Regarding contest structure, Baker is very much on board with the aforementioned rule that all Sunday wagering is exclusive to NFL’s divisional playoff games.
In fact, the long-tenured DFS live final participant thinks the structure could allow the Sports Betting National Championship to trump those events in terms of last-minute fireworks.
“In DFS live finals, everyone sets their lineup before lock, and then you wait it out,” remarked Baker. “This will be a fluid situation with all the bets that can be placed as the games go on.”
Prominent handicapper offers his view
Having obtained the valued perspective of the DFS industry’s most successful pro — one that also happens to be one of the event’s participants — TheLines.com reached out to a professional handicapper for his take on the Sports Betting National Championship.
Jon Price, of Sports Information Traders, has been a prominent name in sports betting for many years. He’s hit on several six- and seven-figure wagers in multiple sports while also heading up his renowned “sports investment service.”
While the Sports Betting National Championship has been the recipient of some social media flack, Price lauds the event as a positive that sets up as a formidable test to its participants’ sports betting skills.
“Specifically, this will require more than general knowledge in handicapping, but also the DK fantasy props will provide a challenge to those contestants who don’t normally play fantasy and vice versa for those adept at individual player props,” Price said.
“Also, the idea that all sports are included will definitely create some opportunities (for) professional handicappers who have their niche sport. This is one event that truly does require thought, skill and most importantly, bankroll preparation and execution.”
DraftKings entered the sports betting realm back on Aug. 1 and hasn’t looked back.
The daily fantasy sports (DFS) industry leader —that early on made its intentions of exerting similar dominance in due time over the betting space — is currently operating its DraftKings Sportsbook online in New Jersey.
In early October, DraftKings announced the first-of-its-kind Sports Betting National Championship. The event unfolds this week in the Garden State over the NFL’s divisional playoff weekend.
The championship offers a $1 million grand prize, and DraftKings is guaranteeing a $2.5 million prize pool.
Significant overlay with days to go
The company has gotten plenty of well-deserved positive press for the event, which seemingly seeks to replicate some of the same electricity that DraftKings has been able to generate with its DFS live finals over the past several years.
But as much early momentum as the Sports Betting National Championship enjoyed, DraftKings’ Senior Product Manager Jon Aguiar chimed in with the following on Twitter late last week:
Approximately 100 entries in the Sports Betting National Championship with 1 week to go. 500 are needed to meet the guarantee. This was a VERY aggressive guarantee for a brand new event and is unlikely to be met. Should be a LOT of value out there. https://t.co/ixINU8RMku
— Jon Aguiar (@JonAguiar) January 3, 2019
DraftKings updated that number to 140 entries on Monday following a busy weekend of online qualifiers during the NFL playoffs. That still leaves them well short of the total to meet the $2.5 million guarantee.
For those who are already well-versed in the DFS space, the word “overlay” is typically brings glee. To put it succinctly, overlay, depending on how large, is one heck of an odds booster for the player and a proverbial bath for the operator.
When the guaranteed contests fail to fill, the portion of the prize pool those absent entries would have subsidized then ends up on the company’s tab.
Given Aguiar’s announcement, that bath is looking more like a deluge. With a Jan. 11 kick-off date, there is still plenty of time for some of those empty seats to be filled.
The event has a $10,000 direct buy-in. Therefore, it’s not just exclusive to those that punched their tickets through qualifiers during NFL season or the first quarter-plus of the NBA campaign.
Given the well-timed announcement, it’s the last-minute sales pitch that likely will bring some high rollers to the table. After all, the edge is undeniably magnetizing for those who can afford the buy-in fee and have a degree of confidence in their sports betting acumen.
Unique format sets up an intriguing challenge
The Sports Betting National Championship sports a unique format that promises to test several important sports betting skills in its participants, including multisport knowledge, bankroll management and prudent line selection.
Some of the nuts and bolts of the event are as follows:
- Each participant begins the contest Friday with a DraftKings-funded $5,000 bankroll.
- Players must wager at least $1,000 on Friday and Saturday, and at least $2,000 on Sunday.
- Wagers can be placed on any sports on Friday or Saturday. However, all wagers placed Sunday must exclusively involve the two NFL divisional playoff games unfolding that day.
- Participants must meet the requirements to retain a spot on the official leaderboard and qualify for the $1,000,000 grand prize, or for the subsequent payouts for lower finishes.
- All types of bets are in play, including straight bets, parlays and fantasy props. However, betting closes upon the kickoff of the second NFL divisional playoff game on Sunday.
- The player with the biggest bankroll at the end of the weekend becomes the grand prize winner. Bankroll size determines subsequent qualifying spots.
- DraftKings is guaranteeing a prize pool of $2.5 million. Each direct buy-in above 531 entries will increase the prize pool by $4,700 apiece.
- The contest is single entry. The event will have a maximum of 1,000 entrants.
- All players take home the total of their bankroll at the end of the weekend. Those who have kept their leaderboard eligibility are also awarded any money they’ve earned through that channel.
TheLines will be in Jersey City providing coverage of the DraftKings Sports Betting National Championship. Follow our Twitter account for updates from the event!
TheLines provides a breakdown and analysis for the NCAA’s National Title Game on Monday night. We’ll look at the odds and see why they’re moving a certain way, along with breaking down the matchup and providing the week’s best prop bets.
The top two college football squads in the nation clash at Levi Stadium in Santa Clara, California on Monday night to decide which will hold the mantle of top team in the nation for the just-concluded 2018 season. Alabama and Clemson both forged perfect 14-0 records during the regular season.
The Crimson Tide was 8-0 in the Southeastern Conference, defeating the Georgia Bulldogs in the conference title game by a 35-28 score Dec. 1. They earned their way into Monday night’s championship game with a 45-34 victory over the Oklahoma Sooners in the Orange Bowl semi-final at Hard Rock Stadium in Miami.
The Tigers were 8-0 in the Atlantic Coast Conference, defeating the Pittsburgh Panthers in the conference title game by a 42-10 score Dec. 1. They earned their way into Monday night’s championship game with a 30-3 victory over the Notre Dame Fighting Irish in the Cotton Bowl semi-final at AT & T Stadium in Dallas.
National title game betting odds and analysis
The line has fluctuated at DraftKings Sportsbook within a point over the last week, but the Crimson Tide has never been less than five-point favorites. The apex was a six-point spread in favor of Alabama a week ago. Substantial money clearly came in on Clemson at that point, enough to move the line a full point down to five late in the week last week. There’s been additional fluctuation since, with the Tide bouncing back to 5.5-point favorites Sunday, reverting back to a five-point number earlier Monday, and then landing on 5.5 yet again as of early Monday afternoon.
The projected total at DraftKings Sportsbook has been much more volatile. At 59 points a week ago, the total reached a high point of 60.5 by the middle of last week. A downward slide then ensued, one that eventually saw the total sink as low 57.5 earlier Monday before jutting back up to 58. As of this writing early Monday afternoon, the number had hit a new low of 57 before dropping again to 56.5 two hours before kickoff.
National Title Game matchup
The battle of college football’s juggernauts is a familiar one. The series between the schools has a 118-year history, but the most recent games have been particularly high-stakes affairs. The Crimson Tide and Tigers have met in the National Championship Game after both the 2016 and 2017 seasons. Alabama notched a 45-40 win in the first game, while Clemson countered with a 35-31 victory in the second. The third meeting, in January 2018, wasn’t for all the marbles. However, it determined which of the two teams would advance to the biggest game of the season. Alabama won that rubber match by a 24-6 margin in the Sugar Bowl.
Monday night’s matchup is a vintage strength vs. strength affair. The Tide checks in scoring the second-most points per game (47.5). The Tigers aren’t far behind, ranking as the fourth-most prolific team (44.0). Then, no team in major college football was stingier than Clemson — they allowed just 13.4 points per contest. That includes a top-ranked 11.4 points per road game. Alabama counters with the fourth-fewest points per game surrendered (16.2). That includes 12.5 points per home contest, second fewest in the country.
The Crimson Tide compiled the seventh-most passing yards per game (322.2). In turn, the Tigers allowed just 192.5 passing yards per contest, including 157.3 per game on the road. The latter figure is the fifth-lowest away total in the nation. Then, the Tigers’ offense often relied on their elite running game. Clemson rushed for 256.8 yards per game, 10th-most in the country. Yet, Alabama was among the best at stopping ground attacks. The Tide allowed a modest 109.2 rush yards per contest, 11th-fewest in the nation.
National Title Game betting breakdown
The Tigers were 8-6 (57.1 percent) versus the spread this season. Monday’s game marks the first instance this season in which the Tigers are underdogs.
The Crimson Tide were also 8-6 (57.1 percent) against the number this season. As is the case Monday, Alabama was a favorite in all of those games.
The Crimson Tide is considered the home team in Monday’s neutral site. Alabama is 4-3 (57.1 percent) against the spread as a home favorite this season, with all of those contests day games, as is Monday’s.
The Tigers were 4-1 (80.0 percent) versus the number as a road team this season. That includes a 3-0 mark against the spread in road day games. The Tigers have also covered the spread in eight of their last nine bowl games.
The average margin of victory for the Crimson Tide this season was 31.5 points. The average margin of victory for the Tigers was 31.4 points.
The Crimson Tide exceeded their projected total in eight of 14 games this season (61.5 percent), with one push. That includes exceeding their projected total in five of seven home day games (78.6 percent), with one push.
The Tigers went under their projected total in six of 14 games this season (42.9 percent). However, the Tigers exceeded their projected total in all three road day games. Each of Clemson’s last four neutral-site games have gone under the projected total.
Sportsbook promos and props
DraftKings, FanDuel and BetStars are offering value for Monday night’s Alabama vs. Clemson game in the form of odds boosts. Have a look below for the options at each book in New Jersey:
To make things more interesting, DraftKings Sportsbook is offering the chance to earn two times your winnings on your first live bet. Here’s how it works:
- Place a live (in-game) singles paid bet on the game.
- If it wins, DraftKings will double your winnings with a free bet (up to $25).
FanDuel Sportsbook is adding a little excitement to the biggest game of the season with its double your winnings promotion. Here’s how it works:
- Opt in to the promotion
- Bet the over (58 points)
- Win pays double your winnings (up to $100 in site credit)
- Amount equal to site credit must be wagered before winnings can be withdrawn
- Bonus expires seven days after receipt
There are several odds boosts available for Monday’s College Football Playoff National Championship Game:
- Joshua Jacobs and Travis Etienne to score a touchdown (now paying +135)
- Damien Harris to score a touchdown and Alabama to win (now paying +130)
- Joshua Jacobs to score a touchdown and Alabama to win (now paying +140)
- Travis Etienne to score two or more touchdowns (now paying +140)
DraftKings got to the top of the DFS mountain by taking some chances and thinking outside the box.
One of the methods by which the industry leader gained notoriety was through its live final events. There have even been full-fledged documentaries memorializing the experience. And while DK wasn’t the first to host one, they arguably have gotten to the point where they pull it off better than anyone else.
The company took a similarly aggressive/innovative approach when entering the sports betting space. Chief Revenue Officer and Co-Founder Matt Kalish made no bones about the company’s goal to become the “best total value operator in sportsbook” as DK officially kicked off its sports betting product in early August.
Bringing a little DFS flavor to the sports betting space
The subsequent months have arguably been an unqualified success by and large for DraftKings Sportsbook, even as it’s still only available in New Jersey. Now, using a little bit of that same ingenuity that they’ve often applied on the DFS front, the company has found a way to hold a first-of-its-kind live final for sports betting that incorporates players from jurisdictions where the activity isn’t yet available.
“At DraftKings, the natural state of things is to look at everything as an opportunity for creativity and disruption,” said Kalish. “We looked at the sportsbook space and saw very little in the way of events. With our history running the biggest and best fantasy events every year, it seemed natural to find a way to bring that kind of experience to the sportsbook space.”
The first annual DraftKings Sports Betting National Championship unfolds in – where else – Jersey City, New Jersey on the weekend of January 11-13. Qualifiers are currently running in the company’s DFS lobby. However, there’s also the option of a direct $10,000 buy-in.
Some of the other logistics of the event include:
- Each participant begins with a DK-funded $5,000 bankroll.
- Players must wager at least $1,000 on Friday and Saturday, and at least $2K on Sunday.
- Wagers can be placed on any sport Friday or Saturday. However, all wagers placed Sunday must exclusively involve the two NFL divisional playoff games unfolding that day.
- Those requirements must be met in order for participants to retain a spot on the official leaderboard and qualify for the $1,000,000 grand prize, or for the subsequent payouts for lower finishes.
- All types of bets are in play, including “straight bets, parlays, fantasy props and more” as per Kalish. However, betting closes upon the kickoff of the second NFL divisional playoff game on Sunday.
- The player with the biggest bankroll at the end of the weekend is crowned the grand prize winner. Subsequent qualifying spots are also determined by bankroll size.
- The prize pool will be at least $2.5 million, with each direct buy-in above 531 entries increasing the prize pool by $4,700 apiece.
- Contest is single entry. The event will have a maximum of 1,000 entrants.
- All players take home the sum total of their bankroll at the end of the weekend. Those who have kept their leaderboard eligibility are also awarded any money they’ve earned through that channel.
Ensuring a level playing field
The Sports Betting National Championship will naturally have quite a few firsts associated with it. One of those is an educational component not found in DK’s live DFS events.
Despite their many similarities, sports betting – and how it’s laid out in the DK Sportsbook app — is in a completely different stage of familiarity as compared to the company’s DFS product for most that will attend the event, considering:
- Legal single-game sports betting outside of Nevada is still in its nascent stages.
- Many qualifiers for the proceedings will be migrating over from the DFS space. While conventional wisdom would dictate most have placed a sports bet before, there will inevitably be at least a handful that are considerably inexperienced.
- The DK Sportsbook app is only fully operational for New Jersey residents at present. It offers a wealth of potential wagering options – including a suite of in-play bets – that even some experienced players may not have extensive experience with. At minimum, many participants will be navigating the platform for the first time upon their arrival at the event.
Accordingly, the company is trying to ensure that no one is at a disadvantage from a knowledge perspective.
“In addition to the abundance of educational features already included in our easy-to-use app that help better acquaint customers with our product, we’ll be providing additional learning materials to all competitors,” remarked Kalish. “We will also have a fully staffed onsite area at the event for customers with any questions or issues that happen to arise.”
“Method to the madness” in contest rules, structure
As Kalish further explains, there’s sound reasoning behind each of the contest’s rules, even when it’s not evident on the surface. For example, the requirement that all final day bets must be exclusively on football stems from the NFL undoubtedly serving as the U.S. market’s most frequently and lucratively bet sport.
The fact that the NBA and NHL – the other two major sports in action at that point of the year – purposely keep their Sunday slates modest while pro football’s in season also played a role.
And as far as the wagering cut-off time on the contest’s final day? There’s a strategic element at play there as well.
“Closing betting at the kickoff of the last game will allow players and spectators alike to watch the last few hours of action with a clear picture of who could potentially walk away the champion,” Kalish said. “We want the final experience to easily display the necessary turn of events required to crown a winner, adding even more anticipation with each in-game moment.”
From the company perspective, that certainly makes sense. DK is naturally hoping this initial version of the Sports Betting National Championship once again positions it as a trailblazer in a new industry, with all the positives that could bring.
The company’s prior experience facilitating live, high-stakes sports-based gaming events was critical. Devising a final-day contest structure that engenders the type of electricity that’s made DK’s DFS live finals an industry standard was high on the priority list, according to Kalish. Especially for an event that DK certainly has a highly bullish long-term view on.
“Based on our experience with our DFS live finals, which we’ve been hosting since 2014, we think this will lead to a much more focused and exciting conclusion to the event.”
Lead image courtesy of DraftKings
DraftKings clawed its way to the top of the multimillion-dollar daily fantasy sports industry by maximizing the most visceral appeal of its product — the chance to win large sums of money in a single day. That potentially making any sporting event, regardless of its participants, one of keen interest.
That seductive quality has enticed plenty of sports fans — approximately 10 million of them according to co-founder Matt Kalish — to at least give DraftKings’ daily fantasy sports (DFS) offerings a try at one point or another.
The company kickstarted a new era when DraftKings Sportsbook officially went live Aug. 6. Being the new kid on the block brings plenty of challenges; managing to capture the same level of engagement with the sports betting customer as they do with those on the DFS side is one of the bigger ones.
Spicing up conventional sports betting
Traditional sports betting can be a notably more “static” product than DFS on the surface. Many traditional wagers hinge on end-of-game outcomes. And many bettors may only have action on a handful of contests on, say, a typical NFL Sunday. Conversely, the DFS player could potentially have a stake to some degree in every game being played if they’ve created enough lineups.
Not averse to thinking outside the box, DraftKings Sportsbook has multiple features that allow bettors to have many skins in the game during the game. These are in addition to the conventional array of tried-and-true sports betting options, including:
However, they’ve also literally made every “event within the event” potentially mean something by making all of them wagerable.
Every point in tennis. Every play in a football game. Shoot, every pitch in a baseball game. They all have odds assigned within DraftKings Sportsbook, allowing you to plunk some money down on, say, whether Tom Brady’s next pass successfully finds its target or falls incomplete.
For example, DraftKings Sportsbook offered in-play golf bets on every hole for Tiger Woods and Rory McIlroy during the PGA Championship. Bettors could watch live action of those featured players on the PGA Championship app and bet on every shot on the DraftKings Sportsbook app, with the odds changing on the fly.
Having that kind of in-play action certainly helps glue a fair share of eyeballs to a game, not to mention the DraftKings Sportsbook app. And while, admittedly, DK is far from the only operator offering in-game betting (it’s already big in Europe), there’s another innovative feature they can actually claim all their own for the moment — a revolutionary “live ticket” system.
Think sports betting meets day trading, in the purest sense. Except, in this case, you won’t hear a chaotic cacophony of “buy!” and “sell!” — the action all takes place over a matter of seconds within the serenity of a bettor’s smartphone or mobile device.
Simply put, any open bet on DraftKings Sportsbook — even those that fully hinge on end results — can be assigned a value based on what’s happening as the contest unfolds.
In DraftKings Sportsbook, you can monitor that potential value of your wager — which fluctuates as lines adjust for in-game events — and jump off at any point in time you feel is particularly advantageous. A click on the Cash Out button that appears on every open betting ticket is all it takes.
The live ticketing system even applies if you have suddenly second thoughts about taking a stake in multiple games. In other words, you can jump off a parlay just as easily as you can a single-game ticket.
DraftKings Sportsbook becomes the first to offer the live ticket system in the United States, and it’s a feature that could certainly help it carve out a niche in what is already a crowded online sports betting market in New Jersey. The fact that bettors can take advantage of the price they locked in when they opened their betting ticket — particularly when there’s a drastic change in circumstances, such as injury to a key player — is likely to appeal to a sizable segment of the customer base.
Few embrace the “there’s no minute like the last minute” concept better than state legislatures.
Often, a flurry of bills will pass when the urgency of a legislative session’s end presses the point for lawmakers. As it relates to sports betting, the most recent example just unfolded in Michigan. Wolverine State legislators overwhelmingly approved House Bill 4926, the Lawful Internet Gaming Act, in the wee hours of Dec. 21. The legislation passed the state’s Senate by a 33-5 margin and then cleared the hurdle in the House, 71-35. The bill now sits on Gov. Rick Snyder’s desk for signature.
Despite the monumental progress, the full implementation of Michigan online gaming isn’t likely before 2020. But several states are not only expected to legalize sports betting in 2019 but could potentially launch a legal market in time for football season.
Plenty in the wings for 2019
In the wake of 10 states now either having active regulated sports betting markets or in preparation for such following the passage of legislation, five more have already placed themselves in the on-deck circle for 2019 by pre-filing bills. The outlook for each is as follows:
There are currently three pre-filed bills ahead of the 2019 legislative session: BR 15, BR 29 and BR 320. That’s indicative of what’s expected to be a legitimately serious push for legalization of various forms gaming in the Bluegrass State in the coming year. Notably, BR 15 calls for the Kentucky Lottery Corporation to establish a sports wagering regulatory infrastructure.
The groundwork was laid during the last few months with the creation of an unofficial panel intended to study the issue. Then, lawmakers heard from various stakeholders in October regarding various pertinent components of any future gaming legislation: tax rates, integrity monitoring and mobile wagering among them.
The most recent development in Kentucky is particularly interesting. State Attorney General Andy Beshear, publicly threw his support behind the idea of legislators passing an expansive gaming bill in 2019 that would encompass not just sports betting, but daily fantasy sports, casinos and online poker as well. The impetus for Beshear’s stance is relatively straightforward — much-needed revenue for the state coffers, including an estimated $30 million annually from sports betting that would help fully fund the state’s pension systems.
The Show Me State seems intent on showing it can get comprehensive sports betting legislation passed in 2019. But what form that will take is still very much in the air, considering there are two slightly different pre-filed bills.
Sen. Denny Hoskins’ (R-MO) piece of proposed legislation, SB 44, includes a 1 percent royalty or integrity fee, but with half of it earmarked toward an Entertainment Facilities Infrastructure Fund that would be used for the upkeep of sports or cultural facilities within Missouri. The bill sets a tax on adjusted sports betting gross revenue at 6.25 percent. A $5,000 annual administrative fee and $10,000 “reinvestigation fee” that sounds more ominous than intended would also apply. The latter would go into a fund that would eventually mature every fifth year when the licensee is re-vetted.
Then, Representative Cody Smith stepped into the picture with his pre-filed bill, HB 119, in early December.
Smith’s bill does include a 1 percent integrity fee, although there’s a tweak with that aspect in his legislation as well — 75 percent is paid to registered professional sports leagues, while 25 percent would be paid to the NCAA on wagers that involve major college teams. The bill would include a $10,000 application fee and $5,000 annual renewal fee for “interactive gaming licenses,” aka on-site mobile wagering. Traditional brick-and-mortar licenses would also be subject to a $10,000 application fee.
Notably, under the terms of Smith’s proposal, gaming operators would be required to use official data from the sports leagues if the ”sports governing bodies” informed the operators they wanted them to do so — a veritable slam dunk.
One of two current placeholder bills, S 316, was filed in July by the bipartisan duo of Sens. John Eklund and Sean O’Brien. Another, H 714, also sits at the ready for potential deliberation once the 2019 legislative session kicks off.
The Buckeye State has a total of 11 land-based and racetrack casinos. One of its lawmakers, Sen. Bill Coley, notably advocated for interstate sports betting compacts that would include data sharing between jurisdictions at a U.S. Sports Betting Policy Summit in Washington, D.C. in November. That concept is deemed too ambitious by many at the moment, especially given recent rumblings about a forthcoming revised legal opinion on the reach of the Wire Act.
Any legalization of gambling in the Volunteer State must happen via voter referendum. Accordingly, two pre-filed bills that would call for a measure to legalize sports betting be put to voters — HB 0001 and companion SB 0016 — have been pre-filed.
As per the introductory text of the proposed legislation, sports betting would have to be approved by voters on a county-by-county basis and there would be a 10 percent tax on sports betting revenue. A total of 40 percent of that allotment would be allocated for general appropriations. Another 30 percent would go toward to “state colleges of applied technologies and community colleges for equipment and capital projects.” Finally, 30 percent would go toward local governments where sports betting is approved and would fund education and infrastructure in those jurisdictions.
The Tennessee Gaming Commission would serve as the regulatory body.
Virginia appears to be a potentially serious player on the sports betting front for 2019. The latest news coming out of the state involves an online-only sports betting bill pre-filed for next year’s legislative session by Delegate Mark Sickles. The proposed legislation, House Bill 1638 would repeal Virginia’s current ban on both sports betting and online lottery ticket sales.
The novelty of the bill stems from the fact it does not address the establishment of a brick-and-mortar sports betting market within the state whatsoever (Virginia does not have any casinos, tribal or commercial). Instead, it aims to legalize and regulate sports betting “platforms” that are better defined as a “website, app, or other platform accessible via the Internet or mobile, wireless, or similar communications technology that sports bettors use to place sports bets.”
Details of the bill as it pertains to sports betting include: The state’s lottery serving as the overseer of implementation and ongoing regulation; five sports betting licenses being made available at an initial cost of $250,000 each; sports betting revenue being taxed at 15 percent, with 2.5 percent of it going to the lottery for administrative fees.
Notably, Delegate Marcus Simon also spoke of introducing his own sports betting bill early in the 2019 legislative session that would aim to legalize the activity by July of next year. When he spoke of the potential legislation in October, Simon alluded to racetracks and off-track betting parlors as potential sites for brick-and-mortar sportsbooks.
Be sure to follow TheLines for the latest sports betting updates in your state in 2019!
Throughout his extensive daily fantasy sports (DFS) career, Tom Crowley — more commonly know by username ChipotleAddict — has been a lightning rod among the player community. But recently, he displayed a benevolent side that should earn him his fair share of positive press.
On Dec. 13, Crowley made a public pledge regarding his charitable intentions concerning his potential winnings:
This weekend I have 10 entries in the @Draftkings and @Fanduel NFL DFS Championships. I am proud to announce I will be donating 50% of my total winnings to the world’s most effective charities. I encourage other participants to join me by pledging to give any amount.
— Tom Crowley (@chipotleaddict1) December 13, 2018
ChipotleAddict promptly went out and earned a sizable haul of cash in both tournaments.
Best of all for the selected charities, he finished at the top of the mountain in the DraftKings Championship. With an Atlanta Falcons-heavy lineup that netted him 174.04 DK points, Crowley scored the $2 million grand prize.
Holy shit, what a feeling to wake up this morning and realize this actually happened. Absolutely beyond comprehension. $1,127,000 for charity
— Tom Crowley (@chipotleaddict1) December 17, 2018
A total of 10 different charities will be beneficiaries of the potent combination of Crowley’s DFS acumen and generosity.
ChipotleAddict will work with Double Up Drive, a time-sensitive initiative currently running through Dec. 29, which matches donations and distributes them to 10 different highly vetted and impactful charities.
Notably, this marks the second consecutive year that Crowley is spreading the wealth. In 2017, he also contributed more than $700,000 to poker professional Dan Smith‘s donation drive.
Dirty Birds spearhead the biggest jackpot
The DK Championship unfolded in Fort Lauderdale, Fla., and featured 180 total contestants.
Crowley had a total of six entries in the event. The second-highest-scoring lineup for him checked in at 18th place, which still paid out $65,000.
Including the aforementioned first-place prize, his DK winnings totaled just under $2.2 million.
The key to Crowley’s first-placed lineup was a Falcons team that generated one of their best all-around offensive performances of the season.
Matt Ryan (25.04 DK points), Tevin Coleman (23.5 DK points) and Julio Jones (20.2 DK points) spearheaded the charge. Those were supplemented by excellent returns from Joe Mixon (30 DK points), Davante Adams (24.9 DK points), Jaylen Samuels (22.2 DK points) and the Vikings defense (13 DK points).
Considering the numbers, ChipotleAddict’s lineup had more than enough equity to survive a zero by the final member of the Atlanta foursome, Austin Hooper.
Crowley’s FanDuel ledger was much less prolific but impressive in its own right.
ChipotleAddict held a total of four seats in the 75-seat tournament. His best finish was fifth, which resulted in a $42,000 bankroll boost.
Notably, that lineup had a very different look, with a Bengals stack consisting of Jeff Driskel (11.4 FD points), Joe Mixon (26 FD points) and Tyler Boyd (11.8 FD points) serving as its core.
Crowley garnered another $62,000 in total from his FanDuel entries.
Past collusion allegations disproven
The controversy associated with Crowley’s DFS career centered around the hottest of hot-button topics in the industry regarding contest rules and logistics: the alleged circumventing of multi-entry rules through alleged collusion with his brother, Martin Crowley’s (DFS username bigpapagates), a highly successful DFS pro himself.
Back in September 2016, Martin aka bigpapagates was a co-winner of the Week 3 Millionaire Maker contest on DK. Shortly after that, rumblings had already begun in days prior ramped up.
Namely, some in the DFS community alleged the duo covered as many bases as possible regarding lineup combinations in big-dollar tournaments by entering an identical number of lineups with a complete absence of overlap.
The situation led to an official DraftKings investigation, one that ultimately cleared both players of any wrongdoing. A subsequent post by Rotogrinders co-founder Cal Spears on the site’s forums several months later further made a case for their exoneration.
As detailed by Spears, the two worked together as far as devising and actively utilizing a player selection model, but not to any degree beyond.
Pro sports leagues (pre-May 2018): Sports betting is the scourge of the earth and will ruin the integrity of our games.
Also pro sports leagues (post-May 2018): How fast and in how many ways can we get paid on this sports betting thing?
The latter is the new normal in a post-PASPA landscape. The cash grab initiative actually predates the May 14 Supreme Court decision. The request for the now infamous integrity fees first popped up in an Indiana sports betting bill back in January. The league would attempt to incorporate them – along with official data fees – in the bills for numerous other states.
They’d unanimously be rebuffed.
Leagues, teams getting more intertwined with gambling
Having repeatedly run into a legislative brick wall on that front thus far, the leagues are starting to adjust on the fly. In the spirit of “if you can’t beat ‘em, join ‘em”, the NBA and NHL have already struck partnerships that include remuneration for official statistical data with MGM Resorts International.
As it turns out, that was only the tip of the iceberg. Individual teams in states with legalized sports betting are also getting in on the action with their own deals.
This month also saw:
- The NFL’s New York Jets — which play their home games in sports betting-friendly New Jersey — signed a sponsorship deal with 888 Casino.
- Caesars Entertainment found willing partners in both the NHL’s New Jersey Devils and the NBA’s Philadelphia 76ers for its own marketing deal. In the case of the Devils, the agreement includes a second sports betting lounge inside the team’s Prudential Center arena. The first will be William Hill-branded in a deal signed the week prior. Fans will be able to make bets through the respective sportsbooks’ apps within the lounges.
- The Jets signed a second deal during the week, this time with MGM Resorts International as their official gaming partner. The relationship will include a free-to-play predictive game within the Jets’ official app entitled “I Called It” that will offer prizes and other giveaways.
- To cap off things off, the focus fittingly was on the “O.G.” of U.S.-based sports betting — Nevada. Caesars Entertainment signed a 15-year agreement that makes it an initial founding partner of the forthcoming state-of-the-art home of the Las Vegas Raiders. The stadium is expected to be ready by the start of the 2020 season.
Money, as it always has, talks
Leagues and teams only occasionally flirted with the gaming industry as a whole prior to the eradication of PASPA. A few teams did have sponsorship agreements with local casinos. However, with sports betting essentially limited to just Nevada, the possibility of a marketing agreement with a sportsbook was a moot point — there weren’t any outside of the Silver State.
Therefore, the leagues had the luxury of pretending that point spreads, over/unders and the like were more or less dirty words that were never uttered or thought about. Yet all the while, an unquantifiable but relevant chunk of the audience on each of their games had some action riding on the contest, whether legally or not.
As it turns out, the progressive legalization of sports betting is not only bringing the public’s widespread craving for the activity out of the shadows — it’s shining a light on the voracious appetite the leagues and their teams have for it as well. In the latter case, the appeal comes in the significant amount of revenue and cross-promotion that the agreements they’re inking at a breakneck pace can bring.
Perks and features of new deals to be felt at fan level
And some of the details in these newly-forged alliances have the potential to reshape and enhance the way that fans experience both their local teams and local casinos. The Devils’ implementation of two sports betting-themed lounges with televisions and odds boards is one such new amenity.
MGM’s agreement to extend “expanded hospitality offerings” at their properties to Jets season ticket holders is another. The thought of Gang Green superfan Fireman Ed getting a complimentary aromatherapy massage to relieve the stress of attending games at MetLife Stadium brings quite the chuckle.
The Vegas stadium deal for Caesars takes things to a whole other level. Select Caesars customers and members of the casino’s Total Rewards program will have a chance for VIP dinners on the field, access to a Caesars-branded suite situated overlooking midfield, tours of the stadium and entry into special events at the team’s training facility.
And of course, while none of these new partnerships involve a physical sportsbook being placed inside a team’s arena or stadium, the possibility already exists for fans to place wagers on their mobile devices while at the events themselves in states where it’s legal to do so.
The fact that they’ll often be in sensory overload with respect to the signage, billboards and other forms of exposure for sportsbooks that these marketing deals enable should only help encourage that extra level of engagement.
There’s more than one way to skin a cat, the old saying goes. And applying that principle to ensure a cut of exponentially increasing sports betting revenue likely has the leagues purring with satisfaction right about now.
Rebuffed repeatedly by state governments in their quest for integrity and data usage fees, the leagues seemingly have pivoted to two tried-and-true cornerstones of business — ingenuity and deal-making — to accomplish their goals.
MLB the latest to join forces with MGM
The latest example of such became official Tuesday. Major League Baseball (MLB) announced an official “all-inclusive partnership agreement” with MGM Resorts International. If that sounds familiar, it’s because we’ve been here before, and recently at that.
The NBA, arguably the most “progressive” of the pro leagues on sports betting prior to the Supreme Court decision that eradicated PASPA, fittingly got the ball rolling. They inked a deal with MGM in late July that made the latter their “official gaming partner”. The NHL mirrored their basketball counterparts just three months later. They too put pen to paper with MGM for an agreement that included remuneration for the leagues for their official game data.
As customary, both parties were effusive in their praise for the newly minted deal and each other in the press release announcing the move.
“We are pleased to partner with MGM Resorts International, a clear industry leader in the sports gaming area, to work together on bringing innovative experiences to baseball fans and MGM customers,” said Baseball Commissioner Robert D. Manfred, Jr. “Our partnership with MGM will help us navigate this evolving space responsibly, and we look forward to the fan engagement opportunities ahead.”
“We are excited to enter into this historic partnership with MLB. We are thrilled to create a new one-of-a-kind fan experience for baseball fans,” said MGM Resorts Chairman and CEO Jim Murren. “Combining MGM Resorts’ world class entertainment and technology with MLB data will continue to transform a rapidly changing industry. This partnership further amplifies the significance of our GVC JV, firmly establishing MGM Resorts and playMGM as the market leader in partnerships with major professional sports leagues.”
Plenty of benefits for both parties
The MLB-MGM marriage has a similar structure to those past deals. However, it also includes an international component. As per the terms of the partnership, MGM will also be an official partner for MLB grassroots events in Japan. Those functions include the MLB Road Show, described in the official press release as an “interactive fan experience” where opportunities exist for direct participation in baseball-related activities akin to those offered in similar events stateside.
As with the other leagues-MGM partnerships — and any other marketing/sponsorship agreements for that matter — this latest initiative is built on a foundation of mutual benefits. MGM gets expansive exposure for its brand and various offerings across MLB’s digital and broadcast platforms, both domestically and internationally. The gaming giant will also enjoy a similar presence at signature events such as the All-Star Game and World Series.
MLB will have similar visibility in MGM advertising and promotional campaigns. And, the league also has a commitment from MGM to use its official statistics feed on a non-exclusive basis. That essentially mirrors related wording in the NBA and NHL pacts. However, the agreement also includes a provision for MGM’s use of “enhanced statistics” in its betting offerings.
There’s even a nod to the now infamous integrity fees that have come to symbolize the pro leagues’ quest to establish a recurring financial stream with respect to legalized sports betting. The agreement pledges that both parties will “work together on comprehensive responsible gaming measures and work to protect the integrity of the game both on and off the field.”
Leagues showing they can play nice with sportsbooks … if the price is right
This latest league-level partnership is just another example of the settling of the dust in a post-PASPA reality. There was plenty of uncertainty — not to mention a fair amount of acrimony — in both the months prior and the months following the May 14 SCOTUS decision. As states have passed legislation and successfully initiated betting within their jurisdictions, clarity has been gained on a couple of fronts.
- One is certainly what was suspected all along — that there’s plenty of interest in legalized sports betting across the country, and money to be made.
- Another is that something has finally given in the ongoing dispute over integrity and data fees between the leagues and the states.
For the moment, at least, the alternate route of forging partnerships with individual sportsbooks — ones that often still afford the leagues a chance to come to similar terms with other gaming entities — seems to serve as a viable truce.