As it nears its fifth anniversary, the regulated US sports wagering market outside of Nevada is beginning to exhibit genuine signs of development.
More than half of the country’s adults now have access to legal sports wagering in 33 states and the District of Columbia, with a few more launches expected this year. In accordance with a complex patchwork of state and federal laws and regulations, close to one hundred distinct brands have collaborated to establish this industry from inception.
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Cash is flooding in. In 2022, operators collected a record $7.6 billion in total sports wagering revenue, and 2023 will mark another year of significant growth. People who examine spreadsheets predict that this market will reach approximately $20 billion.
Operator hold, or the win percentage of sportsbooks, is also increasing. There is a great deal of disturbance in the graph from month to month, but consider the overarching trend over this initial period of expansion:
This increase can be partially explained by a multitude of minor factors, but they all revolve around the larger trend toward operator profitability.
US sports wagering continue to rise
In the early days of post-PASPA legislation, stakeholders testified for countless hours about the low-margin nature of sports wagering. Historically, sportsbooks in Nevada held approximately 5.4% of their wagering, and the established industry cited this figure in state legislatures. The operators desired to inform legislators about the financial realities of their enterprise.
Here is an example of William Hill in Kansas from 2018:
Despite the fact that sports wagering will generate revenue for the state of Kansas, sports betting is a low-margin business. In recent years, the average hold in Nevada – the amount retained by the operator after paying winning consumers – has been approximately 5%. Due to the increase in mobile wagering and InPlay wagering, which involves wagering on an event after it has begun, this margin has been trending downward. Mobile and InPlay products have lesser margins.
In the five years since the repeal of PASPA, Nevada’s hold has inched upward, but it has remained stable at 5.7%.
Are we receiving what legislators were promised?
This is not true for the vast preponderance of modern markets.
No other state has a lifetime hold below 6%, and only two states (Colorado and Iowa) have a lifetime hold below 7%. New Jersey’s unemployment rate is nearly 7%.
The majority of other competitive online markets are between 8% and 10%, while some retail-only markets have reached the low double digits.
Being taken for a ride with sports wagering
It should be noted that hold is a volatile metric, owing in part to the randomness of the outcomes of sporting events. In addition, states use a variety of accounting methods to monitor their sports wagering activity, which further muddles the numbers.
What appears to be a large fluctuation for a sportsbook in a given month is often the result of unpaid tickets for past or future events accruing on their ledger. In addition, there are some high-stakes gamblers whose short-term performance can have a significant impact on a given operator.
Despite this cloudiness surrounding the data, according to free football picks, the upward trend in national hold is becoming more pronounced over time.
FanDuel increasing hold position
This movement is becoming evident for the majority of significant operators, but the market leader is responsible for the majority of the national increase in hold. Consider how the Big Four national brands are competing with one another.
These firms account for over 75% of all sports wagering volume in the United States, with FanDuel alone accounting for at least one-third. FanDuel’s hold for the previous calendar year was 9.8%, which was significantly higher than the national average of 8.2%.
Down with the the Kings?
Despite the vitriol directed at DraftKings’ transparent efforts to thwart sharp bookmakers, its margins continue to be markedly slimmer than those of its competitor. At 7.2%, its occupancy rate for the previous calendar year was nearly one point below the national average.
The distance between FanDuel and DraftKings is widening at an accelerating rate. FanDuel has held more than 10% of wagers for eight consecutive months and nine of the last 10, whereas DraftKings has only recorded a double-digit month once in the past four years.