Update on America’s Shifting iGaming Landscape

The last two weeks have produced several significant developments for America’s online gambling industry.

The list of states to legalize sports betting after last year’s landmark ruling by the U.S. Supreme Court continues to grow, following New Hampshire’s successful passage. But while the Granite State will offer both brick and mortar and online/mobile wagering at some point next year, New York’s lawmakers opted to limit their launch to retail outlets only.

Meanwhile, neighboring New Jersey continues to set the standard with its multimillion-dollar monthly iGaming revenue totals. And despite the U.S. Department of Justice’s attempts to ban all forms of interstate online gambling, a federal judge roundly rejected the agency’s flimsy arguments.

New Hampshire Joins List States to Legalize Sports Betting

Following a back and forth amendment process between the state’s Senate and House of Representatives, New Hampshire is set to become the 15th state to take advantage of the post-PASPA era.

The Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act (PASPA) of 1992 was repealed last May via 6-3 decision by the U.S. Supreme Court. Since that time, seven states – DelawareNew JerseyMississippiWest VirginiaNew MexicoPennsylvania, and Rhode Island – have legalized and launched in-state sportsbooks.

Seven other states – New YorkArkansasMontanaIndianaIowaTennessee, and Illinois – have passed legislation that is awaiting implementation.

New Hampshire joined the club on June 13, after the House provided final approval for minor amendments added to House Bill 480.

Governor Chris Sununu is widely expected to follow the lead of fellow executives in MontanaIndiana, and Iowa by signing the sports betting bill into law.

During his annual budget address delivered in February, Sununu called for sports betting to become an economic engine for New Hampshire:

“This budget increases our education revenue streams by legalizing sports betting, which will bring in an additional $10 million in annual revenue beginning in the fiscal year 2021.

Given our new opportunities to legalize sports betting in a responsible and reliable way, and capture more revenue for our education system, I say we go all in and get it done!”

Assuming a signature from Sununu, adults 18 and over can place legal wagers through both retail and online/mobile bet shops, so long as they’re physically located within state lines.

State representative and HB-480 sponsor Timothy Lang (R-4) told Legal Sports Report that everybody wins with a regulated sports betting market:

“I look at it as three groups are winning.

The citizens are winning in that they will now be able to place a bet and have consumer protections behind it, businesses are winning because they’ll have the opportunity to grow, and lastly the State of New Hampshire is winning because it gets revenue that will go toward education.”

New York Falls Short of Passing Online / Mobile Sports Betting

The Empire State has had its sports betting law on the books since 2013, anticipating a change in federal law a full five years before the U.S. Supreme Court realized that vision.

But even as regulators finally approved the red tap for retail sportsbooks to be built within four upstate casinos, lawmakers failed to approve online wagering earlier this week.

On June 17th, the state Senate approved an online bill without debate, sending it onward to the General Assembly.

But with Governor Andrew Cuomo tepid at best in his public comments on the issue, and the state gaming commission voicing concerns that additional study is needed, the Assembly stalled out and allowed the legislative session to lapse without taking a vote.

Assemblyman Gary Pretlow (D-89) – sponsor of a corresponding bill in the Assembly and chairman of the Racing Committee – told the Democrat & Chronicle newspaper that the legislation was opposed by a key lawmaker in his chamber:

“I want it to happen. I’m hearing the speaker (Carl Heastie) has issues with it.

I’m trying to convince him otherwise. I have the backing of the conference.

Most members of the conference are in favor of it going forward.”

For his part, Heastie (D-83) echoed Cuomo’s stance that New York’s state Constitution requires voter approval before online wagering can be added to the retail laws:

“Our counsels still believe that there is some constitutional concern.

I believe the governor, even though he may have softened it, still has concerns, and I think the Gaming Commission as well. I don’t know what is going to happen.”

As for the stakeholders waiting for lawmakers to get their collective act together, Thomas Wilmot Jr. – owner of the del Lago casino which was approved to build a brick and mortar sportsbook onsite – testified to the legislature last month about the pressing need to integrate online access:

“The bottom line on sports betting is crystal clear for us: Without mobile, New York will not come anywhere close to fully maximizing the sports betting revenue our casinos, state education aid and our local communities all greatly need.”

New Jersey iGaming Industry Nearly Sets Another Monthly Record

After nearly setting a new monthly revenue record in April, the Garden State’s iGaming (online casino and poker games) industry did it again last month.

Operators hauled in $38,340,638 across the casino and poker verticals in May, coming within $800,000 of the all-time monthly record of $39,134,380 posted in March.

May’s revenue marks also eclipsed April’s total of $36,582,934 by nearly $2 million.

And once again, it was the Golden Nugget licensing group – covering GoldenNuggetCasino.com, BetfairCasino.com, and PlaySugarhouse.com – leading the counts with at $14,078,208.

The only real rival for Golden Nugget – which has topped the monthly revenue leaderboard for 30 consecutive months – at this point is the Resorts AC licensing group. But even with brand awareness – Resorts AC extends its license to iGaming industry powerhouses like comprised of DraftKings.com, PokerStarsNJ.com, MoheganSunCasino.com, ResortsCasino.com – the group was nearly doubled up by Golden Nugget with $7,971,973 in May revenue.

Casino games did the heavy lifting as per usual, accounting for $36,542,906 to just $1,797,732 for poker operators.

DOJ Backs Down on Wire Act After Defeat in Federal Court

Nine days after a U.S. District Court judge in New Hampshire ruled that the agency’s attempt to expand the federal Wire Act of 1961 wasn’t legal, the DOJ has postponed potential enforcement until 2020 at the earliest.

The DOJ initially tried to widen the Wire Act – a law written to prohibit sportsbook business form being conducted over state lines using wire transfers – to ban all forms of interstate iGaming back in January. The DOJ’s Office of Legal (OLC) essentially overruled itself, reversing a 2011 memo that clarified the Wire Act is applicable to sports wagering only.

The New Hampshire Lottery Commission (NHLC), along with a coalition of over a dozen state lotteries, filed suit shortly afterward, alleging that an expanded Wire Act threatened their ability to offer online lotteries operated on a multistate basis.

Federal judge Paul Barbadoro agreed, and on June 3rd he didn’t mince words in his rejection of DOJ assertions:

“I hereby declare that § 1084(a) of the Wire Act… applies only to transmissions related to bets or wagers on a sporting event or contest.

The 2018 OLC Opinion is set aside.”

By June 12th, Deputy Attorney General Jeffrey Rosen issued a memo advising federal prosecutors that Wire Act enforcement must be delayed through the remainder of 2019:

“On June 3, 2019, a federal district court in New Hampshire issued an opinion holding, inter alia, that Section 1084(a) applies exclusively to sports gambling.

The Department is evaluating its options in response to this opinion.

Accordingly, the forbearance period announced in the Deputy Attorney General’s February 28 memorandum is hereby extended from June 14, 2019 to December 31, 2019 or 60 days after entry of final judgment in the New Hampshire litigation, whichever is later.”

That language implies that an appeal will be forthcoming, but given the DOJ’s disastrous start to its Wire Act expansion campaign, industry pundits are largely predicting another defeat in the judiciary.

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