Not Enough Skins In The Game For Potential New York Sports Betting Operators

Written By Matthew Kredell on September 2, 2020

Expectations are rising that talk of online sports betting in a New York revenue bill is real. However, several gaming companies are seeking to change one issue in the current language that would severely limit revenue potential for the state.

Language being circulated for consideration in the Senate restricts casinos to one mobile sports wagering platform and brand.

With four commercial casinos and three tribes operating casinos in the state, a single skin would lock some major players out of the New York online sports betting market.

Current bill limits the New York sports betting market

“PointsBet and other major brands in the space would be blocked from offering innovative mobile products in New York as the language of the bill currently sits,” said Paul Hannon, vice president of strategy and retail at PointsBet USA.

“Allowing only a single skin is going to shape the market in an unfavorable way. Putting an artificial ceiling on the market’s revenue and tax potential and its upside is only doing one thing, rewarding the special interests that to date have been the most active on the lobbying front.”

Last month, Assembly sponsor Gary Pretlow told PlayNY that he had a commitment from Assembly leadership to include online sports betting in the revenue bill.

New York lawmakers expected to be working on the revenue bill now. They are waiting to first see how much, if any, federal money the state gets in a coronavirus stimulus bill.

Congress will return to session next week to once again take up discussions on the legislation.

All potential New York online sports betting skins already filled

The problem for PointsBet and other online bookmakers interested in joining the New York market is that, under the current language, the state starts with seven skins. And, due to existing partnerships, none of the seven slots would be open.

Here’s a list of the casinos and tribes in New York, along with their expected mobile wagering partners:

  • Tioga Downs – FanDuel Sportsbook
  • del Lago – DraftKings Sportsbook
  • Rivers – Rush Street Interactive (in-house)
  • Resorts World Catskills – bet365
  • Mohawk – FOX Bet
  • Oneida – Caesars Entertainment/William Hill
  • Seneca – In-house

The language would exclude Penn National Gaming from the New York market as well. The company currently has properties in eight states with legal sports betting.

With its Barstool Sports-branded app, Penn is projected to have a top-three market share of US online sports betting.

“We want to be in every market across the country,” said Jeff Morris, vice president of public affairs at Penn National. “With Barstool being headquartered there, it’s particularly important to us to be part of New York. The Senate bill as currently written would make that difficult.”

PointsBet, which recently signed a huge deal with NBC Sports, has a partnership with Tioga Downs and would get its second skin if permitted.

How seven skins stacks up with other states

In states with a casino presence, New Jersey and Indiana lead in competitive environments by allowing up to three skins per licensee for a total of 42 skins.

Colorado and Iowa also permit three skins each, capping out at 33 skins.

There are some states that limit casinos to a single online brand, including Pennsylvania and Michigan. But they still total 13 and 15 skins, respectively. New York would have seven.

Once three potential downstate casino licenses are fulfilled, the state could peak at 10 skins.

“This single skin schema would represent the least available skins per capita for mobile sports wagering among developed commercial gaming states in the country,” Hannon said. “And it is New York, the supposed bedrock of capitalism.”

How much money could New York be leaving on the table?

The New York sports betting language, as passed by the Senate last year, asserts that each agent authorized to conduct sports wagering pay a one-time fee of $12 million.

With one set of skins, that is $84 million. A second set of skins adds another $84 million, and a third set would generate an additional $168 million for the state.

PointsBet estimates three skins per casino would more than double the estimated market size from $550 million to $1.25 billion. And the increased revenue raises the state’s take from $66 million to around $150 million.

With license fees and taxes combined, New York could miss out on more than a quarter billion dollars by limiting the market to a single skin.

“New York would be leaving a lot of money on the table if it keeps the online sports betting model to a single skin,” Morris said. “It’s clear that additional skins drive increased revenue and would exponentially increase revenue for New York at a time when it’s sorely needed.”

New York faces a massive budget deficit as a result of the economic effects of the coronavirus, and casinos are trying to recover from months of closure. The revenue from additional skins could make a big difference.

Hannon said:

“For a state that needs an influx of working capital for essential services to get to a post-COVID world, the money available from multiple skins is not immaterial. It’s not only the state that realizes those upfront licensing fees but the struggling casinos through commercialized skin agreements.  As casinos in dire need of money look for a long-term tax break, there’s an influx of cash just sitting there related to sports betting skins.”

What is the right number of skins for NY?

Hannon said PointsBet believes a state of New York’s size should have at least 15 to 20 skins available.

“If 15 to 20 skins are deployed in any state and it whittles down to the seven or 10 best players where only the strong survive, that’s a healthy and vibrant market where the sustainability is strong and the revenue potential is maximized over time.”

Morris thinks New York should follow the successful model of its neighbor and match the three skins in New Jersey. The Garden State has filled 19 slots with a population less than half that of New York.

“The interest to participate in the New York market would be very high. Three skins would be a good starting point, and I think those 21 licenses would go very quickly. It’s such a big market that it would be a shame if it were limited.”

Why limit online sports betting to a single skin?

No one benefits from capping the New York online sports betting market other than companies that can limit their competition.

A study on the multiple-skin model done last year by Eilers & Krejcik Gaming for IDEA Growth listed key reasons states should consider the model:

  • Larger market size
  • Increased tax and license fee revenue
  • Competition and competitive balance

The report noted that the increased competition invoked by multiple brands “can create benefits for consumers including better product variety and quality, and better product prices and promotions.”

Hannon added:

“It’s going to put a cap on the market because there’s not a whole lot of competition. Having New York owned by two or three nationally known brands doesn’t provide purchasing power, and maybe even some predatory pricing strategies take hold with a lot of business staying offshore as a result. There is limited incentive for the few companies granted this valuable access to continue to invest over time once market share dominance is secured.”

What do New York lawmakers think?

Pretlow told PlayNY that he is urging his colleagues to increase the permitted skins to two per casino and tribe.

Sen. Joseph Addabbo Jr. has kept his bill at one skin thus far, but said he’ll find out more after speaking to Senate leadership.

“Mobile sports betting in New York is still a moldable clay piece that can be shaped in many ways at this point,” Addabbo said.

Pretlow and Addabbo chair the gaming committees in the New York legislature. They have regularly talked about the need for New York to maximize revenue on sports betting like New Jersey.

“It would be a significant outlier if New York stays at one or even two skins compared to other states,” Morris said. “We’ll continue to educate folks and hope that, at the end of the day, they choose to have a competitive market.”

Photo by Getty
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Matthew Kredell

Matthew Kredell reports on efforts to legalize sports wagering and online casino gaming around the country. He covered the multi-year effort to legalize online sports betting in New York from the beginning. He talks to state lawmakers, lobbyists and industry representatives to get the scoop on new gambling developments in the Empire State and was at the forefront when the state budget included the authorization of legal online sports betting in 2021. Matthew has covered the legal gambling industry since 2007, getting into regulated sports betting three years later. An alum of USC, Matthew began his career as a sportswriter at the Los Angeles Daily News. He has also contributed to publications that include Playboy, Men’s Journal and ESPN.

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