Spectrum Consulting Believes Competitive Sportsbook Model Is NY’s Best Bet

Written By Matthew Kredell on February 4, 2021

Spectrum Gaming Group’s projection of a mobile sports betting market in excess of $1 billion didn’t consider Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s state-run model.

David Isaacson, Spectrum’s lead sports betting analyst for the recently released New York Gaming Study, tells PlayNY that the study’s projection of $816 million to $1.14 billion in annual gross gaming revenue is based on a competitive market scenario.

“I think the revenue would be lower than our estimates. I think it’s very safe to say that. When you have one operator, you have no incentive to market to anyone because you’ve got the monopoly. With less spend on marketing, you’ll have less revenue.”

In his executive budget, Cuomo proposed that New York forego the casinos to run mobile sports betting through the state. Under his plan, the New York State Gaming Commission would choose one or more platform providers through a competitive bidding process.

Isaacson said Spectrum wasn’t instructed to consider such a scenario, and thus doesn’t have estimates for the governor’s model. Spectrum’s estimates are based on full participation from New York’s commercial casinos and gaming tribes, and their already established online sports betting partners.

Spectrum expected New Jersey not New Hampshire

Cuomo’s budget director, Robert Mujica, asserted that revenue from the state-run model would bring the state $500 million annually at market maturity.

That number appears to be based on Spectrum estimates combined with the New Hampshire model. In New Hampshire, the state lottery partners with DraftKings to operate sports betting.

DraftKings pays the state a 51% tax on online sports betting revenue for the rights to the monopoly. That equated to $11 million in tax revenue to New Hampshire in 2020.

The $500 million was a round estimate on Spectrum’s $1 billion market size with 51% of revenue to the state. But Isaacson explained that Spectrum considered another eastern US state in its projections.

“New Jersey is a robust marketplace for competition, marketing, and promotions,” Isaacson said. “Our numbers are predominantly based on a market that looks a little more like New Jersey than this one state-run operated model. And so the state-run operated model would likely be less in terms of total market size.”

Competition needed for NY sports betting to hit highs

Isaacson added that reaching Spectrum’s projections requires “competition, marketing, companies incentivized to win market share, companies publicly traded and needing to continue spending to justify a certain valuation and stock price.”

A New York online sports betting monopoly would have none of those characteristics. Isaacson envisions an ideal New York sports betting market would feature at least four operators.

In legislation proposed by Sen. Joseph Addabbo Jr. and Assemblyman Gary Pretlow, each would have access to the market. DraftKings has an existing partnership with del Lago Casino and FanDuel with Tioga Downs. Allowing two skins per casino provides opportunity for BetMGM and Barstool to find partnerships.

The inclusive bill also allows off-track betting parlors, video lottery terminal facilities, stadiums, and arenas to participate in sports betting. Allowing more operators, Isaacson said, would help New York come closer to meeting Spectrum’s estimates.

Why sports betting revenue projection matters

Cuomo’s executive budget doesn’t include a detailed plan for his online sports betting proposal. It leaves the details to be worked out with lawmakers for the final budget. For budget negotiations, lawmakers are taking Cuomo’s words as an indication that he wants more revenue for the state from mobile sports wagering.

According to Mujica, a state-run model brings the state $500 million annually compared to $50 million if run through casinos. That’s an impossible gap to bridge.

However, the Spectrum study showed that $50 million figure to be low. Spectrum projects the casino model could bring the state $104 million in revenue at market maturity.

That’s at a 10% tax rate. Double it to 20%, which Spectrum noted as the max rate before an influence on overall wagering volume becomes noticeable, and it’s $200 million. Now the sides are closer.

If the governor’s model actually would produce $400 million, or less, in revenue for the state, other aspects come into consideration that could make a casino-led model more attractive. These include supporting existing industries, marketing spend, job retention, and creation leading to personal income tax revenues, as well as taxes from additional spending at facilities related to sports betting.

Plus the initial license fees from mobile sports betting operators alone likely would more than double the $49 million Cuomo budgeted for the 2022 fiscal year. There’s value in upfront money, especially with New York facing a massive budget deficit.

“New York has a lot of people,” Isaacson said. “As long as people can bet on phones, it’s going to generate a very large figure. This is at play in all of gaming in terms of the interplay of tax rates and the number of operators in a market.”

Photo by AP / Martin Meissner
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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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