Gaming Executives High On California Prospects For Mobile Sports Betting

May 9, 2022
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One thing that top gaming executives made clear during a busy week of first-quarter earnings calls with analysts is that all eyes will be on California and the hotly contested sports-betting ballot initiatives voters will decide in November.

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One thing that top gaming executives made clear during a busy week of first-quarter earnings calls with analysts is that all eyes will be on California and the hotly contested sports-betting ballot initiatives voters will decide in November.

One initiative, a retail-only proposal backed by a coalition of Native American gaming tribes, has already officially qualified for the ballot, and last week, the sponsors of a second initiative, backed by U.S. major commercial operators, said they had submitted the required number of signatures to qualify for the November 8 ballot.

The California Secretary of State has yet to validate the signatures, but assuming the initiative indeed qualifies, the November election will be the most consequential ballot initiative to date in the U.S. sports-betting landscape.

“We’re very excited about the California situation, clearly getting to this stage was not straightforward and we’re very, very happy to be on the ballot, said Peter Jackson, CEO of Flutter Entertainment, owner of FanDuel.

“We’ve got a best-in-class campaign team that has had significant levels of funding,” Jackson said.

That funding includes $100m to date from a who’s who of major U.S. sports-betting operators, including $50m in funding split evenly between DraftKings, FanDuel and BetMGM, and another $50m split between Penn National Gaming, Bally’s, WynnBET, and licensed apparel giant Fanatics.

“If California were a country, it would be the fifth largest economy in the world ranked by GDP (gross domestic product),” added Jason Robins, CEO of DraftKings. “In short, from a legalization perspective, there is a lot to look forward to.”

Robins said during Friday’s (May 6) earnings call that if the online sports-betting initiative is successful, the company would hope to be live in the state sometime in 2023, with Jackson adding that Flutter’s expected timetable would see a launch in time for the NFL season starting in September.

Penn National Gaming CEO Jay Snowden said the owner of Barstool Sports expects to contribute another $12.5m to the campaign later this month.

“There have been some competing polls out there, but we're pretty confident and the strength of our polling, which shows that 59 percent of respondents support our ballot initiative, which would open up the market to mobile gaming,” said Eric Schippers, Penn National’s senior vice president of public affairs and government relations.

“The other initiative, which is on the ballot would be for retail only, and so they're not really competing, they're actually complementary,” Schippers added. “And if both were to be approved, we can go down the road and be very successful there.

“If only ours is approved, the tribes still have an opportunity through partnerships with us to participate.”

Caesars Entertainment is not among the initial backers of the initiative, but CEO Tom Reeg said last week that the company would expect to be a leader in California if the mobile sports-wagering initiative is successful.

“Obviously between our Indian partnerships and our Las Vegas assets, we have an enormous California database,” Reeg said, referring to a long-standing management partnership with the Rincon Band of Luiseno Indians in Southern California.

“We would expect to be an aggressive competitor for business,” Reeg added. “There are things that we learned in New York in terms of how we would tailor an offer and what we would shoot for, but we would expect to be among the leaders in California like we are in most of the states where we operate.”

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