Sports betting in the U.S. is, in short, a pretty big deal.

The U.S. Supreme Court’s historic May 2018 ruling to overturn a federal ban on sports betting across the country meant that each state can self-determine whether to pass legislation permitting sports betting. With only eight states to date including Nevada, New Jersey and Delaware (where sports betting is already up and running) currently having passed state law to permit sports betting, you could be forgiven for assuming that some of the wind has been taken out of the industry’s sails.

However, this is far from the case. Belief that the market is going to accelerate its growth in 2019 and beyond is unshakeable, and this is supported by the fact that there has been legislative activity in another 21 states, with New York leading the race to become the next state to pass a sports betting bill. Pennsylvania has handed out its first sports betting licenses but no bets have been placed as of yet; though the industry rollout is expected to take place later this year.

With the anticipation of individual state markets in the U.S. expected to evolve, what does this mean for operators and suppliers in the industry? Here are some key themes that are currently being discussed around this hot topic.

STILL ABUZZ

The appetite for sports betting in the U.S. is such that there is little doubt that the industry as a whole will be successful. The momentum continues to build behind the opening of more state markets in the U.S., rather than falling away. Much of that confidence stems from a belief in consumer appetite for the product. This begins with the acknowledgment that the entry and legalization of daily fantasy sports operators such as DraftKings and FanDuel to test the water have demonstrated a clear willingness to embrace wagering on sports in the U.S.; both operators are valued over $1 billion due to the size of their player bases and latest research suggests there is heavy crossover between this audience and people that would place traditional sports betting wagers. 

Other indicators of the potential size of the U.S. sports betting market is the estimated annual value of the bets taken in the U.S. currently, which is believed to be in the range of $50-$60 billion, and comparisons to the UK sports betting market, where consumer appetite for sports betting and disposable income to do so is believed to be equitable. 

While falling short of the $150 billion per year previously estimated market size, this calculation suggests the size of the U.S. sports betting market would be as large as $67 billion in bets taken today, within the $50b-$150 billion range most commentators predict. This figure, combined with projection for growth, could drive operator revenue to $5.2 billion by 2023, or even surpass $6 billion, according to gambling research and consulting firm Eilers & Krejcik Gaming.

OVERSEAS OPERATORS EYE U.S.

With up to $5 billion in revenue on the table annually within the next five years, it is of little surprise that operators from across the globe are taking a close look at how, when and where they want to enter the market. Currently online land-based casino operators are being awarded licenses to offer sports betting in-person or online and this looks unlikely to change even as new markets open up; but online European operators see potential to leverage their established history and experience of running successful online sports betting platforms and carve a significant market share through casino partnerships.

Despite the universal desire to enter the market, each operator is taking its own approach to doing this, and at different paces. William Hill was the first operator to take land-based bets in New Jersey and has continued rolling out a partnership with casinos in other states, with 888sport, SG Digital, GVC and Stars Group following suit. BET365 has also signed a deal to enter the market in New Jersey but is yet to launch.

DraftKings was actually the first operator to take an online sports bet in New Jersey, through its DraftKings sportsbook app. Paysafe is the payment processor for DraftKings and facilitated those first bets.

Paddy Power Betfair, the largest online gambling company in the world by market cap, already had sports betting market presence in the U.S. through its horse racing exchange in New Jersey, but has further strengthened its position through the acquisition of FanDuel earlier this year.

PAYMENTS AS DIFFERENTIATOR

Operators are also strategizing how to find a foothold and develop market share once they have launched in the face of such intense competition; sports betting platforms are homogenous in many aspects, which makes a crowded marketplace even more difficult to succeed in.

One area where an operator can stand apart from its competition online will be its payment offering. For consumers, this means making deposits and withdrawals in as smooth a way as possible and having the flexibility to do so using the method that most suits them. 

The experience of operators in regulated markets in Europe, where multiple deposit methods are standard, will play a crucial role here. Successful sports betting operations in European markets enable account holders to deposit onto the platform using whichever method they find most convenient and secure; this may be via a digital wallet, or a cash replacement system or voucher as well as by debit or credit card. This approach has already been successful in regulated U.S. iGaming markets with online casinos and will undoubtedly underpin the most compelling propositions in sports betting.

And multiple payment methods offered by a partner with experience in regulated gaming markets carries another benefit—it provides players with a secondary option to deposit if their first choice is unavailable. As the industry continues to roll out in each state following legislation, the complexity of the evolving market means that secondary payment options will play a critical role in player acquisition.

PARTNERSHIP ARRANGEMENT

Paysafe recently announced a new strategic partnership with Worldpay, with sights set on establishing an industry-leading standard in iGaming and sports betting digital payments acceptance and security in the U.S. The partnership enables seamless transactions, reduces operating costs and allow universal payment acceptance, leveraging Worldpay’s deep sector expertise and optimized credit card processing, fast-fund payouts and a range of treasury and payment solutions—alongside Paysafe’s proven online gambling and gaming digital payment options, including its popular NETELLER digital wallet and paysafecard, its award-winning online cash solution.

Combining Paysafe’s and Worldpay’s capabilities in the gaming sector will ultimately help to boost the player’s payment choices leading to better conversion and retention. Through the creation of this breakthrough solution, the two companies will provide seamless connectivity, via a single point of integration, to wide-ranging payments solutions and services such as credit card processing, digital wallets, cash payment solutions, ACH and near instant push-to-card payouts tailored for the U.S. market.

Through this partnership, both companies will be able to champion the needs of U.S. iGaming operators and their players by providing a secure, cost-effective and highly configurable payments platform that delivers an unparalleled player experience. Our innovative approach means we can support all transactions, no matter how the player wants to pay. We’re very excited to once again get behind a new and growing sector.

We are simply in the unique position to not only provide value and growth opportunities to operators, but also offer choices to players in terms of how and when they pay.

LOOK AHEAD

As we move into 2019, operators and players across the U.S. will be keeping a keen eye on regulatory developments in their states. We continue to see great potential in the market with legislative activity currently taking place in many states including New York, and much of that tabled legislation is expected to be progressed in 2019. All eyes remain on California, the most populated state in the U.S., and the potential revenue that would come along with significant legislative movement in 2020.

Operators must consider the themes outlined in this article as they compete for market share in the U.S.  Payments need to be considered a critical component and differentiator for their business and teaming up with technology providers such as Paysafe and Worldpay will help them achieve their goals.