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The US online gambling space has undergone radical changes over the past decade.
The unregulated, wild west days of the 1990’s and 2000’s are a thing of the past. After years of stagnation, legal, regulated online gambling is no longer a dream, it’s a reality.
For those of us that lived through the “dark ages,” this is a welcomed change.
But not everyone shares in that joy.
This new reality has brought with it an influx of new analysts and industry observers with unrealistic expectations of the US landscape. For some, legislation of daily fantasy sports, sports betting, casino games, poker or lottery isn’t enough. They expect it to happen on terms they agree with, and anything less is cast as an abject failure.
Fortunately, there are industry veterans like Sue Schneider who can make sense of the situation and explain the complexities of the US online gambling industry.
Schneider has worn many hats in the online gambling universe. She currently serves as the Community Director, Sports Betting Community (SBC), and Editor-at Large, Gaming Law Review.
Online Poker Report: Worlds seem to be colliding since the opening of the US sports betting market, with a convergence US and European firms, and more of an international crowd at gaming conferences.
As a consultant and conference organizer what changes have you noticed since the repeal of PASPA?
Sue Schneider: There was a bit of malaise in the US. It seemed online gaming advancement had stalled out, but with the repeal of PASPA, there’s a lot of energy in the industry again. Watching the activity on the state level now is heartening.
There has absolutely been a gold rush mentality, particularly with established suppliers coming from across the pond. Hopefully, they’ll realize that it may be a bit of slog before more states pass legislation, but it’s certainly trending in the right direction.
There’s been much discussion of how those platforms may need to be adapted for a US market that may not be familiar with such sophisticated software. That’s still an unknown. But, partnerships are forming between lotteries, tribes, tracks, and commercial casinos and the technology providers, so we should know how effective these are soon enough.
OPR: There’s a lot of frustration over the lack of online and mobile components in sports betting legislation, with some even suggesting no bill is better than a retail-only bill. It seems a lot of sports betting pundits are under the impression gambling laws are passed in an orderly, logical manner.
What should people tuning in for the first time understand about legislative sausage making as it pertains to gambling?
Schneider: I’ve been in the business since the mid-90s and I’ve long told folks outside the US that if they’re trying to look at our legislative process (federal and/or state) in a rational manner, you can’t really do that. It’s pure politics.
And it’s on a topic, gaming, that can be somewhat radioactive for many legislators.
I think younger legislators may better understand the need to include mobile, since they do many of their functions on a smartphone and realize that’s how things are going. But, many older legislators are still technology averse.
When a state like New Jersey says that 70% of their revenue is coming from mobile, those numbers get folks’ attention. So, even though it may be a long slog as state after state comes online, it’s clearly picking up steam. Tax rates and the mobile debate seem to be the main sticking points as well as which gaming entities including state lotteries will be able to participate.
OPR: Despite the uncertainty of the Wire Act opinion issued by the DOJ, 2019 has been a fairly productive year for online expansion. West Virginia legalized online casino/poker (the fifth state to do so); Michigan appears poised to finish what they started last year; and even Virginia, a historically anti-gambling state passed some enabling legislation that could lead to online legalization next year.
Do you think the US has finally reached a tipping point for online gambling?
Schneider: That’s been an interesting development — additional states are now allowing for more updated distribution channels like mobile and internet. It seems like we’re seeing a second wave after the first set of states that went online.
Is there enough steam to keep moving forward with additional states? I’m not sure.
I think more states will have to get comfortable with allowing mobile sports betting before they allow casino, poker and other products.
OPR: What’s your 30,000-foot view of the current US online gambling market?
Schneider: I first saw some momentum with the broader legalization of daily fantasy sports (DFS). That was interesting given the problems that online poker experienced in getting any traction. But, apparently, sports-related products have a broader appeal and acceptance by policy-makers.
I think the professional leagues’ softening stance also helped. So, once the Supreme Court decision was announced, states began to line up.
I still believe, if there was a more coordinated education campaign in the various states, things would move even faster.
That’s been a long-time pet peeve of mine. Our industry isn’t very good at speaking with one voice to bust myths and prove facts. But, I presume it’s going to be segmented by state, so only those suppliers and operators with a vested interest in a certain state are left to provide that education.
OPR: Where do you see the US trending in the next couple years? And what are the most important developments to watch for in 2019 and 2020?
Schneider: We’ll undoubtedly see more states come onboard for sports betting, although the legislative seasons in many states will be winding down soon.
If proponents are not successful in passing legislation this year, they’ll gear up again in January.
Once some of the states are more comfortable with that product and particularly in its mobile form, we may see more states move to legalize a wider suite of products.