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PlaySugarHouse Sportsbook is taking a transparent approach to its soft launch period in Connecticut. Conversely, online gambling operators for the state’s tribes aren’t saying much at all.
That’s likely because PlaySugarHouse’s partner, the Connecticut Lottery Corporation, is under public ownership. Why not tell the stakeholders how the soft launch is going?
DraftKings and FanDuel are working for the Mashantucket Pequot Tribal Nation and the Mohegan Tribe, respectively. The two tribes, which own Foxwoods and Mohegan Sun casinos, respectively, don’t have the same duty to the public.
It appears that the Mohegan Tribe is using its own Mohegan Sun Casino brand for iGaming, but the FanDuel Sportsbook brand for sports betting. That’s despite the fact that the two products are bundled into a single app.
FanDuel did inform Online Poker Report that its 750 online casino and online sportsbook soft launch signup slots filled within hours of launch on Oct. 12. DraftKings didn’t respond to OPR‘s request for comment.
Right now, only 2,250 bettors within Connecticut’s borders are allowed to place wagers. Those registered with the tribal sites – 1500 in total – can access both sports betting and casino games. The CLC and PlaySugarHouse can only offer online sports betting to their 750 users. The full launch for all three is slated for Oct. 19, at which point there will be no cap on signups.
The Connecticut Department of Consumer Protection’s Gaming Division (DCP) will regulate the new market. It kept the soft launch cohort small while watching how all the moving parts come together.
So far, so good.
Yesterday, CLC Board Chairman Robert T. Simmelkjaer II presented an update to the CLC board of directors about PlaySugarHouse:
“So far, from all reports, things are going very well with our partners at Rush Street Interactive.”
RSI operates its PlaySugarHouse brand for the CLC.
Simmelkjaer said there hadn’t been “any real drama.” The site hit its soft launch registration cap on the first day. Most complaints have come from those who missed their window of opportunity.
A total of 3,000 Nutmeggers tried to join the soft launch, said CLC President and CEO Greg Smith yesterday, four times the number PlaySugarHouse could accept right away. They’d seen PlaySugarHouse ads and come to the site to register.
Yesterday, Mohegan Sun addressed the most significant issue yet to have come up in Connecticut online sports betting‘s short history.
The company tweeted:
“Betting on the WNBA is allowed, but we do not accept bets on @ConnecticutSun games due to perceived concerns about conflicts of interest that may arise due to our ownership of the team.”
The reason for the tweet goes back to the first bet placed when Mohegan Sun opened its retail sportsbook on Sept. 30. That day, Gov. Ned Lamont helped open the sportsbook by placing a $50 wager on the Connecticut Sun. He bet that the WNBA team would win its playoff game with the Chicago Sky “by more than 7.5 points,” according to Mohegan Gaming & Entertainment (MGE).
Mohegan then briefly suspended wagering on Oct. 4 to address conflict of interest concerns voiced by state lawmakers and others. Connecticut’s lawmakers, including Lamont himself, had wanted to ban betting on in-state college teams entirely, for the reasons Mohegan Sun mentioned. Ultimately, they reached a compromise: Such bets are allowed during intercollegiate tournaments such as March Madness, but even then, not on the outcomes of single games, only the tournament as a whole.
A few users did have trouble completing their registration with FanDuel. These included one Twitter user claiming to be a human resources manager for 13 casinos in Las Vegas. FanDuel responded quickly to these complaints.
In general, though, most feedback about the soft launch was positive, such as this Oct. 12 tweet from @RL_NewEngland:
“FINALLY! Connecticut online sports gambling. Just made my first few bets on FanDuel and it felt great. I’m a fan of betting football, golf, nascar, so bring on the picks!”
From an industry-watcher’s perspective, one upside to the lottery’s transparency is that we have access to some early numbers about the market.
Smith said PlaySugarHouse saw cash sales of just over $60,000 on Oct. 12 and 13. Kambi processed the wagers, which averaged $45 per bet. The largest wager was nearly $1,800, and the smallest was just 10 cents.
“So we had quite a range in there,” Smith said.
PlaySugarHouse users bet on college and professional football games, professional baseball, the NHL pre-season games and NBA and WNBA matchups.
While wagers on sports like those – as well as golf, tennis and soccer – were rather predictable, Nutmeggers did throw in a few surprises. PlaySugarHouse processed bets on Russian table tennis, UFC bouts and esports, Smith said.
Tara Chozet – the CLC’s director of public relations and social media – tweeted that most Day 1 wagers came in for major league baseball, probably because there were three divisional series games on Oct. 12.
Simmelkjaer tweeted on Oct. 12:
“The first ever sports bet taken by the @ctlottery and @PlaySugarHouse was a $10 bet on the Milwaukee Brewers to beat the Atlanta Braves in the MLB playoffs tonight.”
Smith said that the soft launch has proceeded so smoothly that some bettors are already withdrawing part of their winnings.
“We’re liking what we’re seeing so far,” Smith summarized.
Smith said the PlaySugarHouse retail sportsbooks are still in the documentation phase with the DCP. However, when those locations are ready to launch, RSI and the CLC will expand their marketing campaigns.
Aside from the obvious – changing site language from “coming soon” to “it’s here” – Smith said PlaySugarHouse will receive more attention from the lottery’s marketing team.
RSI will primarily focus on digital marketing, while the CLC will concentrate on retail. However, the overall plan is multichannel outreach, Smith said. Ads will appear on TV, radio, billboards and digital channels. Existing players will also receive email promotions.
Retail locations will accept bets in cash. However, all parties will be on the lookout for money laundering, Smith said.
Naturally, the CLC, RSI and their risk partners will be mindful of the state’s responsible gambling rules. Smith said “house rules” are available to PlaySugarHouse users and will be visible at the retail locations, outlining the per-sport maximum bets.
“The dollar amount of a concerning wager will be different by sport,” Smith said.
For instance, a $5,000 wager on an NFL game “would not be surprising for us.” However, a similarly sized bet on a Tier 3 tennis tournament without many players would be a concern, he said.
Smith said evaluation of and action on such “concerning” bets will happen in real-time.