The stakes are rising in the online gambling industry, with a sector that could be worth billions in the near future – the US sports betting market. Most notably, big players in the established European gambling industry are positioning themselves for possible changes and the results of legal battles, while leading US companies are eyeing lucrative brands on the other side of the Atlantic.
Speculation is rife that when the US Supreme Court considers the New Jersey appeal against the decision to uphold the Professional and Amateur Sports Participation Act (PASPA), sports betting could become more widely legalised across America. The PASPA is, essentially, the only thing stopping sports betting from becoming legal.
Industry analysts seem confident of a positive outcome, given the business deals and speculation taking place among some notable betting companies and bookmakers. If sports betting sites become accessible to millions more consumers, it's worth billions to global companies based both in Europe and the US.
Big players in the gambling industry who have been making market moves include Scientific Games, William Hill, NYX Gaming and Star Group (Poker Stars). This list is far from exhausted and will certainly continue to grow - especially if major rulings in favor of legalisation come down - but these are a few of the top brands in play.
The potential revolution in the US sports betting industry has long been viewed with anticipation by UK bookmaking company, William Hill. Given the firm already has a significant US presence via the Nevada sports betting market, it has positioned itself well to take advantage of favourable changes in gambling legislation across the US.
However, the move in September by Scientific Games to buy NYX Gaming has led to a court case between Hill and the US gambling company. The controversy is fuelled by Hill owning shares in Scientific Games and NYX being a US sportsbook, causing a conflict of interest summed up by Scientific Games' comments on the proposed deal:
"NYX’s digital Sportsbook can be seamlessly delivered throughout Scientific Games’ global gaming and lottery networks in existing and future regulated US and global markets."
William Hill has taken its case to the authorities, arguing for injunctive relief, treble damages and legal fees for the violation of the New Jersey Antitrust Act, in addition to claims of economic foul play and contractual negligence. In turn, Scientific Games has responded to William Hill with its own legal proceedings.
They claim the company has itself violated the New Jersey Antitrust Act by trying to block the purchase of NYX – something it claims would benefit the whole sports betting industry in the US. The outcome of the court case will be fascinating, as two big players in the online gambling industry seemingly fight to position themselves to take advantage of potential positive changes in US sports betting law.
While William Hill could find itself dealt a blow in the Scientific Games saga, there could be better news for the British bookmaking company virtue of overtures from the Star Group. The gambling conglomerate is the parent company of PokerStars, one of the leading casino brands on the internet.
The Group is planning to raise $2.5b to acquire sports betting brands and products for the US – another strong indicator that analysts believe sports gambling laws are about to implode and open up a lucrative American gambling sector. Star Group’s CEO Rafael Ashkenazi explained the ambitions of the company, noting he was:
"Looking at buying either one big company or three to five small-to-medium companies."
And this is where things may get interesting for William Hill, since its name has been muted as a possible target for Star Group, along with GVC. The latter, a multinational sports betting company and gaming group, owns brands including bwin, Sportingbet and gamebookers, with its latest global sports wagering revenue totalling €4.6bn.
New Jersey's case headed to the Supreme Court on December 4, 2017, with a verdict expected to take anything from a few weeks to months to reach. The legal push is aiming to abolish the 1992 law that made state-authorised sports gambling illegal – something that remains in all states except Delaware, Montana, Nevada and Oregon.
If the Court abolishes the law for New Jersey, as many predict, then expect sports betting to expand across the US in the future. And that's going to create dynamic business moves in the betting industry – a fire that's already starting to smoulder. Keep checking back with Gambling.com News for more updates!
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