FanDuel, William Hill Staking Claim In Future Betting States
Brant James | 5 mins
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Sports betting isn’t legal in Florida or Maryland, but gaming companies are betting it will be — and soon. They’re setting up infrastructure for when those states throw the figurative switch.
FanDuel announced last week a sports betting and fantasy partnership with Baltimore-based Cordish Cos., a casino, hotel and entertainment development company with a national array of properties. The stated intent is to eventually offer legal wagering in Maryland.
William Hill US, meanwhile, has partnered with Casino Miami to open a race and sportsbook that represents its first venture in Florida.
The moves appear to be among the final machinations of a busy year in the gaming business when Penn National Gaming, and Flutter — parent company of FanDuel — reshaped the map of tapped and potential state markets with separate partnership deals.
"FanDuel Group’s goal is to have a nationwide footprint and to bring the FanDuel Sportsbook to more customers across the country," company director of publicity Kevin Hennessy told Bookies.com. "Our objective is to find a path to open markets in which we can participate on reasonable commercial terms. Partnering with Cordish allows us to further pursue sports betting and online gaming opportunities across the United States as they present themselves.
"This deal allows us to get in on the ground floor of two of the biggest casino builds happening in the U.S."
The FanDuel-Cordish alliance will launch initially in Live! Casino & Hotel and Entertainment Districts properties in Philadelphia and Pittsburgh.
“The deal between Cordish and FanDuel represents a mutually beneficial, best-in-breed approach that focuses on each party’s core competencies,” Gambling.com Group VP, U.S. Business, Max Bichsel said. “FanDuel, a definitive market leader in several states, is able to leverage the online market access of Cordish in important states like Pennsylvania and Maryland - pending legislation and if their deal includes Maryland - while also planting a flag at landmark retail and sports destinations in Philadelphia's Stadium District and the Baltimore-Washington corridor, a top-five marketplace in the U.S.
“Also with this deal, Cordish will be able to reinforce their premium LIVE! Casino brand by driving traffic to their properties with state-of-the-art sports betting options.”
Casino Miami owner Phillip Ruffin was bullish in announcing a bold business move, saying in a release "This new race book will provide us with an incredible amenity for guests and will place us at the forefront of the forthcoming Florida sports betting business.”
Forthcoming. There is much to work out in Florida for it to be forthcoming. But in this complicated state, opening a sportsbook without sports betting is progress.
For now, patrons will be able to bet on thoroughbred horse racing and jai alai at the William Hill Race Book.
When Will Maryland Legalize Sports Betting?
Legalizing sports betting is expected to be raised in Maryland again when the General Assembly convenes on Jan. 8. The state has a complicated tapestry of gaming interests to placate with casinos and pari mutuel horse racing seeking a share.
Cordish CEO David Cordish told the Baltimore Business Journal in 2018 he believed Maryland would be a late-adopter, noting "Maryland's a funny place legislatively. The tracks here seem to think they should have sports betting and I think it should be at the casinos, so you have that difference of opinion."
FanDuel CEO Matt King called the deal an opportunity to "capitalize on the incredible success of sports betting to date and bring FanDuel's top sports betting operations to Cordish destinations across the United States."
According to a release: “The companies will pursue sports betting licenses and online gaming opportunities in Maryland, Washington D.C., and other jurisdictions across the United States as sports betting expands across the country.”
The District of Columbia has legalized sports betting through a lottery-based system but has yet to announce vendors. Pennsylvania offers legal wagering to the north, West Virginia to the west and Delaware to the east. There are rumblings from the south in Virginia.
Cordish Live! serves more than 55 million visitors a year, according to the company, and developed both Hard Rock properties in Florida. Its Live! Casino & Hotel Maryland in the Baltimore-Washington corridor attracts more than 18 million visitors a year, it asserts.
Caesar’s Entertainment, Churchill Downs, Cordish, Golden Entertainment, an MGM property subsidiary and Penn National own casinos in Maryland.
Hennessy said FanDuel will continue to establish beach heads in states still pursuing legal sports betting.
"When a new state legalizes sports betting, we want FanDuel to have a retail and online presence to deliver its first-class sports betting experience to sports fans and visitors to the state," he said. "We now have market access deals in a number of states thanks to our partnerships with Jeffrey Gural, Boyd Gaming, and Cordish Companies and we can’t wait to see what the landscape will look like in 2020."
FanDuel claims an 8.5 million-customer base built from its roots in Daily Fantasy Sports and has become the online and mobile leader in sports betting in the fertile New Jersey market.
Cordish this fall broke ground on a $50 million eSports venue in the Philadelphia Sports Complex, giving FanDuel another toehold in the lucrative Pennsylvania market. Wagering on this massively popular spectator sports is seen as a potential untapped resource by the sports betting industry.
"We will have to see how eSports shakes out in 2020, but we feel a kinship with the Cordish Companies with eSports," Hennessy said. "We were the first online sportsbook in New Jersey to offer eSports betting and the Cordish Companies were one of the first to invest in an eSports arena."
When Will Florida Legalize Sports Betting?
Once sports betting arrives in Florida, is has the potential to be one of the country’s biggest betting markets — it has the third-highest population in the nation and hundreds of millions of tourists a year.
But Florida has all of the entanglements of Maryland, but with the added nettlesome matter of the Seminole Tribe and its compact creating its virtual monopoly on most types of gaming in the state of 21 million.
Tribe leaders have espoused a belief that they, through the Hard Rock International chain it owns, has exclusivity over sports betting if legalized.
The Seminole Tribe declined comment through a spokesperson.