Paddy Power Leads the Field in Race for US Betting

Baseball with glove and American flag

The US Supreme Court is considering an appeal by the state of New Jersey that could pave the way for legalized sports betting in the States. British bookmaker Paddy Power is poised to take advantage of the move with plans for a dedicated TV channel.

Victor Hugo was a French poet, novelist, and dramatist, most famous for writing Les Misérables.

He has never previously been considered a sage of the gambling industry, but it looks as if one of his most famous quotations – “Nothing can resist an idea whose time has come” – is about to be spectacularly realized in the United States, with British bookmaker Paddy Power poised to take full advantage.

Sooner or later the US Supreme Court is likely to give the green light to legalized sports betting across the US. As we have written previously, it is ridiculous that an event like March Madness turns millions of Americans (including some former Presidents) into criminals if they want to place a bet or take part in an office sweepstake.

The current situation

Right now, sports betting is legal in just four US states but only Nevada allows full sports books where customers can wager on individual games. The US Supreme Court is currently considering New Jersey’s attempt to have a 1992 law banning sports betting struck down as unconstitutional. If that happens, it could trigger a wave of states legalizing sports betting. At the moment we have the anomalous situation that it is legal for me, sitting at my laptop in the UK, to bet on the Philadelphia Eagles at the New York Giants – but not for the vast majority of Americans to place such a bet.

Long-term strategy

Paddy Power has had a long-term strategy for expanding into the US. In 2015 it acquired Betfair, the world’s premier sports betting exchange, and last year it paid $48m (£34m) for Draft, a fantasy sports app currently operating in 35 US states. The company also launched its Betfair Exchange, concentrating on horse racing, in New Jersey.

Anticipating the Supreme Court decision, the company has now announced plans to build a TV channel devoted to betting on American football, baseball, basketball, ice hockey, and soccer.

Kip Levin, CEO of Paddy Power’s US operations, said: “We’re ready to go. We already have ‘Morning Line’ that looks at horseracing odds at the start of the day. That could easily be switched to offer other sports coverage.”

James Kilsby, MD with Gambling Compliance, a consulting firm, added, “Paddy Power Betfair check a lot of boxes when you think about the experience and assets [they have] which might be an advantage in the US sports betting market.”

For now, Paddy Power’s biggest presence in the US is TVG, a horseracing site that is available in 45m homes throughout 30 states, offering race coverage at 150 courses across the US, UK, and Europe. It would be easy for the company to expand that site to cover sports such as football and basketball.

Potentially huge market

The sports betting market in the US is potentially huge – turnover in Nevada has doubled since 2009 to reach $260m (£182m) – and while other UK operators such as William Hill already have a toehold in the US market, it is Paddy Power that is best placed for rapid expansion.

Could this, though, mean dedicated sports channels showing the games, but with every ad break filled with gambling ads? That, surely, will provoke the interest of the politicians, legislators, and church groups – as recently happened in Australia – as they seek to limit children’s exposure to gambling ads.

It is going to be an interesting debate. Sooner or later the US will legalize sports betting and British bookmakers will look to capitalize on their expertise and already-established operations in the US. Paddy Power and other will expand their TV coverage – and you can bet on it causing controversy.

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