As the Atlanta Falcons and Philadelphia Eagles get set to kick off the new football season Thursday night in Pennsylvania, plenty of eyes will be on the betting action across the state border.
At least five companies will offer mobile wagering in New Jersey by gametime — including DraftKings, FanDuel, William Hill, MGM Resorts International and Rush Street Interactive — providing a glimpse of the U.S. sports betting market’s potential. Caesars Entertainment Corp. and 888 Holdings may have online operations running by Sunday, when most NFL teams will play their first game.
However, a new Super Bowl champion will be crowned long before the winners in the online market are determined, say gaming industry executives and analysts.
“The upcoming football season and first rollout of mobile sports in New Jersey is only the first step in what will be a three- to five-year business build,” said Christian Stuart, Caesars executive vice president for gaming and interactive entertainment. “It will take time for awareness of the products to take hold and for customers to leave the illegal market.”
More wagering companies are likely to enter the New Jersey market in the coming months as others sports leagues, including the NBA and NHL, return to action. Close to 20 online operators could be doing business in New Jersey by the end of the year, according to a report this week by industry analysts Eilers &Krejcik.
Companies will only “start to put together the story” toward the end of the year, said Matt Kalish, co-founder of DraftKings, the first company to offer mobile sports betting in New Jersey. Wagering will “ramp steadily” this autumn as other sports leagues begin their seasons and more people get familiar with the new apps.
New Jersey is in focus because it is the largest state by population among those offering sports wagering and is located a short ride from the nation’s largest city, New York. Only New Jersey and Nevada currently offer online sports wagering.
Strong results in New Jersey could encourage more states to offer mobile wagering to boost tax revenues, Stuart said.
The new sports betting apps will likely undergo change in the coming months as companies receive customer feedback and offer new wagering options, including proposition bets on teams and players and in-game wagering.
“The rollout will be important in many other ways. We will get to see how customers react to the initial mobile product offerings,” Stuart said.
Some companies rushed to get a product to the market for the start of the football season, said Chris Grove, managing director of sports and emerging verticals at Eilers &Krejcik.
The U.S. Supreme Court overturned a ban on sports betting in most states less than four months before Thursday’s game.
“There will be hundreds of small things that change between now and then that will make the betting experience better,” Grove said. “It is still early days.”
Sports wagering companies seeking to have a U.S. presence will likely set up operations in New Jersey first, he said.
“New Jersey is a place to put a stake in the ground. It will open the door to other states,” Grove said.