It’s not exactly high time for legal online gambling yet – that comes in early 2020, with the Super Bowl and then the NCAA college basketball tournament – but the betting season is certainly heating up on more ways than one. And that new fuel comes as the legal online and mobile gambling industry in the U.S. is still in the process of finding a firmer footing.
College and U.S. pro football are in the midst of their seasons, and the Major League Baseball playoffs have started. Baseball, as a whole, is not nearly as popular with wagerers as is football, and the World Series doesn’t even crack top-five lists of the most popular sporting events as measured by gambling. But that doesn’t mean the money doesn’t flow during the baseball playoffs – evidence of that comes from Jim McIngvale, a Houston furniture store owner known as “Mattress Mack,” who just put $3.5 million on the Houston Astros to win the 2019 World Series.
Depending on what estimates you trust, baseball betting – regular season included – tops about $55 billion in wages annually. And you can bet (sorry) that this fall, more of that money is going through not only mobile channels, but via more prepaid cards and other innovative methods. In fact, as PYMNTS coverage has confirmed, a big area of growth for legal betting in the U.S. in the coming years will almost certainly be the prepaid card aspect. Among the drivers of that trend is general consumer expectations of getting paid faster, whether it’s via gig income or winnings from wagers.
Indeed, the rise of online and mobile (legal) gambling is providing benefits to reloadable and store-value cards and is driving innovation. The U.S. is one of the main examples of that, and is a target of Australia-based EML’s prepaid business expansion plans. After all, the country has a large pool of consumers ready to place bets, even if just a few times a year. Most importantly, the new legal atmosphere in the U.S. is letting individual states make up their own minds about gambling, as well as set their own rules in governing it.
In general, innovation and competence around card programs that focus on gambling – more specifically, gambling payouts – are driven largely by the high stakes involved in the activity. “There is no room for failure,” EML CEO Tom Cregan recently told PYMNTS. “You have enormous brands and massive amounts of consumers involved. There is little tolerance for any solution not working 100 percent of the time.”
More Consolidation Coming
That’s not all that is happening in the expanding world of digital and mobile gambling as baseball teams vie for a chance at playing in the World Series. As The Wall Street Journal reported on Wednesday (Oct. 2), big deals are taking place in the area of payments and commerce. The owner of FanDuel, a company called Flutter Entertainment, will buy Stars Group, which owns PokerStars, in a $6 billion deal.
“Flutter, based in Dublin and listed in London, owns bookie brands in the U.K. including Paddy Power and Betfair, which operate walk-in betting parlors in shopping districts of many of Britain’s cities and towns,” the newspaper reported. “They offer bets on everything from horse racing and boxing to the fate of prime ministers and the outcomes of U.S. elections.”
There is a wave of gambling company consolidation in Europe as regulators tighten their grip on wagering operations. Not only that, the newspaper said, but the “creation of online markets elsewhere, particularly the U.S., has added to that pressure. Flutter’s FanDuel, in addition to its fantasy sports site, offers online and retail betting in New Jersey and Pennsylvania.”
Cheer for your favorite baseball teams over the next few weeks – and your football teams, too – and keep your eyes out for more innovation and change in the world of legal online and mobile gambling.