9 Predictions for US Sports Betting & Online Gambling In 2021
Back for the third year in a row, it is time for my guide to the year ahead … predictions for what to expect in American online gambling for 2021. Let’s start with a rundown of how I fared in the most unpredictable year in living memory: 2020.
It is worth starting with what I didn’t predict: a severe global pandemic and an economic shovel to the head. Despite COVID-19 putting everyone’s plans for 2020 in a paint mixer, I’m pleased to say that my predictions held up for the most part. I predicted eight new states would adopt mobile sports betting. While only four managed this task, sans pandemic, eight would have been spot on.
While COVID-19 cut most state legislative sessions short and in the process halted efforts to expand sports betting in new states, we did see a handful of states deliver on sports betting despite these challenges. Virginia was able to act quickly to finish the job in April, but we didn’t see any additional movement until Election Night, when voters in Louisiana, Maryland and South Dakota overwhelmingly authorized sports betting. There’s still a chance Ohio or Massachusetts passes a bill in lame duck session before we kiss 2020 goodbye.
I predicted Nevada would lose ground to New Jersey, forcing Nevada policymakers to reconsider how a failure to innovate has dulled its shine and dented its bottom line. It took a while, but after months of stunts like drive-thru sports betting registration, which had more camp value than practical impact, the Nevada Gaming Control Board has finally teed up a rules change to allow for remote registration for sports betting accounts. Hallelujah.
Michigan tribes, seeing the massive potential of mobile sports betting, have done as I predicted and are now working through regulations to allow them to offer statewide sports betting. The ability to reach the entire state, regardless of geographic location, is surely something that tribes in states like Arizona, North Carolina and Washington will view as an asset, and could be a pivotal prize in the sports betting expansion and legalization efforts in these states.
As predicted, 2020 was a huge year for pro team and sports betting operator partnerships. What I didn’t expect was for college programs to follow suit. But sure enough, the University of Colorado became the first NCAA member school to sign a deal with a sportsbook operator.
I predicted the Wire Act controversy would end, but the DOJ hasn’t let this go quietly and took it to the US Court of Appeals, First Circuit. The First Circuit hasn’t yet ruled, but another blow against the DOJ would likely end this controversy once and for all, especially with a new administration occupying the White House. I also predicted that federal legislation would fail, which it did.
I was too bullish on the prospects of Florida adopting sports betting, but much of the inactivity in the Sunshine State in 2020 can be attributed to COVID-19. Will the Seminoles play nice with the Florida Legislature and reach a deal, or will Florida remain a favorite customer pool of offshore sportsbooks? We’ll be covering it all in 2021.
Finally, I predicted Ohio would continue to be a headache for proponents of sports betting, and this has played out as expected. After the disappointing lack of progress the state has shown over the last two years, I certainly hope they fare better with a brand new effort and new bill sponsors in early 2021.