Play SugarHouse Says Bon Voyage To The Golden Nugget License, At Least For Sports Betting

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If you were wondering why Play SugarHouse is able to offer a +190 money line on the Brooklyn Nets in their 2018-’19 NBA season opener, so were we.

The operator was originally licensed for sports betting under Golden Nugget Casino in Atlantic City, which is strictly forbidden from offering sports wagers on NBA games, due to the fact that Golden Nugget owner Tilman Fertitta also owns the Houston Rockets. New Jersey law dictates that any entity with a vested interest in a sports team cannot take bets on that sport. The ban not only applied to the land-based sportsbook at Golden Nugget, but also any online sites licensed under it, Play SugarHouse included.

However, as first revealed by EGR, Play SugarHouse has jumped ship, and will now conduct sports operations under the Monmouth Park license. Play SugarHouse will stick with Golden Nugget for its NJ online casino operation, which first launched in September 2016, and today accounts for a significant chunk of industry leading Golden Nugget’s online casino revenue.

It’s no coincidence

The decision by Play SugarHouse operator Rush Street Interactive to abandon Golden Nugget for Monmouth Park doesn’t come as a complete surprise, as the latter has been given free rein to take action on any NBA game. The timing doesn’t exactly shock either, considering that the NBA season just began last night.

In Nevada, basketball accounted for $87.4 million (35.1%) of the state’s record-breaking $248.8 million in sports betting revenue for 2017. That’s more than for any other sport, and a solid $10.5 million more than what was generated by football wagers. Suffice it to say that any sportsbook missing out on offering NBA wagers is placing themselves at a severe disadvantage.

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In New Jersey, Play SugarHouse is already up against some stiff competition, including DraftKings Sportsbook, which like Play SugarHouse relies on Kambi for portions of its tech and services, and FanDuel Sportsbook. In September, DraftKings generated approximately $8.1 million in revenue, while FanDuel Sportsbook took in $2.85 million in online-only revenue from sports wagers. Play SugarHouse by comparison generated $619k, lagging well behind the DFS giants but outgunning every other online operator in the space.

The addition of NBA games virtually ensures that Play SugarHouse will lock up the third-place spot in the competitive NJ online sports betting market. And given that its sports platform is already integrated with online casino, there’s strong reason to believe it could dramatically improve its monthly revenue by the end of 2018.

Monmouth gains an ally

For horse racing facility Monmouth Park, the pickup of Play SugarHouse is a big one. Fueled by the optimism and energy of operator Dennis Drazin, Monmouth Park was the first venue to debut a land-based sportsbook in New Jersey on June 14, with NJ Governor Phil Murphy kicking off the action with the state’s first bet.

Together with partner William Hill, Monmouth had gone all-in on sports betting, investing $3 million in its William Hill-branded sportsbook, with aims of spending another $5 million on another betting venue located at the racetrack.

For Drazin, who hasn’t been shy about claiming that Monmouth Park needed sports betting to survive, business is booming. The track generated $2.14 million in land-based sports betting revenue in September, third behind the Borgata ($2.39 million) and the FanDuel-branded book at the Meadowlands ($4.38 million). Yet its online arm operated by William Hill didn’t fare so hot in its first month, bringing in just $71k. Presumably, this figure will improve, as Will Hill added an iOS app at the end of September, but it’s difficult to envision it topping Play SugarHouse’s numbers.

With Play SugarHouse, Monmouth gains an equally aggressive ally that should gel well with the track’s aims of sports betting dominance. At worst, adding a site that has the potential to generate $1 million+ every month in sports betting revenue isn’t something to scoff at.

And given that Monmouth Park is in line to potentially receive a massive subsidy from the state, Drazin’s claim that Monmouth Park will remain open forever doesn’t seem so wild.

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Robert is a veteran writer and analyst for the gambling industry, with a particular focus on the emergent US online gambling market. An avid poker and gambling enthusiast, Robert offers unique perspectives from both the vantage point of the player and industry professional, and is fit to cover a broad spectrum of topics.

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