The year 2018 marked a turning point for sports betting in the U.S. The Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act (PASPA)—which essentially forbade sports betting on a federal level—was finally made unconstitutional, allowing each state to decide if they wanted to legalize sports betting.
It all started with New Jersey and soon spread to other big states such as Pennsylvania, New York, Illinois, Indiana, Michigan, Colorado, Arizona, Ohio, and more. The market became almost immediately saturated, with companies such as DraftKings, FanDuel, BetMGM, and Caesars taking prominent positions.
Many British and European sports betting businesses, which had been decades ahead of the Americans, saw this as a huge expansion opportunity.
However, nearly six years into the revival of the U.S. sports betting market, betting companies from across the pond still struggle to gain traction on American soil. Why is that so, and who is keeping them from getting a bigger piece of the pie?
FanDuel & DraftKings Outpacing Everyone
Although sports betting wasn’t legal in most of the U.S. before 2018, it wasn’t exactly a dormant industry. Americans couldn’t legally bet on sports outside Nevada, but they could enjoy daily fantasy sports pretty much everywhere in the country.
DFS gained a massive following in the 2010s, with FanDuel and DraftKings emerging as household names, offering the next best thing to fans with a desire to win money for making accurate sports predictions.
Their transition to sports betting (and later online casinos) was natural. Being trustworthy brands with an established customer base, FanDuel and DraftKings had no trouble becoming top dogs when states began to offer regulated sports betting.
Today, the two companies control nearly three-quarters of the sports betting market share in the country, essentially holding a duopoly over the sector—though ESPN may make a splash after partnering with PENN Entertainment to launch ESPN BET.
Both are also known for their aggressive approach to entering newly regulated markets. There are over 35 states now where you can legally bet on sports, with DraftKings and FanDuel being available in the vast majority of them.
Their main competition comes from Caesars and BetMGM, two other American-based businesses with a long history of operating Las Vegas and Atlantic City casinos. However, both of these companies’ market shares are just around the 10% mark.
Foreign companies are allowed to join the U.S. market, but most are down the food chain at the moment, while some have even chosen to cash out their American chips.
PointsBet, an Australian-based company known for its unique PointsBetting system, sold its North American operations to Fanatics earlier this year as it was hemorrhaging money trying to keep up with the intense competition.
Meanwhile, some companies saw the emergence of the American sports betting industry as an opportunity for large acquisition deals. Instead of trying to compete in the U.S. market, the famous British bookmaker William Hill agreed to a $3.7 billion takeover from Caesars Entertainment, completed in April 2021.
Betway & Bet365 Struggling to Keep Up
Betway and bet365 may be the two most prominent overseas sportsbooks fighting for their spot in the U.S. market. Nonetheless, they’ve barely managed to make a dent in the sector.
Betway is currently available in eight markets (AZ, CO, IA, IN, NJ, OH, PA, VA), with plans to roll out its online sportsbook in a few other states that are expected to launch sports betting shortly. Still, Betway remains a rather insignificant competitor in the U.S., struggling to keep itself above 1% in market share in each of the states where it currently does business.
Meanwhile, bet365 was only available in New Jersey for a few years before finally deciding to make a push and expand further. Aside from the Garden State, the well-known British company has secured sports betting licenses in Colorado, Iowa, Kentucky, Mississippi, Ohio, and Virginia.
For now, however, their market share figures have been a mere drop in the ocean, accounting for an estimated 1% in sports betting revenue in New Jersey. Things look more promising in Ohio, where bet365 holds around 6.5% of the market, lifting it to third place among close to 20 sportsbooks in the state.
If it keeps expanding and somehow manages to scale these numbers to a countrywide level, bet365 could eventually crack the top five and find itself just behind BetMGM and Caesars.