Friday, February 27, 2009

Maryland Seeking to Legalize Fantasy Sports Contests

In a positive for the fantasy sports industry, a Maryland legislator introduced a bill to specifically exempt fantasy sports contests from state gambling prohibitions. reports that Democrat John Olszewski presented a bill this week to a state House committee.

The federal Unlawful Internet Gambling Enforcement Act (UIGEA) has a specific carve-out exempting fantasy sports contests, as long as they operate within certain stated parameters. Maryland is seeking to insert that same language into state law.

Current Maryland law is unclear with regard to the separation of games of skill from gambling, which is why fantasy sports companies generally shy away from allowing Maryland residents to compete for prizes, or shy away from allowing them to participate at all.

There are nine states where state law is not very clear or undifferentiated between a skill game and a gambling game. These states are: Louisiana, North Dakota, Montana, Iowa, Arizona, Vermont, Maryland, Arkansas and Florida. Fantasy sports companies, in general, place restrictions on players that reside in those states. Maryland is attempting with the legislation to make a clear distinction, which will allow residents to fully participate in prize-based fantasy sports contests.

Montana in 2007 passed a law legalizing pari-mutuel wagering on fantasy sports, but that was an expansion of their gambling law, and not impacting the conduct of contests. Fantasy sports contests in Montana are controlled by gambling statutes as well, with the bulk of the contests affiliated with in-person contests, not utilizing online formats.

The proposed Maryland legislation is further confirmation of the continuing popularity of fantasy sports. The Fantasy Sports Trade Association currently estimates 27 million Americans play fantasy sports, an $800 million industry.

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Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Fantasy Sports Website Makes Top List

As another indication of the popularity of fantasy sports in the US, a fantasy sports website garnered a mention in an iGaming publication. The Jan/Feb 2009 issue of iGaming Business published data from Hitwise showing the top ten gambling sites in the US as of Nov 2008.

Top Ten Gambling Sites in the US, Nov 08
  1. Florida Lottery
  2. NY Lottery
  3. FreeSlots
  4. Pennsylvania Lottery
  5. Texas Lottery Commission
  6. Ohio Lottery
  7. RealTime Fantasy Sports
  8. Powerball
  9. California Lottery
  10. Illinois Lottery

Now according to the UIGEA, fantasy sports is not gambling, but to the iGaming businesses that are legally shut out of the US market, they have a certain bias. That aside, to have a fantasy sports site with sufficient hits to be compared to major lottery websites, that is interesting.

Now this list is for US-based sites. Typical online gaming sites, which are not based in the US, aren't eligible for inclusion in this list. What are eligible, but didn't make the cut, are the pari-mutuel horse racing betting sites. Those US-based online gambling sites are eligible for inclusion in this list, but didn't make the top ten.

What will be interesting to see if during the May timeframe, when horse racing's Triple Crown is running, if any of those sites make the list.


Anonymous (2009, Jan/Feb), Hitwise Industry Report, iGaming Business, 129.

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Saturday, February 7, 2009

Are Anti-Smoking Bans Online Gambling's Friend?

Land-based casinos are facing another indirect threat from online casinos, and that threat comes from nearby, not from some offshore locale. Anti-smoking laws that impact casinos impact more than just air quality.

For those that like to gamble and smoke, a smoking ban is more than an inconvenience. These patrons often just go home and smoke, and with online gambling, they can gamble and smoke right from their living room.

Anti-smoking laws are not just being implemented in the United States. France implemented a smoking ban last year and evidence is already in that their land-based casinos are feeling the impact.

"There are multiple factors that have directly and indirectly caused the French casinos to face losses in revenue during 2008. First, the smoking ban that became effective on Jan 1, 2008, has radically changed the habits of players. Players were used to smoking and drinking while playing. Instead of quitting smoking, players have preferred to neglect the casino properties. They now play at home on the Internet, where they can smoke while gambling." 1

US casinos have also seen revenues decline after imposition of smoking bans. Tom Swoik of the Illinois Casino Gaming Associate reports that in the first year after the statewide smoking ban that became effective January 1st of last year, Illinois casinos had a nearly 21% reduction in revenue. Although the economy can explain part of the decline, the smoking ban is implicated as the major cause, due to the comparison with casino revenue in Indiana, which has a similar economy, but with no smoking ban. Swoik added that the two states that have been hurt the most are Illinois and Colorado, as both had smoking bans that were implemented.

"'When you compare the Chicagoland market with the Northern Indiana market,' Swoik said, 'the Chicagoland market in Illinois is down 21.8 percent, and Indiana’s down 4.7 percent. They have the same economy and the same weather that we have. In the St. Louis market, Illinois is down 20.3 percent, Missouri’s down 9.9 percent.'" 2

If you have a land-based casino, the lessons already learned are clear. You need to work to ensure no smoking ban is enacted that impacts your property. Moving proactively to create smoke-free gaming and dining areas might be advisable. If your location is in a warm weather location, creating outdoor venues for gaming and dining may actually increase business while staving off anti-smoking laws.

If you are an online casino, exploration of exploiting these laws in your marketing efforts should be undertaken. If your customer demographic has a substantial amount of smokers, highlight the convenience of gaming and smoking without the hassle of "designated smoking areas." As part of the frequent player program, cigarettes, cigars and other smoking paraphernalia could be included as redeemable items or as incentive gifts for new players.

The most bold approach would be for online casinos to actively support anti-smoking efforts that included casino properties for the express purpose of driving customers to the online sites.


[1] Verbiest, T. & Pelletier P. (2009, Winter), Rien Ne Va Plus In The French Casino, Casino Lawyer, 26.

[2] Ortbals, A. (2009, February), Cities, state, schools socked by smoking ban impact on casino revenues, Illinois Business Journal, Retrieved February 7, 2009, from:


Black, P. (2009, January 31),, Retrieved February 7, 2009, from:

Ortbals, A. (2009, February), Cities, state, schools socked by smoking ban impact on casino revenues, Illinois Business Journal, Retrieved February 7, 2009, from:

Pakko, M. (2008, January), Clearing the Haze? New Evidence on the Economic Impact of Smoking Bans, The Regional Economist, Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis, Retrieved February 7, 2009, from:

Verbiest, T. & Pelletier P. (2009, Winter), Rien Ne Va Plus In The French Casino, Casino Lawyer, 26-27.

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