After another transformative year for US sports betting in 2021, there will be no shortage of further market opportunities in 2022, both within the US and other parts of the Americas.
California Takes Centre Stage
Among the dozen states that either launched or passed laws to expand their sports betting markets in 2021, it was the unique legislative moves made in New York and Florida that attracted the main headlines.
In 2022, it will be the turn of California – the most populous US state and theoretically the largest market opportunity by far for online sports betting.
A coalition of powerful Indian tribes has already qualified a referendum for November 8, 2022 to authorize retail sportsbooks at tribal casinos and racetracks. The question is whether that will be joined on the ballot by an accompanying measure for mobile sports wagering.
Three competing ballot initiatives have been submitted with backing of the largest US online sports betting operators, a coalition of four major tribes and California cardroom interests, respectively. It’s also theoretically possible the state legislature could craft its own measure as well.
Heading into 2022, what remains to be seen is whether one or more of the initiatives will collect enough signatures to make the state-wide ballot on November 8, and if so, how tribes respond to the more crowded field as they ramp up their own campaigning.
With a California online sports betting market worth roughly $2bn in annual revenue per VIXIO GamblingCompliance forecasts, the stakes in the Golden State are high.
US Market Expansion
Beyond California, there is also the possibility of a November referendum on online sports betting in Florida, although qualifying a ballot initiative there faces a high hurdle in terms of an imminent February 1 deadline to validate more than 800,000 voter signatures. Clouding the landscape in the Sunshine State is whether the powerful Seminole Tribe will be legally able to re-launch state-wide mobile sports wagering under its tribal gaming compact, pending an appeal before federal courts.
Mobile sports betting will launch in New York in early 2022 following 2021’s labyrinthine bid process that saw a total of nine licensees commit to paying a US-high tax rate of 51 percent of revenue.
Elsewhere, VIXIO GamblingCompliance forecasts for four to 11 states to pass sports-betting legislation in 2022, with Massachusetts and North Carolina among the favorites and Indiana the most likely candidate to legalize online casino or iGaming.
The clear discrepancy between the pace of expansion of online sports betting and iGaming is set to remain one of the main topics under discussion in state houses and conference halls this year.
But responsible gambling and advertising should also come under increased focus after another marketing blitz by operators battling to acquire customers through the NFL season.
Other policy topics to watch include the increasingly important role of Indian tribes and US sports teams in the sports-betting market, the potential integration of cryptocurrencies and the series of steps that will need to be taken to integrate sports betting with horseracing.
Ontario Online Opening
For all the change in the US, it’s also possible to make the case that Ontario will be the most important new market in North America in 2022.
Unlike most US states, there are no restrictions on market-access in Ontario as it prepares to become the first Canadian province to allow private operators to legally offer online gambling in competition with its provincial lottery corporation.
The prospect of a full range of sports betting, made possible by a June 2021 amendment to Canadian federal law, also means Ontario stands to be a major market opportunity at least comparable in size with the likes of New Jersey or Pennsylvania.
It should quickly become apparent that Ontario is an entirely distinct market to those US states, however.
Among other things, marketing and advertising will be more restricted compared with the bombardment of welcome bonuses and free-bet offers across the US.
The competitive dynamics should be different, too, with international operators having an advantage of being able to leverage pre-existing unregulated Canadian businesses in a way that is not possible in any US state.
It remains to be seen how quickly other Canadian provinces will follow Ontario in opening their online markets to private competition, with Alberta the only other market showing signs of opening to date and even then strictly for sports betting. Still, it’s a safe bet that they will at least be watching and taking notes as Ontario gets off the ground.
Compared to the US and Canada, the pace of regulatory change in Latin America was slower in 2021, in part due to the brutal impact of the pandemic across the region.
2022 will see the province and city of Buenos Aires emerge as key new markets for online gambling in Argentina, with several smaller provinces also planning their own licensing regimes.
The conclusion of 2021’s presidential election year may clear the path for legislation in Chile, although a bitter dispute over land-based casino licensing remains a complicating factor. Legislation for online casino will also be discussed in Uruguay.
There is little doubt that Brazil will remain in the spotlight, however.
2021 saw one key step towards finally implementing a 2018 law to permit retail and online sports betting when Brazil’s Congress agreed to adopt a more favorable tax structure.
But the coming months will need to see rapid progress in establishing a licensing process if the legal market in Brazil is going to kick off in time for the FIFA World Cup in Qatar in November and December.
In the meantime, Brazilian states are moving rapidly to permit sports betting on their own terms as they capitalize on a landmark Supreme Court ruling allowing them to establish their own lotteries.
In addition, broader gambling expansion is back on the agenda in Brazil’s federal Congress, with a bill to authorize all online gaming alongside land-based casinos and bingo halls due to be voted on by the lower house as soon as February.