As October and November set new New York state betting records, the opening week of December saw total wagers dip slightly. It’s not all bad news for the nine legal betting operators though, or indeed gamblers themselves.
With Christmas Day NBA games set to present sports fans with a holiday treat, the final of the soccer World Cup in Qatar, and college football bowl games leading up to the playoffs as December comes to a close, not to mention the build-up to the NHL Winter Classic and a full slate of ongoing NFL fixtures, there’s a heap of sporting treats to watch and bet on in the final month of the year.
Some of the most memorable moments in US sporting history have been during the festive season. From iconic NFL games (think ‘Ghost to the Post’ on Christmas Eve 1977 and the Victor Cruz-inspired New York Giants thwarting the Jets 34 years later), to the NBA showdown between Shaq and Kobe on the big day itself in 2004, the holidays have traditionally been awash with massive sporting highlights.
This year, for New Yorkers, the buildup to Christmas Day dinner will see the Knicks host the Philadelphia 76ers while football fans will be tuned in to the NFL triple-header on the 25th with the NY Giants playing the Minnesota Vikings on the 24th. It all means that the later weeks in December could see a flurry of betting action still to come.
New York’s online sports betting sites took an eye-watering $1.55 billion in wagers during November - up slightly on October to return a record month since internet sports gambling was legalized in January. It’s interesting to compare that figure with the wagers taken at the state’s nine retail sportsbooks which have been averaging at under $8 million a month. That’s roughly half what it was in 2021, hit by the rapid rise in online sports betting.
Total handle (i.e. the amount taken in wagers) for internet wagering stood at $375.7 million for the first reporting week in December for all nine NY sportsbooks - down 12.5% on the same week in November. The picture is muddied somewhat by operator hold rates (the amount of money a bookmaker retains after bets are settled).
Overall, the hold rate increased from 8.1% to 8.5% in December’s opening week compared with November’s. That offset the drop in handle a little but Gross Gambling Revenue (GGR) still fell to $31.8 million from $39.6 million for the comparable first weeks in each month respectively.
The New York betting market remains dominated by FanDuel and DraftKings. The pair account for a touch over 73% of the total handle for week one in December with the remaining seven sportsbooks trailing in their wake:
FanDuel - $151,714,670 - 40.38%
DraftKings - $124,808,357 - 33.22%
Caesars -$50,676,211 - 13.49%
BetMGM - $26,350,269 - 7.01%
BetRivers - $10,586,754 - 2.82%
PointsBet - $7,840,265 - 2.09%
WynnBet - $2,289,797 - 0.61%
Resorts World Bet - $1,350,802 - 0.36%
Bally Bet - $115,044 - 0.03%
Legal online sports betting in New York launched with a bang at the start of 2022. Masses of sign up offers were quickly dispatched by the sportsbooks new to the state as they jostled for position from January. Recent months have seen the market settle as operators reined in their offers. The 51% tax rate in the state meant that this was inevitable as handing out such sums of ‘free money’ was simply unsustainable.
That consolidation is likely to continue as 2023 gets underway. Certainly the dazzling promos that marked January 2022 will likely never return. That is, unless new entrants are permitted into New York’s self-restricted market with just nine licenses handed out. It is notable, however, that the high tax rate has not affected the odds offered by the NY sportsbooks - they remain competitive with the rest of the states in which betting is legal. That is likely to mean handle rates during 2023 will be comparable with this year as bettors continue to see the same ‘value’ to their bets as elsewhere in the nation.
It’s also likely that downstate casinos will go live next year with the associated opportunity for additional retail sportsbook offerings near to, or within New York City itself. This should enable a resurgence for in-person betting.
As for bettors, they might seek to assure themselves of a successful December. With no comparable figures for New York in the final month of 2021, elsewhere the bookmakers' hold - directly related to win percentages - fell in Iowa, Nevada, Indiana and New Jersey among others last December. Perhaps the year-end brings out the savviest of sports gamblers. Here’s hoping so for New Yorkers.