- In February 2020, Delaware handled $7 million in sports bets and earned $160,000 in sports betting revenue.
- This performance was a big improvement over February 2019, but a disappointment overall.
- Sports betting revenue in Delaware is trending down in general, and it seems that interest in sports betting is waning.
- COVID-19 will likely wreak havoc on Delaware’s sports betting financial future.
WILMINGTON, Del. – For a second consecutive year, Delaware’s three licensed sports betting operators struggled to profit off the Super Bowl in 2020.
Delaware sportsbooks handled a total of $7 million in sports wagers in February but earned only $159,800 in revenue—a hold rate of 2.27%.
Both sports betting handle and revenue were down considerably from the previous month. Handle decreased by over $2 million (23%) and revenue decreased by nearly $1.4 million (89%).
While February 2020 was a disappointing downturn relative to the previous month, it was a massive improvement over February 2019, in which sportsbooks netted only $22,152 on $8.5 million in wagers—a hold rate of 0.26%.
Why Did Revenue Decrease During February?
The Super Bowl is the most wagered-on single event in sports, which can be a double-edged sword for sportsbooks. Revenue for the entire month of February hinges on the outcome of the game.
In 2019, losses were largely driven by local football fans coming out in droves on the hometown New England Patriots, who upset the Los Angeles Rams in the Super Bowl and won by double digits.
In 2020, there is no clear culprit. Both the San Francisco 49ers and the Kansas City Chiefs, the year’s two Super Bowl teams, are located well over a thousand miles away from Delaware. On paper, regional bias should have been minimal.
It could be that sports bettors simply made smart picks during the Super Bowl. Delaware sportsbooks handled over 193,000 wagers in February, collecting only 82 cents in revenue per wager. For comparison, in January, they collected over seven dollars per wager.
Sportsbook hold rates are generally depressed during February, suggesting that bettors are good at finding ways to profit from their Super Bowl bets.
Long-Term Implications Of February
The most alarming component of Delaware’s February struggles is not its lack of revenue—with a small betting market, high variability in month-to-month profits should be expected. The more concerning matter is the state’s sizable year-over-year decrease in handle.
In February, handle decreased 17% from the 2018-2019 season to 2019-2020, while handle for the NFL season (September to February) decreased by 27%. That isn’t supposed to happen.
The 2018-2019 season was Delaware’s first NFL season with legal sports betting. In most other states with sports betting, the second year of operation sees huge increases in handle and revenue as bettors become more familiar with the market.
In other words, bettor interest seems to be waning in Delaware.
As with most other aspects of the global economy and society in general, Delaware sports betting will be hugely impacted in unpredictable ways by COVID-19. The loss of March revenue will sting sportsbooks badly, as the NCAA basketball tournament usually provides a foolproof way of making money.
When the crisis is well enough in hand for sports leagues to resume play, there is no way to predict how the lingering effects of COVID-19—the societal scars left by such a terrible disease—will affect fan enthusiasm for sports betting.
With a dual background in English and sports performance and business analytics, Carter aims to write stories that both engage and inform the reader. He prides himself on his ability to interweave empirical data and traditional narrative storytelling. When he isn’t keeping readers up to date on the latest sports betting legal news, he’s banging his head against a wall regretting his decision to be a Tampa Bay Buccaneers fan.