Spin Cycle: Record Revenue, Umpire Uncertainty Highlight Week In Gambling

Eric Raskin

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Welcome to “Spin Cycle,” Casino Reports’ weekly Friday roundup of all things impactful, intriguing, impressive, or idiotic in the gambling industry. Pull up a chair, grab a stack of chips and a glass of your beverage of choice, and take a spin with us through this week’s news cycle …

Many millions in May

It’s that time of the month. Most of the legal iCasino states are sharing their numbers from May, starting with New Jersey last Friday afternoon. The other two major online casino states, Pennsylvania  and Michigan, followed with their figures mid-week, and a couple of the smaller states got in on the act as well.

In West Virginia, May went down as the second-highest online casino revenue month in state history, with the $17.9 million generated topped only by March’s $20.7 million. That revenue figure translated to almost $2.7 million in taxes to the state — just a wee bit more than the $370,000 in taxes produced by online sports betting.

Connecticut, meanwhile, achieved a state revenue record for iCasino gaming in May, with its two regulated operators — DraftKings and FanDuel — combining for $46.3 million, $2 million above the previous record set in March and up 41% compared to May 2023. That revenue, once adjusted for promotional deductions, translated to $7.1 million in taxes.

The Friday news ump

The sports betting world can’t seem to go more than a few days without a scandal, and MLB is facing perhaps its messiest wagering situation yet — although not enough details are known at this point to say for sure.

Last Friday evening, shortly after the Spin Cycle had published for the week, MLB announced umpire Pat Hoberg had been investigated for violation of the league’s gambling rules and subsequently “disciplined.” But because Hoberg was appealing the league’s ruling, MLB declined to comment further or share any details until the appeals process is finished. Similarly, Hoberg issued a statement saying he won’t be discussing the case while his appeal is pending.

Hoberg, who has a reputation as one of the top umps in the league, has not officiated a game this season, since the investigation began during Spring Training.

Is his alleged offense something minor or something major? The public doesn’t know. But in theory, a betting scandal centered around an official making calls on the field can be even worse than a player’s potential to compromise the integrity of the game; you’d better believe the NBA would rather have another Jontay Porter than another Tim Donaghy.

Stay tuned. Maybe this a big ball of nothing. Or maybe it’s the most troubling sports betting rules violation of the post-PASPA era.

New ‘skill-based poker game’ coming to U.S.

Aftermath Interactive and Hensel Grad P.C. announced Thursday an agreement to develop what they’re calling a “skill-based poker game” they expect to launch online in the U.S. soon.

According to a press release, the new game will build on Hands of Victory, a game Sweden-based Aftermath currently offers in a free-to-play version. “By introducing novel, skill-enhancing game mechanics, more action-oriented, character-based game play, and a dynamic, decision-based scoring system, we believe a pay-to-enter version of Hands of Victory can fill a profound hole in the U.S. market,” said Aftermath CEO Kim Lund.

Traditional online poker is only legal and operational in five states.

Where U.S.-based advisory firm Hensel Grad, founded by Susan Hensel and Joe Grad, comes in, is with making sure the game is legal according to different state guidelines. “The Hands of Victory game is different from traditional poker,” Hensel said. “It will equip players with a wide range of tactical tools to put an entertaining and engaging twist on poker and will be unlike any other game currently available to U.S. players.”

Participation in Mass

If at first you can’t get operators to attend your public meeting about limiting sports bettors, try, try again.

Following an across-the-board snub by online sportsbooks in May, the Massachusetts Gaming Commission is making another effort to discuss limiting policies with the state’s seven licensed operators, and the MGC claimed this week that all seven have committed to attending a future meeting on the topic.

There is no date announced yet for the make-up meeting, however.

The first time around, the operators attributed their collective no-show to an unwillingness to share certain business strategies in a public setting. One operator, Bally’s, did appear at that May meeting, but Bally’s had not launched its online sportsbook in Massachusetts yet. Bally’s is aiming to launch next week.

The Shuffle: Other news and views

DEFINING THE TERMS: Perceptions and realities: 15 perspectives on whether the lottery is gambling

WYNN WIN: Justice Department loses foreign agent case against casino mogul Steve Wynn

LIVE FROM LAS VEGAS: MGM teams up with Playtech for new live-dealer casino games streamed from Las Vegas

CREDIT GIVEN: Pennsylvania lawmakers are right to ban the use of credit cards to fund bets

BIG BOYD: Report: Boyd Gaming approaches PENN Entertainment with acquisition offer

STRIP STAKES: After bitter primary, Culinary Union, legislative Democrats not singing kumbaya — yet

HITTING THE JOKE-POT: ‘The Simpsons’ parodies myths and realities of the lottery

GET OUT: Michigan successfully blocks Bovada from operating in state 

UNDER THE INFLUENCER: BetMGM taps slots influencer Brian Christopher as newest brand ambassador

DOWN WITH O-P-P: OPP stepping in to investigate Raptors’ Jontay Porter’s gambling case

EXPLOSIVE OP-ED: US sports betting regulators can either heed others’ lessons, or step on land mines

DUELING INTERESTS: FanDuel threatens to end partnership with D.C. Lottery as lawmakers approve plans to expand sports betting market

WRIT’S END: Supreme Court declines to hear Florida sports betting case, leaving Seminole Tribe monopoly intact

DEVELOPING DIVERSITY: Women, minorities finding more success gambling on casinos

THIRD-PARTY POOPERS: California Lottery explicitly comes out against online courier services

LET’S PLAY SOME CARDS: Hollywood Casino hiring dealers for its long-awaited return of live poker

AMERICA’S TEAM-UP: Dallas Cowboys announce marketing partnership with Aristocrat Gaming

DONE DEAL: Caesars completes acquisition of Michigan iGaming operations from Wynn Resorts

SLOT OR NOT?: When iLottery and iCasino collide

MAKING PROGRESS: Virginia program shows rare success in addressing problem gambling

THREE OF A KIND: Wynn’s plans to build a third tower on Strip still alive

PEARL’S WISDOM: Current impasse also an opportunity to get online casino legislation right

The Bonus Round

Completing the Spin Cycle with some odds and ends and our favorite social media posts of the week:

  • If you like your online slots with a little pop culture nostalgia mixed in, you’re definitely going to like the latest game announcements from BetMGM. The operator announced this week new iCasino titles built around Cheers and Ace Ventura: Pet Detective. The former is a 3×3, 17-line slot with nine different bonus games, and the latter is 5×3, 20-line slot with respins, bonus spins, multiplier wilds, and more. I haven’t played the Ace Ventura slot yet, but I assume that hitting a Finkle symbol is the same thing as hitting an Einhorn symbol.
  • Here’s some not-at-all-surprising news to anyone who’s been to Las Vegas the last few years: According to Forbes, the cost of a visit to Vegas has risen more sharply than any other U.S. city over the last five years. Average hotel cost is up 47.45%, average rental car cost is up 61.44%, and average daily meal cost is up 13.96%. On the bright side, flights to Vegas are cheaper than they were a half-decade ago — but only by 5.53%.
  • I’ll leave you this week with a podcast recommendation: Gambling Mad with Norman Chad returned about a month ago after vanishing from the pod-o-sphere for a little while, and it is a delight having Norm back in my earbuds. His brand of comedy is not for everyone, of course, but if you enjoy his rantings, his ravings, his soda rankings, his foreign-language bits, and his entirely appropriate annoyance with all things Stephen A. Smith, you’ll love Gambling Mad. Enjoy a small taste, and have a fantastic, caffeine-charged, sugar-loaded weekend: