- Churchill Downs, Inc. (CDI) has announced the launch of their TwinSpires mobile sports betting app in Colorado, Indiana and Pennsylvania.
- The TwinSpires app is powered by technology from GAN Ltd. and Kambi.
- In January, CDI announced plans to rebrand their BetAmerica sports betting assets with the TwinSpires name.
A trendy topic in the early part of the 21st Century was the so called ‘digital divide’. The premise was that some US demographics didn’t have the same Internet access opportunities as others. This was purportedly based on socioeconomic factors though in reality it had more to do with geography and demographics. At this point, broadband access was the real difference maker and that was a function on where you lived. Backwards states like Alabama had slower, more antiquated Internet than more forward thinking states in the Intermountain West and Pacific Northwest.
I bring up the ‘digital divide’ metaphor because we’re witnessing the development of a new ‘have/have not’ dynamic with sports betting access. The handful of states that are doing it right have provided their citizens with countless betting options and in the process are bringing in tax revenues and other economic upsides. The states that have screwed up their sports betting implementation and regulation–particularly those who have relegated it to a gimmick game for the lottery like Oregon and Montana–are not only providing their citizens with a half-assed sports betting experience but also not coming close to reaching their full potential of tax revenues and economic benefits.
Earlier this week, Churchill Downs Incorporated (NASDAQ: CHDN) announced that they had launched the TwinSpires mobile sports betting app in Colorado, Indiana and Pennsylvania. Not surprisingly, two of these states are among the best sports betting jurisdictions in the US and the third–Pennsylvania–would be among the best were it not for an insane tax and fee structure. TwinSpires represents the 11th mobile betting app available in Pennsylvania and Indiana while Colorado has over 20 sports betting options.
Ian Williams, president of TwinSpires, noted the timing of the launch in Colorado, Indiana and Pennsylvania:
“We are excited to offer our state-of-the-art sportsbook app and market leading promotions in Indiana, Pennsylvania and Colorado a week before our biggest event of the year, the Kentucky Derby. Because we are backed by Churchill Downs, the home of the Kentucky Derby, we can leverage nearly 150 years of wagering history to offer the best sports betting experience. Now players in these states can place their bets on both sports and next Saturday’s Run for the Roses through TwinSpires.”
In January, CDI announced they were rebranding their BetAmerica sports betting operation under the TwinSpires nameplate. Previously, the TwinSpires branding was exclusive to their advanced deposit horse racing platform but the decision was made that there was considerable upside in using it for sports betting as well.
Ian Williams, President of Online Gaming for CDI explained the reasoning behind the rebranding:
“Pursuing a single brand strategy allows us to maintain focus on integrating our horse racing wagering platform alongside our sports betting and igaming business, which will provide our players with the ultimate online and mobile betting experience.”
Bill Mudd, President and Chief Operating Officer of CDI, emphasized the brand equity provided by TwinSpires success in the advance deposit wagering business:
“Our TwinSpires brand has consistently delivered over 13 years and is associated with more than a century of wagering experience. That history and heritage offers a unique point of difference in a competitive space. We remain focused on building a profitable sports betting and iGaming business that provides our customers with an integrated experience alongside our horse racing wagering platform. The transition to TwinSpires not only generates marketing efficiencies, but also allows us to deliver a more complete overall experience to our growing online wagering customer base.”
The rebranding to TwinSpires is nearing completion–all of the mobile platforms have been transitioned over from BetAmerica with the exception of New Jersey. All six of CDI’s retail sportsbooks in Colorado, Mississippi, Indiana and Pennsylvania have transitioned to the TwinSpires name. In CDI’s Q1 2021 earnings call (4/24/21), CEO Bill Carstanjen indicated that New Jersey would be switching to the TwinSpires brand later in Q2. Carstanjen didn’t say too much about the company’s sports betting plans going forward though he did intimate that a launch in Maryland could be forthcoming. Although he said he was ‘cautiously optimistic’ to new possibilities there was a tone of concern about growth into new jurisdictions in the short and intermediate term due to burdensome regulatory requirements.
Carstanjen’s trepidation is well justified. If you read any analysis of sports betting in the US financial media it always comes with projections of the overall size of the American market along with unabashed optimism that it presents more potential than anywhere else in the world. Best case scenario, I agree. The problem is that we could be looking at a much longer time horizon than originally anticipated simply because so few states are setting up a regulatory framework to facilitate it. The COVID-19 pandemic gives state regulators a convenient excuse for under-performance over the past year and that further increases the time horizon for the maturity of the US market. Unfortunately, what will likely have to happen is for jurisdictions like Oregon, Montana and the District of Columbia is for their sports betting schemes to ‘crash and burn’ before they can be scrapped and rebuilt from scratch.
At the time of publication, James Murphy has a long position in CHDN.