NJ Sports Betting, Say Hello To Tipico, Freehold And Maybe Barstool Sportsbook

Posted on October 7, 2020 - Last Updated on October 15, 2020

The NJ sports betting landscape is constantly changing. Here we are in the third full NFL season since New Jersey legalized sports betting, and operators are still entering the market.

Expansions, additions and mergers all continue to make their mark on the industry, an industry that celebrated a record-breaking handle in August and now boasts 18 apps and 11 retail books.

And it’s likely the sports betting landscape will be changing even more before 2020 ends.

Here is a closer look at the recent movement and what it means for the future of NJ sports betting.

Tipico Sportsbook prepping for launch … soon

We don’t know exactly what day it will be, but Tipico will be offering NFL odds sometime this fall. The DGE signed off on allowing soft-play mobile wagering under the Ocean Casino Resort license.

The ruling is dated Sept. 24, and Tipico’s New Jersey website is live with the words “launching this fall.” Even though the testing phase was cleared to commence “on or after 12 noon on Sept. 24,” the actual start date is vague.

Once Tipico finalizes its launch plans, the five-day testing phase, or soft-play period, will begin. The first two dates will be for a period of eight hours each. The session increases to 14 hours on day three, followed by back-to-back 24-hour periods.

If the operator has a specific week or month in mind, the details are being kept quiet. New Jersey is the first US market Tipico will enter. However, the company is well-established in Germany, where it is the leading operator.

Tipico now has offices in Hoboken.

“We are very excited to be expanding our mobile sportsbook offering to a new international market,” said Joachim Baca, CEO at Tipico Group, in a press release.

“At Tipico, we are truly passionate about enhancing the thrill of sport, bringing fans even closer to the game they love. Regulatory approval from the state of New Jersey is another significant step toward introducing US consumers to our unique sports betting platform.”

Again, there is no mention of an exact launch date. But Tipico likely won’t want to miss out on the bulk of the NFL regular season.

Sometime this month seems a realistic option for NJ sportsbook app No. 19.

Is Freehold Raceway too late to NJ sports betting?

Freehold Raceway is arriving two years late, but the Monmouth County racetrack quietly started taking sports wagers on Sept. 24.

And the announcement came with very little fanfare.

Freehold, which is co-owned by Penn National and Greenwood Racing, has yet to hold a grand opening ceremony. At this point, one doesn’t seem to be planned. Just last week, the racetrack’s website was updated with the small detail of the Parx Sportsbook at Freehold Raceway being open.

Details regarding operating hours are missing. Same goes for the number of betting windows or where the wagering space is located. Play NJ called Freehold in hopes of getting more information, but there is no “hit this number to reach the sportsbook” option, at least not yet.

We’ll chalk it up as a work in progress.

The problem is the Garden State already has 10 established retail operations. One of them, the William Hill-branded operation at Monmouth Park, is just a 30-minute drive away from Freehold.

Whether or not the Freehold sportsbook gains any ground, attracts customers or builds revenue remains to be seen, but it has some stiff competition.

Barstool Sportsbook and a path into New Jersey

On the flip side, the door is now open for three online skins to launch under the Freehold license. Online is where NJ bettors do the bulk of their wagering. In August alone, 90% of the $667.9 million handle came via NJ sports betting apps.

In all likelihood, the Parx sportsbook app will be one of those Freehold skins.

But the realistic possibility of Barstool Sportsbook making its NJ debut sooner rather than later is the real headliner here.

Penn National invested in the media company and currently owns a 36% stake. Now that Freehold has its sports wagering license, there is a path for Barstool Sportsbook.

Barstool is hoping it can compete with FanDuel Sportsbook and DraftKings, who are the clear market leaders among NJ operators.

But Barstool is the brand that people are talking about right now. It is a media company with 66 million monthly unique visitors. So, as with DraftKings and FanDuel, there is an established audience familiar with the brand.

A successful debut in Pennsylvania gives Barstool the spotlight. At the same time, the Barstool brand would give Freehold a bit of a boost over the more established license holders.

There is little question that Barstool Sportsbook will make its way to NJ. It’s the when and how that remains a mystery.

William Hill is not slowing down

Last week, Caesars Entertainment announced it was purchasing William Hill in a $3.7 billion deal. This pairing will likely make the brand even stronger in New Jersey.

In fact, William Hill and Caesars were already busy before the pending acquisition came to light.

By now, anybody who follows the industry knows the William Hill name. It is prevalent in Nevada and has apps up and running (or in the works) in several other states. The bookmaker with European routes continues to double down on the NJ market, too.

Besides Monmouth, there are four sportsbooks inside Atlantic City casinos that bear the William Hill name. The Wild Wild West casino and Harrah’s Resort recently received brand makeovers.

On the mobile side of things, the sports betting app now includes a William Hill NJ online casino. Like Freehold, the rollout is quiet and slow.

This is just the tip of the iceberg, though.

With this deal plus the merger with El Dorado Resorts, William Hill and Caesars are more interconnected than ever before. A future Caesars Sportsbook by William Hill app is in the pipeline, of course, but additional changes are expected.

Caesars and William Hill have numerous partnerships in place, including two with ESPN and CBS Sports. Combined, the two gambling companies have a lot more clout — in New Jersey and beyond.

Surpassing 20 NJ sports betting apps

Having a market with 20 or more apps shouldn’t come as a surprise at this point.

Back in 2019, DGE Director David Rebuck spoke about such a possibility:

“So let’s say by the start of NFL season and September, the 13 would probably be approaching into the 20s.”

Sure, that didn’t exactly happen as fast as he predicted. But in a little more than two years since mobile sports betting went live, the Garden State market went from a handful of platforms to almost 20.

By giving license holders the option to have multiple skins, New Jersey created not only a robust industry but also a healthy dose of competition. And operators see the market’s success and future potential.

That can only be good news for customers.

Otherwise, Freehold wouldn’t have spent all that time and energy going through the licensing process. Tipico wouldn’t be so excited about its pending NJ launch.

And William Hill would have taken more of a business-as-usual approach instead of expanding.

The way the current landscape is looking, betting that there will be more than 20 apps before 2020 comes to a close looks like a winning ticket.

Don’t quote us on that, though.

Photo by AP Photo/Wayne Parry)
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Bill Gelman

Bill Gelman is a veteran sports writer based just outside of Philadelphia and not too far from the Jersey Shore. Bill spends time in Atlantic City writing about casino openings and expansions, special events and now NJ sports betting and online gambling.

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