Welcome to SportBusiness Group’s US Digest, rounding up the news and developments coming out of the world’s biggest sports market
Delaware ushers in new sports betting era
Delaware beat its rival states to the mark on Tuesday when it became the first to launch legal sports betting following the Supreme Court’s decision to overturn a federal ban. Governor John Carney placed the first bet at the Dover Downs Hotel and Casino sportsbook, wagering $10 on the Philadelphia Phillies to beat the Chicago Cubs. Delaware’s three casinos generated $322,135 in the first day of full-scale betting. New Jersey is poised to allow sports betting by the end of the week – its bill, like Delaware, will not contain an ‘integrity fee’ payable to sports leagues.
United 2026 bid outscores ‘high risk’ Morocco
The United bid will officially take on Morocco in the June 13 ballot to host the 2026 World Cup after the north African country passed the Fifa inspection evaluation report. Morocco, however, was branded “high risk” in three areas after being awarded a mark of 2.7 out of 5 (the North American bid scored 4). In the battle for votes, Conmebol rejected a Morocco request to listen to a bid presentation. South Africa, Zimbabwe and Namibia are also poised to snub Morocco, as is Afghanistan. Fifa president Gianni Infantino has said the governing body can afford a Morocco World Cup despite far lower revenue projections than the United bid.
Yankees win scheduling battle with ESPN
The New York Yankees have won a controversial battle with ESPN, in which they threatened to boycott the network over a scheduling change. ESPN moved the Yankees from a 1pm start time for their July 8 game against the Bluejays in Toronto to 8pm primetime for Sunday Night Baseball. However, the Yankees were unhappy as they were playing a make-up double-header in Baltimore the following day and indicated they would be uncooperative with ESPN for the remainder of the season. ESPN relented and the game was moved back to 1pm. Boston Red Sox manager Alex Cora warned of the precedent: “If they [ESPN] do it for one team, they have to do it for everybody.”
NBA Finals ratings rise – even if drama does not
It may have had far less drama but ratings for Sunday’s Game 2 of the NBA Finals were up marginally from the overtime victory for the Warriors in Game 1. Coverage averaged 18.5m viewers on ABC in primetime with a peak of 22.5m near the end in the 10.15-10.30pm ET slot, rising 7 per cent from last Thursday’s opener. ESPN said it was the third-largest Game 2 audience since 2001, but down slightly from last year. With regards to ticket sales, the average get-in price on the secondary market for Wednesday night’s Game 3 at the Cavaliers’ Quicken Loans Arena was $235, the lowest it’s been since 2014.
Broncos owner daughter’s takeover bid rebuffed
The Denver Broncos are involved in an ugly takeover battle. The NFL team were placed into the care of the Pat Bowlen Trust in 2014 after the owner resigned his position due to his battle with Alzheimer’s disease. Beth Bowlen Wallace, one of Bowlen’s seven children, announced she wanted to take control of the organization. However, the Trust bluntly responded that she “is not capable or qualified at this time”. Bowlen Wallace continues to argue her case but if the Trust decides that none of the siblings are eligible and the family chooses to sell, the team could go for as much as $3bn, according to reports.
Discovery secures landmark $2bn PGA Tour deal
The PGA Tour is broadening its global push after signing a $2bn deal with Discovery for international TV and streaming rights until 2030. As part of the deal – which will begin in 2019 – Discovery will develop a new OTT service that will reach more than 220 markets outside the US and act as a Netflix-style direct-to-consumer experience. Discovery will also carry events on its own linear channels around the world and, like with the Olympics, sub-license them in markets where it does not have a presence. The yet-to-be-named service will also help build a platform for the PGA Tour’s non-live and library rights.
Also this week
- Houston Astros owner Jim Crane is heading up a group of investors in an effort to keep the Houston Open on the PGA Tour schedule.
- Justify, who is aiming for horse racing’s Triple Crown at the Belmont Stakes on Saturday, will be exclusively sponsored by private jet company WheelsUp.
- Oliver Luck, an National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) executive and father of NFL quarterback Andrew Luck, has been named the commissioner and CEO of Vince McMahon’s XFL…
- …while Birmingham, Alabama, will be the seventh city with a team in the new Alliance of American Football.
- The Columbus Crew’s potential move to Austin seemingly moved closer with stadium renderings being released and a report from the Texas city found the planned stadium site was “suitable”.
- Just 21,357 people went to see Wales take on the Springboks at RFK Stadium in Washington DC – significantly less than the break-even figure of 27,000.
- The United States Soccer Federation has rejected the $500m proposal by New York Cosmos owner Rocco Commisso to bring back the North American Soccer League as a division two league for the 2019 season.
- The NBA will stage its Africa exhibition game in Pretoria, South Africa, on Aug 4. Previous events were held in Johannesburg.
- The International Champions Cup is looking to expand its new women’s tournament to 16 teams, eight from the National Women’s Soccer League and eight from Europe.
- Denver is poised to seek voter approval in a referendum before bidding to host the 2030 Winter Olympics.
- Fox Sports has teamed up with IBM to create an on-demand highlights tool from every World Cup dating back to 1958.
- Why secondary market tickets for the NHL finals are more expensive than those for the NBA finals.
- The inside story on how New Orleans landed the Super Bowl in 2024.
- Forbes’ list of the highest-paid athletes in 2018 – no women are included.