U.S. Open Tennis: Not Yet Ready To Gamble

U.S. Open Tennis: Not Yet Ready To Gamble

For the past four years, a significant minority of U.S. Open tennis ticket buyers who live in New Jersey and who like to wager on the matches through legal, mobile sportsbooks have known the drill — get your bets in before you leave, because New York had yet to approve such gambling online.

But this year, no such pre-trip planning has been necessary, since the Empire State back in January finally launched mobile sports betting.

You’d never know it, however, from walking around the expansive grounds of the tournament in Queens. That’s because even in an ambitious marketing environment that features a booth where free samples of the “Official Sunscreen Of The U.S. Open” were being handed out, the new era of New York gambling was nowhere to be found during US Bets‘ visit on Labor Day.

“The sport of tennis has perhaps been more conservative than others in inviting that aspect of fan engagement into its universe,” Kirsten Corio, the U.S. Tennis Association’s chief commercial officer, recently told AdWeek. “We understand that it’s here to stay, and that many fans do consider that an important part of their engagement with a live sporting event — and that evolution is inevitable. But how that comes to be embraced by official tournaments and official governing bodies like ours is still a work in progress.”

Mixed sentiments on embracing betting

While the U.S. Supreme Court’s May 2018 ruling vacated a 26-year-old law that effectively handed Nevada a national monopoly on sports betting, states and sporting events have varied quite a bit in their responses since then. Population giants California and Texas have yet to approve such wagering, and an effort to do so in Florida is now tied up in federal court into the 2023 calendar year.

Even in New Jersey, the state that toppled the NFL and other sports organizations on the legal front by winning a six-year battle, the embrace of legal wagering has been inconsistent.

In the summer of 2021, the DraftKings House at Liberty National Golf Club in Jersey City, located between the 15th green and 16th fairway, was as big a hospitality suite as any at The Northern Trust — the first leg of the PGA Tour’s season-ending FedEx Cup playoff series. DraftKings became the first official betting operator of the event just a month before players teed off.

“As the existing relationship between DraftKings and the PGA Tour continues to evolve, integrating them into the New Jersey market at The Northern Trust was a natural fit,” PGA executive Julie Tyson said in a statement at the time. “When the state of New Jersey legalized sports betting in 2018, it opened the doors for a number of new business opportunities in the sports industry, and we are proud to be one of the first PGA Tour events to offer a setting in this category.”

This spring, several months after New York had legalized mobile sports betting, the LPGA Tour held an event at Upper Montclair Country Club in Clifton, New Jersey — only about a dozen miles west of the Lincoln Tunnel and Manhattan. But while residents of either state were free to wager on the event on their smartphones, marketing of such an option was as nonexistent as it’s been at this year’s U.S. Open tennis tournament.

Queens also mixed on sports betting

In Queens, Mets fans at their Citi Field ballpark site — literally next door to the U.S. Open — are bombarded with gambling advertisements during ballgames. That includes the team making Caesars an official sports betting partner.

The addition of mobile sports betting was significant because, before then, New Yorkers could only legally bet at upstate casinos. Prior to launching mobile, the closest option for U.S. Open attendees was Resorts World Casino in the Catskills, 100 miles to the north.

Joe Favorito, a sports media consultant who also is a professor at Columbia University, told US Bets on Tuesday that U.S. Open officials have a golden opportunity in coming years.

“Kiosks on site and betting parlors taking dollars at Wimbledon and the Australian Open were in place over 20 years ago, and there is so much data that shows how much betting already occurs in tennis,” Favorito said. “So the U.S. Open taking on a betting partnership — maybe numerous ones — will get a pretty immediate return on investment as the dollars and sponsorship works its way forward in the next few years.

“It’s hard to think of an event anywhere in the world where sports gambling is legal that hasn’t enjoyed the engagement and the revenue from gambling thus far, other than the Open,” Favorito added. “And when it does get sorted through, it should be a nice additional enhancement for fans on site as well as for the partners.”

Photo: Geoff Burke/USA TODAY

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Author: Ryan Gonzales