One of the opening salvos in what’s expected to be a future filled with consolidation is underway, as Churchill Downs’ TwinSpires Sportsbook continues the process of shuttering its mobile and retail sports betting operations.
The initial announcement was made in February. Since then TwinSpires has closed its sports betting websites in Colorado, Indiana, New Jersey and Tennessee.
But TwinSpires Arizona sportsbook, in partnership with the Tonto Apache Tribe, is still operating.
Richard Verri, who serves as an attorney and spokesperson for the Northern Arizona tribe, said the casino shouldn’t see much of an impact from the TwinSpires closure.
“Churchill Downs, and its Twin Spires brand, has committed to fulfilling its contractual relationship with the Tribe,” said Verri in an email to BetArizona.com. “We are continuing to gain customers and are operating both our statewide mobile platform and our retail sports book at Mazatzal Casino in Payson, Arizona.”
A Future of Sports Betting Consolidation
The shutdown of TwinSpires Sportsbook is merely the opening act of what’s sure to be several sportsbooks, both online and retail, that either disappear completely or fold into other, more established brands.
The American sports betting market has already seen one such move, when William Hill of the U.K. was sold to Caesars Entertainment for more than $3 billion in 2020. Caesars Sportsbook Arizona recently opened its permanent retail location at Chase Field.
The U.S. market also has seen the purchase of the Golden Nugget Sportsbook by national online mainstay DraftKings in May — showing the increase in volatility in the American marketplace.
For Arizona Department of Gaming Director Ted Vogt, the consolidation in the market isn’t a surprise. Vogt’s main concern is ensuring consumers don’t get the short end of the stick if Arizona sports betting apps choose to fold their cards.
“We expect that there will be consolidation in the industry. And, as we start seeing some of these operators, whether they decide to leave the market or they are getting acquired or whatever; our main concern is making sure that if somebody's going to wind down operations, here in the state that they wind down responsibly,” Vogt told BetArizona.com.
“We did put a portion in our rules before we made them final about what is required from operators, regarding how they're going to wind down operation. So, again, we're very involved with working with the operators. And so, we consult with them on a daily basis. Our biggest concern in areas like that is consumer protection. And I think that as we work through this and work through these first experiences in the state, we're very committed to making sure that the consumer doesn't get left hung out to dry.”
A Sign of What’s to Come?
Former Michigan state representative and current SportRadar Head of Government Affairs Brandt Iden said the TwinSpires Sportsbook decision represents a new era for the industry.
He’s not sure what the company’s decision will mean for states like Arizona exactly, but said he’s confident the Louisville operator will not be the last sports betting brand to close up shop.
“To the best of my knowledge, that hasn't happened yet in Michigan. TwinSpires is doing the same thing in Michigan as they wind down their sports betting, but I'm not sure where that license is going yet. I'm not sure that's even been announced. I haven't seen anything on that,” Iden told BetArizona.com. “So, this is sort of the first time we've kind of seen one of the operators — and I think we'll see more consolidation in the industry — but this is sort of the first one, so it'll be interesting.
“So, the answer is, I just don't know what to expect. But it’s the move that TwinSpires is making across the country with all their licenses.”
Attempts to reach multiple representatives from TwinSpires Sportsbook were unsuccessful.
Verri made sure to point out the Tonto Apache Tribe’s Mazatzal Casino will continue its retail and online sports betting operation in Arizona, regardless of the operator’s decision.
He’s confident the tribe’s sports betting apparatus, which has raked in $9.6 million in online sports betting wagers since Sept. 9, will continue to bring in revenue.
“We welcome all visitors to come and enjoy the cooler weather and hospitality that our Mazatzal gaming facility and sports book offers,” Verri said. “Statewide mobile event wagering has provided the Tribe with a dynamic economic development opportunity for the benefit of our community.”