TwinSpires Casino and Sportsbook will soon be no more.
The news seems to have been announced by Horse Racing Nation, via his Twitter account. In a tweet this morninghe asserted:
CDI CEO Bill Carstanjen said the company is abandoning online sports and casino betting. ‘We’ll get out of the [business to consumer] online betting space. It’s not the result we wanted, but it’s the next prudent step. We remain delighted to @Twinspires horses race.’
TwinSpires began its short life in the online casino space as BetAmerica, but changed its name last January. It operates a casino-sportsbook integrated into New Jersey, Pennsylvania and Michigan. It is also present in Indiana, Colorado, Arizona and Tennessee, but was only able to offer sports betting in these states as they have not legalized iGaming.
All these operations will be stopped.
The parent company of TwinSpires Churchill Downs Incorporated (CDI), owns many racetracks and casinos in the United States. These include the eponymous Churchill Falls in Louisville, KY, which has been operating since 1875 and is home to the Kentucky derby.
Difficulty transitioning online
Most US online casinos and mobile sports betting brands have gone through a different part of the gaming universe. Companies like BetMGM, Caesars and Gold nugget trace their origins to the retail casino industry, while the likes of DraftKings and FanDuel Fantastic daily sports space transition.
It was not unthinkable that a brand from the horse racing industry could also get involved. However, it appears that neither Churchill Downs, BetAmerica, nor TwinSpires had enough brand power to succeed in this fiercely competitive new industry.
In January 2022, TwinSpires only held one 1.2% Pennsylvania online casino market share, and 1.1% in Michigan. Its sportsbook did only marginally better in Pennsylvania, and even worse than its Michigan casino.
The brand power of major competitors like BetMGM and the high expenses of people like DraftKings and Caesars creating a brutal market environment for bit players. It’s unfortunate, but perhaps not surprising in this context, to see TwinSpires throw in the towel so quickly.
Double retail business
That said, CDI itself isn’t slowing down. He simply decided that the online sector was no longer worth further investment. The retail industry is a whole different story.
Earlier this week, the company announced that it would acquire all of the assets of Pacific Peninsula Entertainment. The price of this offer is just below $2.5 billion. The assets in question include:
- Colonial stockings racetrack in virginia
- Six historical horse racing facilities, also in Virginia, as well as the rights to build more
- Hotel & Casino Del Lago in Waterloo, New York
- Hard Rock Hotel & Casino in Sioux City, Iowa
The ownership of Iowa in particular means that CDI may still have a role to play in online gaming, just as a ground partner. As it is, Hard Rock Sioux City serves as a terrestrial partner for the online bookmaker of the same name. However, Iowa is also a dark horse candidate for online casino legislation, either this year or in the near future.
It’s been a busy week for CDI as a whole, having made headlines three times this week. In addition to the acquisition of Peninsula Pacific and the discontinuation of its online gambling products, it is also the subject of a class action by bettors, following the belated disqualification of Spirit of Medina, who was originally declared the winner of the 2021 Kentucky Derby. The horse, who died of a heart attack in December, tested positive for a banned steroid after the race.
An open niche in Michigan
One of the biggest impacts of this decision will be that it frees up space for a new brand to enter the Michigan online casino market.
Michigan is unique among states that have legalized online gambling in that it allows only one online brand per land-based casino operator. There are 15 eligible license holders, which means a strict limit of 15 brands in the state. All these partnerships had already been won before the opening of the market on January 22, 2021.
All but one of these brands have been launched. The Michiganders are still waiting Soaring Eagle Online Casino make its debut. However, after that, it was expected that there would be no more new online casinos in Michigan.
The release of TwinSpires will change this assumption. It has a partnership in place with the Hannahville Indian Community, owners of Island resort and casino. This license should soon be available for a new partner.
the Michigan Gaming Control Commission confirmed as much to Online Poker Report:
In Michigan, platform licenses can be acquired or changed ownership, and operators can sign contracts with another platform.
RPO also reached out to Hannahville Gaming Commission to see if talks are already underway, but have not received an immediate response.
Who might want to get started in Michigan?
While we await official word, we can still guess who else might want to get started in Michigan. All the major American brands are already there. Even Caesars, which was initially excluded, found its place thanks to its acquisition and the rebranding of William Hill.
There are, however, many newer and smaller brands that could seize this opportunity. Here has RPO, we would put our money on it Bally Bet. As a new brand, it was unable to participate in initial negotiations for market access in Michigan, so this represents a golden opportunity. Earlier this month, it opened its first online casino in New Jersey. It’s hard to imagine they wouldn’t at least try to broker a deal.
Another possibility includes the likes of Maxim Bet, Bet365 Where Circa Sports. However, these brands primarily focus on sports betting and might not be as excited about Michigan as an iGaming company, as there are many other markets available for sports.
There is also Unibet, but he already had a chance to find a partner in Michigan and didn’t take it the first time. It also hasn’t fought very hard for market share in New Jersey or Pennsylvania, so it doesn’t seem like the company has big ambitions for the US in general.