The madness of March is no longer contained to just on-court play and bracket pools.
It now stretches to legal sportsbooks, who each spring can count on tens of millions of engaged bettors and billions in wagers on NCAA basketball.
But not on the Oregon Lottery Scoreboard app.
The Lottery does not offer wagers on college sports, a decision that has long baffled those in the state. And never more so than in March.
While other states raked in betting dollars, Scoreboard had its worst month since last summer, generating just $24 million in handle and $1.37 million in revenue.
Consider it the latest chapter in the betting history of a state yet to find its footing.
See the numbers: March 2021 Scoreboard Gaming Activity
A month of lowlights
March’s revenue total was the lowest amount generated on Scoreboard since July 2020, when just over $1 million was garnered for the state. Scoreboard’s handle tally was also the lowest since July, a month that saw just $14 million in bets.
Similarly, the March tallies represent severe declines from February’s totals, including a roughly 19% drop in handle and a whopping 48% plummet in revenue.
Helping widen that gap was the Feb. 7 Super Bowl, proving again the value of allowing wagers on premier sporting events.
In conjunction, March’s margin was one of the worst in Scoreboard history.
Coming in at 5.71%, last month’s margin, or the percent of profit for the operator from each dollar wagered, was the third-lowest ever tallied. The only months to do worse were October and November 2019, Scoreboard’s first two months in operation.
Such a poor margin, more commonly referred to as hold, can play a destabilizing role in a state with just one operator.
Poor lines or other misjudgments in a state’s sole sportsbook can be the difference between a solid or poor month, considering the already tight margin for error in a monopolized environment.
Scoreboard’s poor showing in March also casts a pall over good news revealed at the March 26 Lottery Commission meeting, when officials disclosed that the app had finally turned a profit.
Scoreboard totally dependent on sports calendar
Altogether, March tells a revealing story about sports betting in Oregon.
The clearest revelation?
Where there’s pro football, there’s money. Where there’s not, there’s not.
Earlier this year, in January, Scoreboard generated nearly $35 million in handle, its highest total ever, and almost $4 million in revenue.
Two months before that, in November 2020, the operator brought home more than $4.1 million in profit for the Lottery, another record.
Both months are comprised of busy weeks for the NFL, specifically January, chock full of playoff football.
However, in months without these betting opportunities, Oregon struggles.
Plus, in even its strongest months, Scoreboard could do much better if it weren’t losing out on the substantial action of college football betting. Comparisons to other states, even those with similar monopolies, does not paint a pretty picture.
It doesn’t have to be that way.
Basketball, for example, is immensely popular in Oregon.
Even without March Madness, the sport carried Scoreboard through March, tallying more than 421,000 bets, more than $15 million in handle, and nearly $700,000 in revenue.
Imagine if betting on college basketball had been allowed on Scoreboard. (Note: bettors can wager on college sports inside Oregon tribal casinos.)
Both the Oregon Ducks and Oregon State Beavers generated headlines throughout the tournament, with the latter’s run to the Elite Eight one of March’s most exciting Cinderella stories.
The entire region enjoyed success, in fact, as the PAC-12 had its best tournament in years and Spokane, Washington-based Gonzaga played its way to the tournament’s title game.
The solution for sustained mobile sports betting success in Oregon is clear: allow wagering on college sports.
And maybe that’s not so far away.
DraftKings launch could mean college betting
In a blow to Oregon bettors, legislation that would increase competition and open the state to additional sportsbooks failed to take hold, despite support from Gov. Kate Brown.
Even without the passage of HB 2127, however, Oregon could be on the brink of improvement, thanks to ongoing negotiations with DraftKings Sportsbook.
Both the Lottery and DraftKings have made clear their interest in working together, similar to the sportsbook’s existing relationship with New Hampshire.
The set-up would include DraftKings taking over Scoreboard operations. Easing the potential transition is DraftKings’ ownership of Scoreboard operator SBTech.
A move toward DraftKings would be significant for a couple of reasons.
First, it would increase the likelihood of college sports wagering, as DraftKings would almost push to offer college betting before taking over Oregon’s sports betting apparatus.
Second, it would give Oregon bettors the perks of the DraftKings app, which as one of the nation’s most popular would be a significant upgrade over Scoreboard’s current offerings.
Without competition in Oregon, there is little impetus for Scoreboard to begin the many customer-friendly deals seen on sportsbooks like DraftKings, FanDuel, BetMGM, and others.
Bring the DraftKings brand to Oregon, however, and with it would come the benefits, like odds boosts and regular promos, already established on the popular app.
But for now, it’s all conjecture.
The existing reality is a flawed Scoreboard app, with hope for change on the horizon.