Yahoo acquires Wagr, Illinois expanding in-state markets


In this week’s industry news roundup, the sports betting market continues expanding in many ways. Yahoo acquires Wagr as they look to enter sports betting through a vital acquisition of the up-and-coming platform. As well, Illinois continues their positive trend in the wagering world.

Illinois Continues to Make Headlines on Many Fronts 

The Prairie State continues to be a prominent contributor to the sports betting industry. On Thursday, the Las Vegas-based sportsbook, Circa Sports, unanimously approved a Management Service provider license by the Illinois Gaming Board. Securing this step allows the company to move one step closer to launching a mobile sportsbook in the jurisdictions.

Despite Illinois’ neighboring states also offering legalized sports wagering within its borders, the state continues to separate itself from the rest by adding more sportsbook operators to its arsenal. However, there is one market Illinois could capitalize on, which its neighbor offers.

On Wednesday, the Illinois General Assembly’s House Gaming Committee held a subject matter hearing about expanding sports betting to online platforms for games involving in-state schools.

Tier 1 Wagering Introduced in Bill

College sports betting is certainly a popular form of wagering in the state. But wagering on in-state collegiate programs can only take place in casinos or other gaming facilities.

A bill introduced by Rep. Jonathan Carroll last Thursday was given its first reading Tuesday before being assigned to the Rules Committee. The bill would allow mobile sportsbooks to offer pre-game betting on the state’s 13 Division I schools and seven FBS and FCS teams. This is referred to as Tier 1 wagering in Illinois.

Rep. Carroll noted that expanding the pre-game wagering market to digital platforms will bring the potential betting volume up by 20 percent. However, Athletic Director Josh Whitman has other ideas.

AD Whitman pointed out two of the sports betting markets in the United States that prohibit in-state college sports betting (New York & New Jersey). He continued by stating;

“I do think that right now, as a result of where we sit, our athletic programs near 100 percent of the risk of the decisions that you all are making,… student-athletes, our university students, and the integrity of our contests.”

Maryland’s Market Continues to Grow Steadily 

States such as Missouri are having a hard time pushing any initiatives toward the finish line. In contrast, states like Maryland continue to grow after expanding its sports betting market not too long ago.

In a meeting Thursday, the Maryland Lottery approved Queen Sportsbook Maryland’s application for a mobile sportsbook operator license. In order to operate the mobile entity, the operator is evaluating third-party platforms for servers.

In mid-May, the Sports Wagering Application Review Commission will meet to award a license to Queen Sportsbook. In Maryland, only nine digital sportsbooks are currently operational, but 15 licenses have already been granted.

More Platforms Join Digital Lineup

It’s astonishing to see how much the market has grown. Before Thanksgiving weekend, the Old Line State only offered its residents retail sportsbook locations throughout the state. However, more sportsbook platforms will join the digital lineup. As it could include Bally Bet, betPARX, Crab Sports, Fanatics Sportsbook, and WynnBET.

Fanatics plans to go live in the state by June, which is about the same time as its projected launch in Massachusetts. In its initial application window, the SWARC received 21 mobile sportsbook applications, which means it still has six licenses to award in the coming months. 

Upon the award of a license to Queen Sportsbook in May, that number drops to five. Due to the projected fast-paced approvals, the jurisdiction could have at least a dozen online sportsbook platforms by the end of the year.

Yahoo Acquires Wagr

Yahoo is making waves in the sports betting space by acquiring Wagr. As Yahoo acquires Wagr, this key innovative platform opens many doors. Yahoo believes that the company can create one of the most compelling fantasy and gaming products in the growing industry.

Last year, Wagr, a peer-to-peer sports betting app, became the first social sports betting operator licensed in the United States. As the challenges of acquiring customers at a moderate cost intensify, the sports betting industry is resetting expectations about the value of comprehensive media partnerships.

Unique Partnership in Social Sports Betting Space

According to a joint press release, Wagr will be fully integrated into Yahoo Sports following the acquisition. Terms of the deal were not disclosed, but it has been completed, as Yahoo acquires Wagr.

Wagr is a unique platform in the sports wagering space because it’s not the traditional form of betting against the house, and calculating the results at the end. Wagr is a peer-to-peer network, and the company charges a five percent fee transaction fee.

Traditional mobile sportsbook operators are charged a 10 percent fee by the state. In January 2022, Wagr launched in Tennessee following a $12 million Series A round of funding.

In April, Wagr became the official sports betting partner of Nashville SC, a Major League Soccer team. However, by the end of the fourth quarter, the app shut down without an explanation for the abrupt halt. This is another addition to its arsenal for Yahoo as the company secured a multi-year digital media partnership with BetMGM in 2019.

Additional Sports Betting News 

On Friday, Vermont’s Senate Appropriations Committee passed HB 127, which would allow statewide mobile wagering across between two and six platforms. Vermont’s market will also feature a digital online market, which is similar to Tennessee’s and Wyoming’s business structure.

Betfred continues to gain more market access in the United States after the Colorado Limited Gaming Control Commission unanimously approved a two-year sports betting license. Colorado’s market has a low barrier to entry, and the market licensed 23 sportsbook operators in the state.

The United Kingdom-based bookmaker has made significant progress in the United States after securing a key partnership with the Cincinnati Bengals before the universal launch.

Betfred is operational in ten states in the sports betting industry, which includes Arizona, Iowa, Maryland, Virginia, Louisiana, Nevada, Ohio, and Pennsylvania, and a retail location in the Silver Reef Casino in Washington.