Maryland Lottery and Gaming reported on Thursday a state-record sports wagering handle of $559.9 million for December as operators in the Old Line State got back on track thanks to a strong hold on parlay betting.

It was the second straight month Maryland sports betting operators posted a new record for handle, with December’s total a 1.7% increase from the $550.7 million worth of accepted bets in November. It was also 12.6% higher than the previous December, which was the first full month with mobile apps available in the state. The dozen mobile betting apps accounted for $542.7 million of the $559.9 million in wagers.

Operators statewide combined for a hold of 11.1%, 3.5 percentage points above the 7.6% from November that remains the lowest in the 14 months of mobile betting.

The house kept $62.3 million in gross revenue, which is a distant second to the $85.2 million collected in December 2022. Heavy spend on promotions and bonuses contributed to that record revenue haul, as the $19.8 million in promotional credits in the final month of 2023 was just 28% of the $71 million offered via digital operators to drum up interest at the launch.

The state levied its 15% tax on $43.2 million in adjusted gross revenue this past December, resulting in $6.5 million entering Maryland’s coffers. The Old Line State received $46.2 million in taxes from sports wagering in the 2023 calendar year, over $40 million more than the $6.1 million from 2022.

“The numbers we’re seeing over the last six to 12 months reflect the maturation of the market,” said Maryland Lottery and Gaming Director John Martin in a statement accompanying the December numbers release. “Initial projections were that sports wagering would generate $25 million to $30 million annually for the state as the market was ramping up. We’ve now had more than a year of mobile wagering, and we expect the annual contribution to settle in at more than $40 million.”

ESPN BET expands share with lighter spend

Maryland is the first state to provide December operator figures that offer a full-month gauge on ESPN BET following its aggressive mid-November national rollout. The PENN Entertainment-operated mobile sportsbook had close to 40% of its $33.3 million handle originate via promotional offers in November; that shrank to 14% in December, with credits totaling $5.8 million against $42.4 million in wagers as it muscled ahead of BetMGM and into third place for handle among the state’s dozen digital books.

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ESPN BET’s market share in terms of mobile handle jumped to 7.8% in December from 6.2% in November. It finished with a relatively solid 8.8% hold to claim $3.7 million in gross revenue, but its promotional spend added to its negative adjusted revenue total, which stands at $11.2 million in the final two months of 2023.

FanDuel and DraftKings nearly matched ESPN BET dollar-for-dollar in promotional spend in December, with FanDuel’s spend down $1.1 million compared to November and DraftKings’ outlay up roughly $45,000. Both mobile powerhouses set all-time highs for handle in Maryland, with FanDuel at $245 million and DraftKings reaching $167.1 million.

FanDuel paced all online operators with $33.6 million in gross revenue thanks to a 13.7% hold, almost six percentage points higher than its all-time low of 7.7% in November that remains its only sub-11% win rate ever in Maryland. DraftKings had its best month in 2023 in terms of revenue at $16.1 million, on a 9.6% hold.

Both operators had a full-year hold above 10% in 2023, with FanDuel hammering the public with a 13.2% win rate that led to $268 million in gross winnings from $2.02 billion handle. DraftKings came away with $148.3 million in gross winnings from $1.47 billion in wagers thanks to a 10.1% hold.

Some of ESPN BET’s growth came at the expense of Fanatics Sportsbook, which saw handle plunge 26.6% from November to $14 million, good for sixth place in the state. Fanatics did end December with positive adjusted gross revenue for the first time since launching in May with $131,000, putting a small dent in a negative AGR total that finished the year at minus-$3.2 million.

Fanatics also pulled back on its promotional spend — its outlay was less than $1 million for the first time since July. But the $1.1 million in gross revenue in December was roughly triple that of November as its hold vaulted from 2% to 8.2%.

Parlays a winning holiday formula for the house

Maryland bettors have taken a shine to parlay wagering, including same-game parlays, like their counterparts nationwide, with handle growing by leaps and bounds since the start of the football season. Maryland Lottery and Gaming has been providing handle and revenue category breakouts for seven months, and during the last five, parlay handle has surged from $74.7 million in August to a record $254.8 million in December.

Parlay handle spiked 26.8% from November, and the combination of higher handle and a 19.1% hold in December — up more than six percentage points better from the previous month — meant an 86.4% increase in parlay revenue to $48.5 million. That represented 78% of the total gross revenue for December and highlighted the discrepancy in holds between parlay wagering and single-event wagering.

The statewide hold on single-event wagers was just over 4.5% on $305 million worth of wagers, with operators claiming $13.8 million in revenue. The house barely cleared a 2% hold on NFL wagering as it claimed just $1.9 million from $92.3 million handle. Operators fared slightly better on pro basketball; the 5.6% win rate on $84.1 million worth of bets resulted in $4.7 million in winnings.

Operators did have a positive swing of $3.3 million in the catch-all “other” category, going from minus-$1.7 million in November to plus-$1.6 million in December. They finished the month with a 5.5% hold on $28.7 million handle from such wagers.

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