UK gaming firms are set for a big bet in the US

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It’s high stakes for UK firms as sports betting starts to spread in America. From Tuesday, new rules on betting came into effect in Delaware, a tiny east coast state about two hours from Washington. Neighboring New Jersey could start accepting sports bets as early as Friday. The changes are the first in what is likely to be a wave of legalization after the Supreme Court last month cleared the way for states to allow sports betting.

The timing of the decision was especially fortuitous for UK firms, which are grappling with consolidation, more online competition and tougher rules from UK regulators. Companies see a “once in a generation opportunity to get in literally at the opening up and start of a market,” said Dublin-based financial analyst David Jennings, who heads leisure research at Davy.The US accounted for about 23% of the world’s $244bn (£182bn) in gaming revenue last year, according to a report Technavio published in January.

Firms are hoping to tap into more of that activity after last month’s ruling, which struck down a 1992 federal law that barred states outside of Nevada and a few others from authorizing sports betting. In the weeks since the decision, UK firms including William Hill, Paddy Power Betfair and SBTech have announced deals aimed at the US. Despite the excitement, analysts and companies are trying to temper expectations, noting that firms face a long slog, as each state crafts its own rules. “It’s something that we’re really focusing on, but equally we don’t want to over-hype it,” said James Midmer, spokesman at Paddy Power Betfair, which recently purchased the US fantasy sports site FanDuel.

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