Sports betting grows as expected

Aug 21, 2019 3:00 AM

I can see it all clearly now. The explosive growth of legal sports wagering is a very good bet.

We’ll know more during the next couple of months as football season begins and sportsbooks become very busy. Las Vegas bookies know all about the big numbers associated with football from the season’s first game right through Super Bowl weekend.

But Vegas is the ultimate party and the country is full of people who love big parties. Particularly when there’s a football game.

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More people with more money live in Las Vegas and the increasing numbers of visitors are just part of the story. The as-yet untold picture will come into sharp focus when football fans start lining up at books that were not available in a big way before sports wagering began its spread and some local books were upgraded.

The Supreme Court’s action to remove barriers more than a year ago opened the door, so to speak, but it took time for casinos to put marketing tools and customer-friendly gimmicks in place.

Top officials at major companies all said during recent quarterly reports that they like what they see. Yes indeed, so let the games begin.

Boyd Gaming CEO Keith Smith was talking about his new books in Mississippi and Pennsylvania.

“The ongoing expansion of sports betting across the country, at the IP, Sam’s Town Tunica and Valley Forge, our new sports books, are drawing new and younger customers,” he said.

And there is more to come over the next several months.

“Just days ago,” Smith said last week, “FanDuel launched its mobile sports betting app in Pennsylvania, marking the first digital gaming partnership between our companies. On-premise sports betting will also expand in the coming weeks.

“By early September, FanDuel will open sports books at Blue Chip, Belterra Resort, Diamond Jo Dubuque and Diamond Jo Worth. Based on what we’ve achieved so far in Mississippi and Pennsylvania, we’re optimistic our partnership with FanDuel will continue to contribute to growth in visitation and revenues across our regional operations.”

Figures from the Census Bureau and furnished by Boyd say the Las Vegas Valley is the third fastest-growing metropolitan area in the country. Job growth and wage growth are both outpacing the national average with the local economy adding more than 21,000 jobs over the trailing 12 months. Tourism continues to grow, driven by strong convention business and record passenger counts through McCarran International Airport.

Boyd officials say another “promising initiative” is the ongoing expansion of sports betting across the country.”

MGM CEO Jim Murren sounds like sports betting is one of the best things to come down the pike since the invention of slot machines.

“I do believe sports betting is going to continue to provide  a really strong opportunity not only in and of itself, but more importantly to enhance the profitability of existing resorts,” he said. “Mississippi is good example of that. We’ll see more of that.”

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On the same subject, MGM president Bill Hornbuckle said, “It’s been a couple of years now since we took over management of Borgata, and therefore, we now have full access to that database. Obviously, Springfield is ramping and growing, and now with the advent of Northfield Park and Empire (Yonkers Raceway near New York City) we’ve got more a million new names.

“What’s relevant about that is what we do with them.”

So there you have it, more evidence that marketing -- good marketing -- is vital as big entertainment companies advance into this digital age. There is no shortage of possibilities on MGM’s list of things to think seriously about. Murren gives little thought to buying anything else.

“Let me make this crystal clear,” he said. “We’re not interested in doing anything that doesn’t benefit our shareholders. We did not look at Caesars before the Eldorado deal and we’re certainly not looking at it now.”

His point? MGM knows its market. 

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