PASPA gone, opportunity awaits
May 22, 2018 3:00 AM
by Phil Hevener
Last week’s Supreme Court decision shot a hole in the uniqueness that has separated Nevada’s casino business from other American gambling halls.
Yes, times have changed. The growing number of opportunities to bet sports is on the way to becoming a major marketing tool that will help bring customers in search of entertainment through the front door to spend money on whatever may be inside.
Consider what the Golden Knights have done for Las Vegas resorts by regularly drawing capacity crowds of more than 18,000 to the T-Mobile arena. Golden Knights tickets and logo merchandise have been very hot items.
I am shaking my head at the memory of the senior executive at one of the major properties who doubted major league sports could be successful in Vegas.
“There are too many distracting influences” he told me with a straight face. This skepticism may have been common 25 years ago, but business models are being reshaped by court rulings and myriad factors that have nothing to do with shooting craps.
Several years ago state lawmakers were urged to take advantage of the state’s tight grip on legal sports betting by adding the so-called “bells and whistles” that would expand its appeal.
The goal then: increased economic activity that would mean additional jobs and millions in tax revenue to the state.
It is working out that way but not as it was anticipated. We can safely credit fantasy sports wagering with a crucial assist by jump-starting the conversation that sparked creative thinking that eventually led to last week’s decision by the nation’s highest court, a decision that could see sports wagering spread to dozens of other states.
This will create the economic activity that benefits Nevada-based businesses, nudging southern Nevada’s biggest properties toward increased dependence on revenue sources that once got little notice.
The American Gaming Association kept a fire under the issue, lobbying people who made a difference as New Jersey pushed forward with the case that eventually reached the nine justices.
And so legal sports betting appears ready for dramatic expansion that will probably draw more people and their spending power to Nevada and in particular Las Vegas because let’s face it, local book operators have imagination that can’t be found in the jurisdictions that will be getting their feet wet in this business.
Which is why state officials far from Nevada are expected to welcome the assistance of Las Vegas companies.
William Hill, the British company that set up shop in the U.S. several years ago in search of an opportunity for growth may be the first to benefit from the high court’s ruling. Hill has an agreement to operate a race and sportsbook at Monmouth Race Track in New Jersey and will probably look for similar deals elsewhere in the state.
Boyd Gaming President Keith Smith was quick to respond to the court’s 6-3 vote that said the Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act of 1992 was unconstitutional.
Congress has the unquestioned authority to regulate gaming across the country if it wants to but cannot “commandeer” any single state’s ability to regulate business within its borders. This was made clear by the Court’s ruling.
PASPA had prohibited sports betting beyond the four states where it existed in some form. A window of opportunity to allow it was granted to all states but in the early 1990s there was no interest.
That all changed as influential forces became aware of the revenue associated with it and local officials thought about exploiting their uniqueness.
“This is an expansion opportunity for Boyd,” Smith said, noting he expects Boyd to have wagering operations in perhaps ten states by the end of the year. But he cautioned that expansion will occur on a state by state basis as regulations and taxes are established by lawmakers who must learn about the reality of the casino business.