Sports betting out of the gate in Delaware

Sports betting out of the gate in Delaware

June 05, 2018 3:00 AM
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Casino companies hungry to grow are monitoring the opportunities that may come their way as Wynn Resorts adjusts to the expectations of new leadership and doors are opened to sports betting across the U.S.

Legal sports betting begins on the East Coast today (June 5) in Delaware, as New Jersey lawmakers put the finishing touches on a regulations bill they hope to have ready for the governor’s signature this week.

All only a couple of weeks after the U. S. Supreme Court reversed the 1992 legislation that had prevented such activity. A half-dozen other states are scrambling to legalize Las Vegas style betting just as quickly as they can get to it.

The tax revenue sports betting would produce looks very appealing even though it is anyone’s guess if those expectations are anything more than an educated guess. The American Gaming Association estimates $150 billion is bet illegally with bookies who feel no obligation to details such as state tax rates.

The first bets in Delaware will be placed at the state’s three racetrack casinos, Delaware Park, Dover Downs and Harrington Raceway. The tracks were ready to go as soon as the court upended the ban that the professional leagues had sought to keep in place.

The efforts of major names in fantasy sports wagering were among the first companies to feel the effects of the court’s action. FanDuel has been merged, according to news reports, with Paddy Power Betfair, a European bookmaker that has already explored the licensing requirements in Nevada. Where it goes now will depend on what states allow sports betting. DraftKings last week signed a deal to create a sportsbook at Atlantic City’s Resorts Casino, the former Revel, re-opening soon as Ocean Resort, has a deal with William Hill.

Atlantic City sources agree that all the city’s gambling halls will jump on the wagon, so to speak, although the challenges associated with sports betting are marketing more than anything else as the increased use of mobile betting apps make it easy to place a wager from anywhere in the state.

One of the most significant hurdles to be climbed by interests studying the sports betting issue is the demand of some teams for a so-called “integrity fee,” something some casino bosses oppose. How this issue is handled will depend on the creativity of all those at the negotiating table. But the willingness of the leagues to acknowledge the appetite of the public for this huge change taking shape is a giant step forward.

NBA Commissioner Adam Silver does not argue with the larger than ever footprint of the legal gaming business but has made it clear he prefers a gaming industry based on a plan that has input from Congress. This is unlikely, what with lawmakers unable to escape partisan political disputes.

Most casino companies have data on frequent visitors that enable them to reach their best customers long before they leave home for the casino of their choice. Sports betting enables these casinos to offer an expanded list of player incentives that has not been available outside of Nevada.

Las Vegas-based Boyd Gaming officials were quick to say they expect to install sports betting in many of the more than a dozen states where they now own casinos, such as Illinois and Mississippi. Of course nothing is for certain yet. Profitable opportunities all depend on matters such as tax rates. States have been known to turn a good idea into a you’ve-got-to-be-kidding situation.

But for the moment there is no reason not to believe we will be seeing Super Bowl parties on the East Coast next year.

The pressure is now on Nevada resorts to come up with the marketing gimmicks that will restore the uniqueness sports once gave them.

Of course, sports betting is not the biggest issue on every licensee’s mind as the big thinkers at Wynn Resorts know. They are focused on this question: What are they going to do with their company? Answer: Just operate it, probably, as they field the expressions of interest that have come their way.

There is no reason to sell the Boston Harbor resort that has had the Wynn name removed from it. The $2.4 billion venture will be perhaps the nicest new hotel in that part of the country and that benefits Las Vegas.

I asked one CEO what he thought might occur within Wynn. “It all depends on the attitudes of the new board. Do they want to sell now or are they in this for the long haul?”

A good question with no obvious answer yet.