Two titans of the casino industry are racing to cash in on the newly created U.S. sports betting market, taking steps to expand their footprint and strengthen their positions as more states approve necessary regulations and people become more interested in legally gambling on pro and college sports.
MGM Resorts International reached separate agreements Monday with a European bookmaker and a U.S.-based regional casino operator that will give it technological expertise and market access in several states where it doesn’t already operate casino-resorts. Meanwhile, Caesars Entertainment opened the sports book at one of its New Jersey casinos and will do the same Wednesday at another property.
The moves from the casino operators come more than two months after the U.S. Supreme Court cleared the way for all 50 states to offer legal sports betting, should they desire. The ruling has prompted deals among gambling and technology companies that want to get ahead in an industry expected to expand across the United States.
The first of two agreements MGM Resorts announced Monday is a joint venture with the United Kingdom-based owner of Ladbrokes, GVC Holdings, that will lead to the creation of a sports betting and online gambling platform in the U.S. The platform will include a mobile app and website with features like odds and highlights.
The separate agreement with Boyd Gaming Corp. opens markets for both companies, allowing them to offer sports betting and online wagering in 15 states where they operate casino-resorts. Boyd will give MGM access to Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Louisiana and other states pending the closure of planned casino purchases.
“We believe the joint venture deal is a net positive for both GVC and MGM as MGM gains the invaluable, and difficult to recreate technology platform and online expertise that GVC possesses in a cost efficient manner,” Deutsche Bank analyst Carlo Santarelli wrote in a note to investors. “We also believe the deal helps both Companies in their speed to market, an important element, in our view, of U.S. sports betting as we expect market shares on a state by state basis to be largely concentrated over time.”
MGM said in a statement the platform with GVC will benefit from its existing 30-million reward-member database as well as from the “market access agreement with Boyd Gaming which provides a pathway to access a total of fifteen states with an addressable population of approximately 90 million.”
MGM’s Borgata casino-resort in New Jersey already offers sports betting. Caesars-owned Bally’s casino in Atlantic City started taking sports bets Monday morning and its sister casino in Atlantic City, Harrah’s, will start taking sports bets on Wednesday.
The company says it soon will offer mobile sports betting, as well, although it did not set a timetable. The gambling industry is closely watching to see which casino will be the first in New Jersey to offer online sports betting.
Bally’s and Harrah’s will become the third and fourth Atlantic City casinos with sports betting, joining Borgata and Ocean Resort. Two horse racing tracks, Monmouth Park in Oceanport, and the Meadowlands in East Rutherford, also offer sports betting in New Jersey.
By mid-August, Harrah’s Gulf Coast in Biloxi and Horseshoe Tunica, both in Mississippi, will begin taking on-premises sports bets. The company says it may expand the mobile betting app to other states besides New Jersey, if and when it makes financial sense to do so.
Kevin Ortzman, who runs Caesars Entertainment’s three Atlantic City casinos, said sports betting will bring a new customer through the doors, and soon, online. He said he hopes to have that approval from New Jersey gambling regulators by mid-August, while noting that numerous other gambling companies are all seeking the same thing at the same time in New Jersey.
As of Monday, no one had yet been approved for mobile or online sports betting in New Jersey.
“The sports betting customer is not your typical core gaming customer that Atlantic City has been used to,” he said. “Offering this as another wagering opportunity opens up a whole new chance to integrate this with our food and beverage, gaming and entertainment offerings.”
The company is partnering with Scientific Games to offer the sports betting technology through its OpenBet sports book.
Numerous other gambling companies have applied for permission from New Jersey gambling regulators to offer in-person or mobile sports betting, or both, by the time football season starts in the first week in September.