Lucky Club Hotel & Casino in Las Vegas vanished in mid-September like so many old gaming establishments. The North Las Vegas property didn’t fall under the wrecking ball or a bankruptcy filing. It surrendered to progress. And an opportunity, its owners at Fifth Street Gaming hope.
When the 100-room hotel and 25,000-square-foot casino reopen in four months, the sign above the door will welcome visitors to Ojos Locos Sports Cantina y Casino at Hotel Jefe.
The property will be Hispanic-forward throughout: Latino games — including a favorite from Mexico called Loteria — food primarily from Mexico, in keeping with the demographics of the local population. Spanish will be spoken, too.
It’s an idea that has kicked around corporate boardrooms before. Still, Seth Schorr and Seth Young — caucasian entrepreneurs and gambling industry veterans — are acting on it most aggressively in the United States right now.
JefeBet Among First Gambling Companies to Target Latino Market
The 47-million-plus Hispanic/Latino community in the United States is woefully underserved, they say, and they aim to serve it with a sports and entertainment website and gambling and sports betting operation.
“We aim to cater to not pander to, which is the focus on authenticity,” Young said. “Everything that we put forward is meant to be personalized, localized, so to speak, for the community, and not just an afterthought.”
Gambling industry experts told Gaming Today that there is a niche to be filled by a Spanish-forward gaming and content company.
A growing body of research by betting companies and academia supports the premise, including a study published in March 2022 by the Global Sports Institute at Arizona State. According to a poll seeking to gauge the forces behind the acceptance and awareness of legal sports betting in the United States, young Hispanic males between 18 and 44 years of age were found to be the leading drivers of the enterprise now legal in more than 34 states.
“I don’t think there’s any question there are attractive communities that have largely been underserved in the past, such as Hispanic males or women consumers who are finding online sports betting entertaining in ways that perhaps Las Vegas or in-person betting wasn’t,” Daniel McInitosh, a senior lecturer at the Arizona State business school, said. “Additionally, there are large seasonality effects we see that relate to where sports fall in the calendar year. Soccer and football have strong Hispanic followings, so I’m not surprised by this finding.”
A survey-high 18% of those identifying as Hispanic/Latino said sports betting makes sports more attractive to them. That group also led all others, again at 18%, in saying that they watch more sports because of sports betting.
“I don’t think there’s any question there are attractive communities that have largely been underserved in the past, such as Hispanic males or women consumers.” – Daniel McInitosh
Also, 51% of Hispanic/Latinos exhibited an awareness of sports betting, 5% higher than the next group (African-Americans). The Hispanic/Latino group (49%) looked upon sports betting favorably, higher than any other. And, 23% of Hispanics consider themselves frequent bettors, leading all groups.
“In the last few years I have seen that more and more Hispanics are betting,” Alex Pelayo, a Miami-based TV producer said, “and nowadays I think there is a trend and you can see it with the amount of betting programs that exist on Hispanic sports channels, or with Hispanic influencers dedicated to betting.”
A 2021 poll of 703 Hispanics in the United States — underwritten by the Latin American sports media group Futbol Sites — found that:
- 61% either bet or were interested in betting on sports.
- 19% bet at least once a week
- 15% bet at least once a month
- 18% that are not currently betting are interested in doing so in the future
“I think it’s a very attractive way for them to enjoy sporting events even more,” Paleyo said. “They find it much more exciting, and I think that nowadays young people are looking for adrenaline wherever they are, and being in front of a screen playing for money is a good way.”
This burgeoning new market also comes with a warning and a responsibility component for the gambling industry. A 2017 study produced by the Rutgers Center for Gambling Studies entitled “Problem gambling among ethnic minorities: results from an epidemiological study,” found a gambling disorder rate among Latino American veterans at four times the expectation of the general population. In another study of undocumented Mexican workers in New York City, a majority had played the lottery or scratch ticket games.
Familiarity Could Come First When Tapping Into the Hispanic Market
Industry experts familiar with the Latin American market believe that name recognition from brands in their home countries could be a huge factor in attracting Latino customers in the United States.
Since 1965, Latinos have represented half of the 59 million immigrants to the US, according to Pew Research. That survey company reported in September that 24% of Hispanics polled had bet on sports in the past 12 months. Only African-Americans (27%) polled higher.
The Futbol Sites study found that Caliente, the sports betting leader in Mexico and a prominent Liga MX sponsor, dominated in terms of recognition with 57% of those surveyed familiar with the brand. Bet365 and Fox Bet were next at 15%. American-market leaders DraftKings, FanDuel, and BetMGM registered in single digits. PointsBet comes closest among American sports betting operators, utilizing its exclusive partner with NBC Sports and access to 2.8 million New Yorkers through NBC Telemundo.
Caliente’s English website is chock full of links helping San Diego residents find the company’s casino and sportsbook in Tijuana.
Rush Street Interactive launched its online casino in Mexico in July.
Paleyo doesn’t believe bilingual apps and content matter as much to young adults as “they are generally bilingual.” He, however, said he would “definitely bet on a U.S. company in Spanish, especially if the rates were competitive.”
Gaming Companies Looking at Latin America’s Potential
To that end, JefeBet hopes to launch an iCasino operation in Latin America in the coming year.
While the legality of gambling in Latin America varies as much as in the United States — it’s illegal in Brazil and Ecuador, but available online in Bolivia and Nicaragua — Latinos are undoubtedly exposed to it.
In Mexico, which generates a quarter of the US immigrant population yearly, almost all forms of gambling are legal and regulated in some form with betting on soccer an increasing phenomenon.
In the Dominican Republic, which has sent increasing numbers of immigrants to the US in the last decade, most forms of gambling are allowed in conjunction with the casino and tourism industries.
“It’s a large population that is growing, in terms of numbers and in terms of earning,” said Michael Pollock, executive director of Spectrum Gaming Group, which analyzes gambling industry trends. “And that translates into disposable income. And that translates into significant potential for gaming revenue. I think this is an idea whose time has come.”
Pollock described the Latino gambler in the United States as “definitely underserved.”
Demographic details collected by All-In Global support their claim:
- There are more Spanish speakers in the United States than in Spain. Only about 20 million of those consider themselves highly competent in English.
- Hispanics or Latinos comprise only 14% of Major League Baseball’s fanbase but comprise 31% of baseball bettors.
- Spanish speakers, or those who speak Spanish and English equally, generally consume soccer more than other sports and are significantly more inclined to watch boxing, MMA, and wrestling.
B Global managing partner Brendan Bussmann said the launch of sports betting in Puerto Rico could inform an approach toward the Latino market in the rest of the United States.
“We will see how operators target a market where it is very bilingual,” he said. “With that said, I know the existing casino market wants the same segments you have on the mainland.”
New York Gaming Association president Mike Kane said “unquestionably in the New York City area there would be a market” for a Latino-centric gambling operator.
Read and share the Spanish version: Hispanos y Latinos Ayudan a Impulsar la Economía de las Apuestas Deportivas