Delaware joined Nevada last Tuesday as the only other state offering full-scale sports wagering, and New Jersey was up next. And they delivered Monday as Gov. Phil Murphy signed the bill that’s been on his desk since Thursday.
Mississippi, West Virginia and Pennsylvania all have bills passed and are looking to be taking wagers by football season while 15 other states have bills introduced.
It’s all happening so fast, so let’s take a peek at some of the major players moving forward looking to get a piece of an untapped market that was estimated in 2017 to be at $150 billion in illegal U.S. wagers.
Caesars Entertainment/Harrah’s: Locations almost everywhere a casino is allowed such as New Jersey, Mississippi, Illinois, Indiana, Louisiana, Missouri, Pennsylvania, Maryland, Iowa, and Arizona. They’re the major player with the most pieces and state licenses on the game board, but I wonder if it’s something they really want to go after hard. They can sit back and watch all the kinks and legislation happen and then still have all their locations to open at any time they desire.
Boyd Gaming: On par with Caesars in locations throughout the country. They’re in Mississippi, Iowa, Indiana, Illinois, Louisiana, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Missouri, and Kansas. No New Jersey in the mix because they sold their Borgata interest to MGM, but enough on their plate and moving forward with sportsbook plans in each location. Their big positives are director Bob Scucci running the entire show and using Stadium Technologies as their bookmaking system, which is getting glowing reviews from all that use it in Nevada. All but three Nevada books use something other than Stadium software.
MGM Resorts: Is there a brand logo more recognizable than the Lion? Casinos in New Jersey, Maryland, Mississippi and Michigan with Springfield (Mass.) being built right now. Phone wagering with the brand will be an attraction and trusted. Very friendly with large money in Vegas with sportsbook VP Jay Rood rarely blinking when any size of a wager is requested, which could go a long way in attracting an east coast clientele. Acquisition of Yonkers Raceway sets up nicely in the New York market.
Golden Nugget: Out of state properties in New Jersey, Louisiana, and Mississippi. However, not a lot is being revealed about what is happening with them other than New Jersey putting into its bill a restriction of sports team owners also operating a sportsbook. CEO Tilman Fertitta owns the NBA’s Houston Rockets. This silly integrity thing is getting way too deep, but better than giving leagues a dime. Two of those states are ready to go so a plan should be forthcoming. Maybe Tilman and his cousins, Frank and Lorenzo Fertitta from Station Casinos, can orchestrate a blockbuster sports betting deal. These guys could rule the states collectively if they wanted to.
Station Casinos: Mum for now but between their lobbyists and clout within Nevada and the Gaming Board, they can basically write their ticket to where they want to offer their services. Their credentials would be welcomed anywhere. Also operate an Indian Resort in Sonoma County, Calif., a state that has a sports betting bill introduced. Getting phone wagering in Northern Cal would be huge. A big picture idea would be getting a deal with the California Lottery to have their bets taken everywhere a lottery ticket is sold. A bigger picture idea would be creating a new brand and dominate. Brothers Frank and Lorenzo Fertitta bought UFC for $2 million and sold it for $4.2 billion. They love action and making money. Ruling legal betting in America is right up their alley.
Stratosphere: Blake Sartini’s Golden Entertainment bought the Stratosphere, Laughlin Aquarius, and both Arizona Charlie’s last year for $850 million. The sportsbook operation was low on the list of categories to squeeze out a return on investment. But between their slot routes in Mississippi and Montana, they’re already licensed and trusted there. If they could get kiosks operating in the taverns throughout Mississippi, that would be huge considering phone wagers can’t be accepted there yet due to keeping fantasy sites like Draft Kings and Fan Duel out of the state. I’m certain they’ll revisit that law. A brand to be reckoned with down the line.
South Point: Keeping their options open and talking with at least one casino on the east coast. The fair operation owner Michael Gaughan runs for his regular customers in Nevada would be a wise move for several outfits to consider as their branding choice. Because of Gaughan, the South Point is the place I tout most often to travelers everywhere to get a square deal in Vegas.
Westgate: If you’ve been watching ESPN for the past five years, you’ve seen that the SuperBook is credited with just about every prop and odds information for all the sports they cover. Respect and the crew’s hard work offer a great product, and marketing the odds to the media was brilliant. Free advertising at its greatest. Attractive to any casino serious about opening a sportsbook. VP Jay Kornegay said he has a lobbying team in place for a few new states to call home.
CG Technology: Had the foresight to come to Nevada, get established and get ready for the day PASPA was repealed. Their brand took some hits with issues that endangered their Nevada Gaming license and had parent company Cantor Fitzgerald looking for buyers. Kept offering a unique brand of props, fair odds and came out of it nicely. Now, it should be back to business and fulfill the dream they spent millions on. They could use the support of New York Cantor relationships moving forward. This is a definite wild card and feel-good bounce-back story.
William Hill: Delaware’s opening went smoothly. They don’t use the Stadium Technology system for their 100-plus sports betting outlets in Nevada but do in Delaware. Same model for growth in the U.S. as they originally did in England and again mastered in Nevada. They’ve captured a large chunk of the business in a competitive Nevada market just because of simplicity and ease. This model will work with amazing success everywhere and offers competitive prices/odds on events that maybe only the Westgate can match within Nevada. Think convenience stores with kiosks like ATM machines. A major player in America and will thrive behind CEO Joe Asher who is easily the most aggressive Nevada operator looking to expand.
Wynn: They’ve got the Encore Boston Harbor being built with no plan designs to include a sportsbook yet. Sportsbook director John Avello offered some calming advice and says everyone should just slow down and see how things fall out. “There’s no need to be first,” he said. Avello says getting a book up and running won’t be a problem. Also, he has no issues taking a large wager, especially if it’s one of the many large “whales” lodging at their properties.
Fan Duel/TVG: This is the outlet Paddy Power BetFair owns that is now part of the Fan Duel brand. Paddy Power is more well-known and trusted as an Irish bookmaker that gives the little guy a fair edge through a multitude of promotions. “Bad officiating call in a big Champions League match, we’ll pay both sides,” is what Paddy Power often does in Ireland in what is a calculated marketing loss leader. I’ve always loved it. Fan Duel basically lied to every state and said their brand of fantasy sports wasn’t wagering, even though you needed money to play. TVG not yet licensed in Nevada but reaches a broad range that will help their strategy once approved elsewhere.
DraftKings: In a statement after the PASPA repeal, they said they’re “well-positioned to capitalize on sports betting.” “Our mission has always been to bring fans closer to the sports they love; and now, thanks to the wisdom of the Supreme Court, DraftKings will be able to harness our proven technology to provide our customers with innovative online sports betting products,” said Jason Robins, DraftKings CEO and co-founder.
Stadium Technologies: Have taken over the state with their software. The best bookmaking tool for all to use and finest mobile phone wagering app. The top concern with every sportsbook, beyond keeping wagers to people over 21 years old and following minimum international control standards and federal regulations, is having a system in place that can handle the most insane betting day. Stadium has proved they can handle it all. Auditing and bookmaking system is the best I’ve ever seen.
IGT: The slot machine giant jumped into the sportsbook software business three years ago with MGM Resorts, whose 11 books on the Strip have been using it for over a year now. A work in process but building a system is hard stuff. Just ask Station Casinos who scrapped their own system for Stadium Technology two years ago. Because of IGT’s pull within every state they’re licensed in, they got first dibs two weeks ago in a Rhode Island deal – where they also operate the state lottery – to run the state’s sportsbook operation. IGT was somehow the only bidder. These are the type of back-room deals going on in the new wild, wild west of legal sports betting.
There are so many other players in the operation not on the list. State legislation is moving so fast to get wagering in that after all the terms of their deals come into play, handing out cash left and right off the top – not win, the desired effect will not be there. “What’s happening here?” I can imagine some state official saying when the projected win isn’t matching reality. A few consulting firms then roll in like Jon Taffer of Bar Rescue, show how to make money.
Bad legislation makes it much harder. Casino consultants have been thriving all across the country, but this new area of sports wagering creates a lot of “Help Wanted” openings. I see plenty of smart bookmakers in Nevada taking advantage and possibly making more money to fix the initial errors.