The sports betting world is getting fierce with competition as states slowly pass legislation to make it happen. It might have been the busiest week I’ve ever seen in the sportsbook industry.
The news that made the biggest splash was MGM Resorts giving the NBA $25 million for a three-year deal. It’s not an integrity fee, as the NBA was initially asking for, but’s it’s certainly a big enough bone thrown their way by MGM’s CEO Jim Murren. This isn’t going to help Jay Rood set lines or alter how he books pro basketball, but automated data for in-progress wagering is the most likely source. They’ll co-market for each other, but it’s not an exclusive. The NBA can sell the same exact info to anyone and that’s their ultimate goal.
“I think the end game after the MGM deal is the NBA leveraging other sportsbooks, showing that the deal is proof NBA data is valuable,” said US Bookmaking’s Robert Walker who ran the MGM books from 1996 to 2008.
The leverage comes in the state courts. Hopefully, this doesn’t lead to legal distortion down the road for any sportsbook. I’m also hoping the deal was merely a good faith gesture for Murren and MGM to eventually get an NBA team playing inside the T-Mobile Arena. Creating relationships.
The very next day MGM and Boyd Gaming agreed to an online gaming venture to help each other expand further into each new market together, which combined have casinos in 13 other states outside of Nevada. GVC Holdings also signed a deal with MGM to provide its online gaming and sports betting system, which already exists in Las Vegas, run by Stadium Technology. That means the IGT system at MGM is out. It was the only place in Nevada IGT had their booking software. IGT is set to operate the Rhode Island books and Boyd books in Mississippi.
Boyd Gaming wasn’t done for the week yet, though. They signed a partnership with FanDuel, which is owned by Paddy Power BetFair. “Through this partnership, Boyd Gaming and FanDuel Group will be in an excellent position to successfully capitalize as sports betting and online gaming expand across the country,” said Boyd Gaming CEO Keith Smith. “By joining forces with FanDuel’s nationally-known brand, as well as their considerable technical expertise and resources, we will be positioned to build market-leading sports-betting and online gaming operations in each state as they move forward with these new forms of entertainment.”
Word is the other Fantasy site, DraftKings, is opening an office in Las Vegas and they’ve hired away Caesars sportsbook director Frank Kunovic, which is a major score for them and a major indication the type of money DraftKings is throwing out there to be competitive with the Vegas books. A week prior DraftKings hired an old friend of mine, the very talented Jamie Shea who used to run the Hard Rock Hotel sportsbook.
Miomni Holdings from England will be booking from Las Vegas for several properties across the country beginning with West Virginia where they’ll create the numbers for Wheeling Island Hotel Casino Racetrack in Wheeling and Hollywood Casino at Charles Town. FanDuel will be in the Greenbrier and a direct competitor. Did anyone get a look at FanDuel’s three-way golfer match-ups last week? Golfer A -185, Golfer B -185, and a draw at +900. Tragic.
Anyway, Miomni has gone the route of plucking Las Vegas talent to run its operation. Keith Glantz, who ran the Palace Station when it was the only Station, compiled a great team with Fred Crespi and Mark Dufty. Crespi worked at Station when Glantz was there and also ran the Palms for many years. He was working for Stadium Technology the past four years. Dufty ran the Jerry’s Nugget stand-alone sportsbook for years and brings a wealth of bookmaking knowledge with him.
Mississippi took sports bets for the first time last week and I found out another Vegas friend will soon be opening a new book. Brad Bryant will be running the Golden Nugget sportsbook in Biloxi just before football season starts. Bryant worked with Station Casinos and also the Fair Grounds. He’s a sharp guy that should excel and looks to be very competitive in the very crowded Mississippi market.
William Hill has deals to put 11 books into casinos in Mississippi and one in West Virginia and also have another 14 deals they’re trying to finalize. Golden Entertainment (PT’s Pub, Stratosphere) is also looking to get in the Mississippi fray because they own the largest slot route throughout the state where they intend to put sports betting kiosks.
Another brand looking to expand is Buffalo Wild Wings. They want into the sports betting business and they don’t want to share their cash like some of the other operations do. They want their own booking operation to go along with their 1,700 bars across the nation. In Las Vegas, BWW is a cool place but gets overshadowed by the dozens of sportsbooks all across town. But in places like Westerville, Ohio, it’s the premier place to watch games, and it’s the same in most other suburban cities as well. They’ve reached out to some people with Las Vegas booking experience to get the operation started.
Harrah’s became the fourth Atlantic City casino to take on sports betting joining its sister-property Bally’s, and then the Borgata, Ocean Resorts, and race tracks Monmouth and Meadowlands. It’s a crowded field in Jersey and it’s about to get more crowded as Bet365.com is about to open a business with mobile phone wagering. All brick and mortar books are eventually expected to have phone wagering as well.
DraftKings is already up and running with it. I’m still waiting to see the fantasy site software work when there’s an off-pitcher in baseball, a rainout or a game suspended after seven innings with adjusted prices in parlays. Those have been trouble areas for all systems initially.
In the process last week, the books also got back to real business with the first NFL preseason matchup and reports were the action at some places was double the amount of any Thursday MLB game. The books did well with the underdog Bears covering +2 in the Ravens’ 17-16 win.
And just as I started to catch my breath from the whirlwind week, the Westgate Las Vegas SuperBook released their NBA Season Win Totals on Sunday where the new-look Lakers were posted at 48.5 wins. It was a busy week and I’m guessing it’s never going to slow down. The floodgates have opened.