G2E: Caesars executives talk ‘reinvention’ of sports books

October 17, 2019 10:34 PM
  • Buck Wargo, CDC Gaming Reports
October 17, 2019 10:34 PM
  • Buck Wargo, CDC Gaming Reports

Caesars had a plan for the next generation of sportsbooks when they opened their new sportsbook concept at the Linq on the Las Vegas Strip in September 2018.

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Thirteen months later, with sports betting continuing to expand across the country, Caesars executives are calling the concept a ‘big success’ and working to spread some of the Linq concepts, where physically possible, into their books elsewhere.

The Linq’s Fan Caves offers a twist on race and sports books with a focus on comfort and interaction that executives say is creating energy, bringing repeat business and generating more revenue. The Fan Caves – 12 rentable living rooms, complete with sofas, designed for up to eight friends – each feature a 98-inch TVs that can be split into four screens; two separate 49-inch TVs, a Xbox and other game consoles, and virtual reality. Fan Cave occupants control their own pictures and audio with an iPad.

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In a presentation covering the Playbook For the Reinvented Sportsbook on Wednesday at the Global Gaming Expo, Walt Fales, Caesars’ senior vice president of Strategic Development, Enterprise Gaming and Matthew Kenagy, the company’s senior director of sports marketing, gave an overview of the program. Fales and Kenagy were the co-creators of the Fan Cave strategy.

“The Fan Cave was a big risk and a lot of commitment, and it has worked phenomenally well,” Fales said. “We can sell these types of environments. They are incredibly profitable ventures (that work) in our regional locations as well as our destination locations.”

Fales said food and beverage revenue is up two to three times, and sports betting revenue is up 30 to 40 percent at the Linq. Food and beverage revenue is up at other locations as well, he said, and betting revenues has exceeded expectations at the newly opened books.

Renting one of the rooms costs up to $1,000 a day for NFL Sundays and NCAA football Saturdays, and $4,000 a day for March Madness.

Elements of the Linq concept are now in 18 of Caesars’ 32 books, including 13 that have opened in the last eight weeks, in markets like Atlantic City, Iowa, Mississippi, and New York.

“Our guests love it,” Fales said. “Our team members love it.  Our partners love it.  And the early results are speaking for themselves.”

Kenagy told the audience that the concept wasn’t built for millennials specifically, because research showed that  behavioral trends — such as creating an environment for a group where they can be in the same space even if they don’t all like sports — cut across generations.

“People wanted deeper relationships with the properties they were visiting,” Fales said. “They wanted to come in and hang out with their buddies, even if they don’t all do the same thing. They wanted to be competitive and play against their friends and strangers, see their name up in lights (on the sports betting leaderboard) and have Instagrammable moments.”

The two said they didn’t want to create a sports book mirrored on the typical Las Vegas book, with theater-style seats, stadium-style seating, only dedicated to sports betting, because it would be underutilized. Fales said they wanted to create a place where people could come together.

Even the general seating in the Linq more resembles a Buffalo Wild Wings or a sports bar with flexible tables, Fales said.

The Linq also offers shuffleboard, beer pong, foosball and other activities that keep things social, competitive and collaborative, including skill-based slot machines, Fales said. The seating is modular and can expand from groups of three or four to groups of 15 to 20.

“We wanted it to be approachable, so that people felt comfortable walking in in flip-flops and jeans or in a business suit,” Fales said. “We used a lot of wood and clean colors with lots of whites, blacks and grays to create an environment that felt rich and inviting and at the same time didn’t feel like a traditional sports book.”

The betting desk is at the front so people don’t have to walk through the lounge to reach it, allowing passers-by to talk to ticket writers, learn about the sports wagering process, and perhaps get them to bet and drive incremental revenues, Fales said.

Not everything at the Linq sports book of the future has been a success, however, he said.

Initially, the concept featured a program where guests could order beer via iPad that was delivered by a robot whose lid would pop open when it arrived. The Nevada Gaming Control Board and Clark County both signed off on the effort.

“The robots kept running into furniture because it kept getting moved,” Fales said. “It would spin around in circles and start to smoke.”

Kenagay said robots are good for delivering towels down an empty hallway, but bad for a busy environment.

“That one we completely missed on,” Fales said.