Betfred Sportsbook will appear in front of Nevada regulators in a special meeting Wednesday, setting the stage for Virgin Hotels Las Vegas to open sports betting prior to the Super Bowl.
Virgin, the former Hard Rock, reopened in March 2021, but without the Betfred sportsbook that was announced in July 2020.
The special Gaming Control Board meeting comes one day before the Nevada Gaming Commission holds its monthly meeting. That agenda hasn’t been released yet.
The United Kingdom-based Betfred has a presence in Arizona, Colorado, Iowa, Louisiana, Maryland, Ohio, Pennsylvania, and Washington.
The reasons for the delay in the licensing process in Nevada are unclear and won’t be known until the Board meeting. In general, delays in processing have been due to COVID and the need to investigate individual license holders.
The lack of a sportsbook when Virgin reopened in March 2021 was noticeable; the former Hard Rock property had lured sports bettors for college and pro football and March Madness.
“This is clearly about how we get live by the Super Bowl, but it also answers the question of when Virgin is going to get a sportsbook,” said Brendan Bussmann, managing partner of B Global.
“You walk into Virgin and you continue to see ‘coming soon,’ but it’s been coming soon since they opened in March 2021,” Bussmann said. “Hopefully, this will resolve two years of delays and we’ll see what the regulatory holdup was along the way.”
Bussmann said not having a sportsbook hurts a property and believes it’s the only major resort without one. Sports betting is is part of the gaming experience that’s expected in Nevada, he said.
“Before the transition to Virgin, a lot of people who worked on the Strip stopped there to get their bets in, because they couldn’t bet at their own properties.”
The Connecticut-based Mohegan Sun, which operates the casino at Virgin, issued a press release in July 2020 touting its affiliation with Betfred as a way to introduce “new and attractive competition” to the Las Vegas market.
The release described the planned luxury seating, state-of -the-art video wall, and over-the-counter and kiosk wagering.
Josh Swissman, founding partner of The Strategy Organization, said the delay shows that getting a gaming license isn’t easy in Nevada.
“It’s one of the more difficult jurisdictions, particularly for land-based operations,” Swissman said. “I know they opened without the sportsbook and have been trying to figure out what to do with the space.”
Money, Baby!, the sportsbook lounge that opened in 2021, closed last summer.
“I believe (Betfred) was going to be in Money, Baby!. That has been shuttered and they were looking for a new concept to put in there,” Swissman said. “Maybe they’ve been quietly building out in the Money, Baby! space behind the scenes.”
Swissman said that with the NFL playoffs and as the Super Bowl approaches, the best part of a sportsbook isn’t about placing a wager, because that can be done on a phone nowadays.
Rather, “It’s about being in that electric environment with fans cheering loudly,” Swissman said. “It’s a great place to watch a game with high energy and emotion. That’s what’s missing more from an amenity standpoint.”