In 2017, Nevada was the only state where bettors could wager on sporting events. A mere four years later, 21 states and the District of Columbia have legalized sports betting.
Victor Strategies Vice President Gene Johnson, who Thursday led the panel discussion “Sports Betting on the Horizon: Who’s Next” at the Indian Gaming Tradeshow & Convention in Las Vegas, said only five states are currently not considering some form of sports wagering.
Tribal gaming operators that are considering adding sports betting for their patrons should be aware of their options.
“Where the opportunity lies is in how tribes and different operators look at sports betting,” said Brendan Bussman, partner and director of government affairs at Global Market Advisors. “There’s a wave coming across here and it’s an amenity that people are going to want with gaming. They’re going to want it within the casino, because it’s part of the overall experience.”
Sports betting is only a small piece of the gaming pie, approximately just 1 percent by some estimates. But US Bookmaking President Vic Salerno thinks other benefits can be derived beyond mere revenue.
“What we found is when a tribe puts in a sportsbook, their food and beverage goes up tremendously,” Salerno said. “They’ve even told me they have an increase in their table play. It is, just like it is in Las Vegas, an attraction and an amenity.”
Some operators worry about the expansion of mobile sports betting and how that might drive away customers from brick-and-mortar casinos. Ainsworth Game Technology General Manager, Online & Interactive Jason Lim said sports bettors want the layer of convenience that mobile sports betting provides.
But the idea that retail and mobile sports betting will cannibalize each other is false.
“By the tribes being able to offer more convenient forms of access to sports betting, you’re capturing, or retaining, a player,” Lim said.
Lim added that mobile and online sports betting adds the ability to track player data. Operators can follow player trends. While there are privacy concerns, it’s no different than how Amazon, Google, and Netflix and other streaming services collect customer data.
“We can use that data to look at the player’s habits, how it can complement the retail side, and then offer bonuses when you come back to a venue,” Lim said.
Online sports betting is still in its infancy and the next year will probably see it legalized in more states. California, especially, is viewed as a market that can generate substantial revenue, although legalization is subject to a voter referendum.
But there will be opportunities for any tribe that adopts sports betting. Salerno says tribes should consider the model that best suits their needs.
“The whole market is going to start going back to models more like Nevada with the addition of more advances in both the mobile and igaming,” Salerno said. “There’s going to be more technology. More artificial intelligence is going to come into it. … Our kiosks will evolve and be much better, much easier, and much more player intuitive.”
Lim says technical types are working on tailoring sports betting algorithms for each player. Sports betting platforms will eventually know if a bettor prefers football over baseball, and his or her favorite teams, and even be able to direct players to gambling opportunities on games they might not be aware of.
“It’s getting down to algorithm learning and specific customizations,” Lim said. “You’ll see those products pop in very, very soon.”