SBC Digital: Sportsbooks will be intimate bar-like settings in the future

July 15, 2020 7:21 PM
  • Buck Wargo, CDC Gaming Reports
July 15, 2020 7:21 PM
  • Buck Wargo, CDC Gaming Reports

The Circa Resort & Casino sportsbook opening this fall will be the exception to the rule that the next generation of sports-betting venues will be more like sports bars, according to a panel at the SBC Digital Summit North America.

Circa’s three-story stadium-style sportsbook will be viewable throughout the casino and have a capacity of about 1,000 people who can watch a 78-million-pixel screen. It’s viewed as a larger version of the SuperBook at the Westgate, currently considered the world’s largest sportsbook.

“Circa and (its owner) Derek Stevens are one of my neighbors and I’ll bet on Derek any day of the week,” said Seth Schorr, CEO of Fifth Street Gaming, a hospitality and casino-management company that manages the Downtown Grand. “Can he pull off a superbook? You better believe it. Can anyone do that? I’m not so sure. Circa is going to be an exception. I think certain casinos and venues should be smaller and more intimate that look more like a sports bar than a sportsbook. But there will be gems like Circa and the Westgate where that giant experience is amazing.”

In 2018, Caesars Entertainment had a plan for the next generation of sportsbooks when they opened their new sportsbook concept at the Linq on the Las Vegas Strip and proceeded to spread the concept across the country to 18 venues last fall. With the merger of Eldorado Resorts and Caesars set to be completed this month, it remains to be seen how Caesars vision of the new sportsbook will unfold going forward.

The Linq has what it calls Fan Caves, with a focus on comfort and interaction that executives said created energy, brought in repeat business and generated more revenue when they were fully operating. The Fan Caves — 12 rentable living rooms, complete with sofas, designed for up to eight friends — each feature 98-inch TVs that can be split into four screens, two separate 49-inch TVs, an Xbox and other game consoles, and virtual reality. Fan Cave occupants control their own pictures and audio with an iPad.

Schorr is the founder of KonekTV that earlier this year was activated at Hooters in Indiana, New Jersey and Pennsylvania where fans bet on their phones using Rush Street Interactive’s BetRivers.com sportsbook app. Hooters’ guests even got a matching bonus of $300.

The KonekTV screens display game statistics, analytics and odds and Schorr said sportsbooks will follow a similar path, which will be of value to experienced bettors, but especially those new to sports betting.

“Rush Street got traffic and Hooters got customers,” Schorr said. “I can see that being part of any casino experience, and food is critical. They’ll want to eat and drink in the sportsbook of the future. Most casinos have the ingredients already. I personally believe most sportsbooks of the future will look more like sports bars and will have technology, like kiosks and odds displays, in them, plus servers who are trained to help (bettors place sports wagers). Sportsbooks aren’t just competing with each other, but also with the at-home and mobile digital experience.”

Schorr calls himself “a brick-and-mortar guy” who believes in human nature, especially when it comes to watching sports. While mobile betting continues to become a larger portion of sports wagering, he said there’s a symbiotic relationship with brick-and-mortar and it’s not going to become a world where people only sit at home watching games on their couch placing a bet.

“People want to be with other people in a fun environment in a sportsbook or bar drinking a beer and eating burgers,” Schorr said. “You just don’t get that at home on your iPad.”

Jonathan Doubilet, managing director of technology company US Playtech, said he sees the game-watching experience in the future being one of ordering chicken wings and a pitcher of beer, loading up mobile betting accounts at the table and even getting the waitress to take a bet on an NBA game.

“These are the things that will become ingrained,” Doubilet said.

Schorr said greater use of technology in venues, such as kiosks, helps cut labor costs, but there will be value in having a server with a great personality who can encourage bet placing and create an environment to bring people out of their homes.