Executives are banking on these expanded opportunities to allow them to tap into the growing market for legal sports betting in the United States. Historically, Las Vegas casino operators have shifted their focus to whatever the next growth area appears to be. Whether it was riverboats, conventions, Macau, nightclubs, or resort fees, this approach has kept the industry financially viable in the face of massive competition and major shifts in consumer behavior.
Some question, though, just how big an impact sports betting will have. After all, in Nevada sports wagering has traditionally accounted for only one to two percent of total gaming win. Even if that percentage were to double or triple, sports betting wouldn’t present the same potential returns as expansion into new markets.
The counter-argument is that there are few new markets to expand into; Japan is the biggest global opportunity, and there are few places in the United States that don’t already have casinos nearby. Sports betting represents something rare, an untapped domestic growth frontier. Also remember that corporate leaders are not necessarily tasked with increasing revenues long-term. Rather, they are charged with driving shareholder value, which usually means pursuing short-term revenue gains that boost investor optimism and bump the stock price.
Given that the Supreme Court’s voiding of PASPA and the latest round of partnership announcements led to increases in share values, you could say, “mission accomplished.” In any event, the apparent success of sports betting and the turn to online and mobile wagering platforms is significant because it suggests that, although casino companies have invested (and continue to invest) billions in building and maintaining resorts, they are willing to create ways for their customers to gamble remotely.
The shift to remote wagering is a profound one. Traditionally, casino owners wanted to attract players to their property and keep them there as long as possible, initially to play casino games, but later to spend money on a range of attractions. Letting customers play at home reverses this strategy, acknowledging that while some gamblers want to go out on the town, others just want to get their bets down as conveniently as possible.
An era in which room rates were down in Las Vegas but casinos weren’t panicking because sports betting was trending up would have been unthinkable until recently, but it is just the latest example of casinos doing what they do better than anything else: adapting.