What Does the Future Hold for Las Vegas Sportsbooks?
- Legalized sports betting inside the United States will create a flood of competition for Las Vegas sportsbooks.
- Brick-and-mortar Las Vegas casinos will need to evolve in order to keep interest from sports bettors.
- Mobile betting and new amenities will become more common in order to convince bettors to enjoy Las Vegas sportsbooks for longer periods of time.
Following the Supreme Court’s decision to end the federal ban on sports betting, many questions have come to the forefront regarding the future of sports wagering. One of the more interesting conversations revolves around the operators and sportsbooks themselves.
What will new sportsbooks look like in order to attract bettors who have never wagered on sports in brick-and-mortar shops? How will legalized sports betting within the United States affect offshore sportsbooks? And finally, how will Las Vegas evolve and attempt to remain relevant now that bettors will likely have many more options locally?
Walk into a Las Vegas sportsbook today and you will see a lot of similar options for the customer. Against one of the walls you will find the betting windows operated by actual human beings taking your wagers during normal business hours.
There are large TVs mounted on every wall and a digital board listing all odds available for the player. You will probably see a banner advertisement for the property’s mobile wagering app, but it won’t really grab your attention and you’re likely to ignore it.
Some have comfortable lounge chairs where you can order off a menu of bar favorites while others might have individual desk-type seating with partitions for privacy.
Some operators, such as the Westgate SuperBook, are offering areas you can rent for space that is more personal than just a desk. They also provide servers to bring higher-end food and craft drinks directly to you during the games.
Today’s book, however, is quickly becoming a dinosaur. The future will change the way you think of sportsbooks. The future is coming and will focus less on wagering and more on experiential opportunities.
Thanks to the repeal of PASPA, the ability to place a wager on a single game is no longer something that Vegas and the offshore sites will monopolize. Thus, how do you keep players coming into the books and modernize the experience to match today’s customer?
“A lot of casinos are putting in what they are calling ‘social spaces’ (in their sportsbooks) to basically revisit the way we’ve always done business,” Nehme Abouzeid, a marketing consultant for several Las Vegas properties including CG Technology, said. “It’s really about maximizing the guests’ experience. Now, 70% of revenue in Vegas in non-gaming revenue. Gaming is not the predominant factor anymore, so it’s really about making people comfortable in the space.”
The question then becomes; what does the future sportsbook look like?
Lagasse’s Stadium, the massive sports bar and sportsbook inside The Palazzo, was one the first one to try the idea of giving players everything they want at their fingertips at a higher price.
At Lagasse’s, you have a gourmet sports bar menu designed by celebrity chef Emeril Lagasse. There are massive TVs and a digital betting board with the latest odds. You can rent private function rooms with pool tables and video games plus an outdoor bar right on the Las Vegas Strip.
The amenities at Lagasse’s give you a picture of what the modern sportsbook is going to look like in Las Vegas as well as all over the country. MGM just opened up the Moneyline Sportsbook inside the brand new Park MGM, which features several of the items that Lagasse’s has had for years but with a focus on making you feel at home.
“We’ve seen some great anecdotal evidence with our Cosmopolitan book, which has these adjacent social activities like a pool table that’s doing quite well,” Abouzeid said. “People just like to linger. They like to engage in dialogue, and it’s less about a ‘lean back’ experience and looking up at big screens. It’s more about ‘can I do multiple things in an afternoon?’.”
Expect new sportsbooks to focus even more on the complete experience, making you feel welcome while inside a book and motivating you to stay. The pattern of walking up to a window, placing a bet and walking out of the book is something operators are hoping to stop.
“If you are comfortable where you are, in your surroundings, then can we get you to enjoy the game and enjoy placing a bet,” Abouzeid said.
The repeal of PASPA and states such as New Jersey and Delaware opening up single-game wagering also give operators opportunities to try new ideas when opening up new sportsbooks.
William Hill will open a $6 million, 7,500-square foot sportsbook in the middle of the new Ocean Resort Casino on the boardwalk of Atlantic City later this month. In a press release last week, the new book is described as “an integrated experience with a center bar and will be surrounded by state-of-the-art video wall technology for viewing of sporting events and live InPlay betting odds.”
“From real-time betting to exclusive hospitality for major events, the sportsbook will be second-to-none,” said Bruce Deifik, chairman of AC Ocean Walk, the company that owns Ocean Resort Casino.
One of the key targets of the new sportsbook will be a big push toward mobile gaming. MGM, CG Technology, William Hill and others have invested heavily in their mobile device platforms, and the expectation is to see fewer and fewer betting windows operated by humans in the future.
If you have been to a Vegas book, you have probably weighed the options of betting at the counter or opening up a mobile account. Operators are now focusing on convincing sports bettors to switch their habits and go mobile. It’s not going to be easy to pry those paper tickets out of the hands of players who have been wagering that way for years.
“We need to do a better job as marketers of convincing them (the players) that it’s worth the upfront investment of time and they have to see it on the back end,” Abouzeid said.
What ultimately makes it inside the modern sportsbook isn’t fully known yet. However, what we do know is that the experience of being inside a sportsbook with resemble your favorite sports bar very soon.
Those who are successful in figuring out how to keep you at the book by betting on your phone will be the leaders of the modern sportsbook industry.