Downtown Las Vegas casino owner Derek Stevens decided the 2018 Global Gaming Expo was the perfect setting to announce he was starting a sports betting business.
Five months earlier, a US Supreme Court ruling allowed states to legalize and regulate sports betting. By the time G2E emerged, half a dozen states had joined Nevada in offering legal sports betting.
Meanwhile, Stevens was in the early stages of developing Circa Resort & Casino, the premier downtown hotel and casino in nearly four decades. Prior to the opening of the property’s three-tier Circa Sportsbook storefront, D Las Vegas and Golden Gate sports betting became the launch pad for Circa Sports, which includes a mobile sports betting app.
Circa Sports can be found at all three downtown Stevens casinos, with satellite operations at The Pass Casino in Henderson, the off-Strip Tuscany on East Flamingo Road and the recently opened Legends Bay Casino in Sparks. The locations allow Circa to increase mobile sports betting registrations, given a Nevada rule that requires users to register in person.
Stevens has since taken Circa Sports outside of Silver State to Iowa and Colorado, where the business is mobile-only. Circa partners with Wild Rose Casino & Resort in Jefferson, Iowa, and Century Casinos Cripple Creek in Colorado.
Early next year, Stevens plans to launch mobile and retail sports betting in Illinois as part of Full House Resorts’ $500 million American Place Casino Resort, located 40 miles north of Chicago to Waukegan.
With sports betting legal in 31 states and Washington, DC, Stevens sees a wider playing field.
Other states do not have a mobile check-in requirement. Outside of Nevada, Circa competes with the major sports betting operators – DraftKings, FanDuel, BetMGM and Caesars Sportsbooks – which often combine for 80-90% of any market.
Eilers & Krejcik Gaming analyst Chris Krafcik, who tracks the domestic sports betting industry, said Circa Sports has been able to differentiate itself from the competition, but slicing through a market dominated by the Big Four is not an easy task.
“We believe Circa has the potential to carve out a lasting niche in Colorado, but the strategic path it currently has primarily for itself will soon become more crowded,” he said.
Additionally, Krafcik said that based on benchmarks conducted by the consulting firm, Circa’s mobile app “just isn’t competitive with top or even middle-of-the-road apps. (That’s) a problem. major.
However, Krafcik said Stevens’ biggest selling point is his sports betting showcase at Circa Casino Resort, especially for customers in neighboring states, such as Colorado, that serve as feeder markets for Las Vegas.
“Circa has some potentially compelling levers to pull in Colorado,” he said. “We also expect Circa to come under pressure as more online sportsbook brands begin to cater to the sharper and higher demographics.”
Stevens said Circa Sports is essentially in the first innings of the first game of a doubleheader, especially as other states, including major population centers of California and Texas, move forward. with the legalization of sports betting.
This interview has been edited for clarity and length.
Are you happy with how sports betting has rolled out nationally since 2018?
It’s amazing to see the impact that sports betting has on our networks, our media, our teams and our leagues. It’s great and the kind of thing I expected to happen.
You have just started at Legends Bay Casino. How important was it for Circa Sports to be in Northern Nevada?
We’ve been wanting to get into northern Nevada for a while and this is just a situation where everything lined up. Being part of the first new property from scratch for Northern Nevada in a long time has been a great opportunity for our company. I was excited about the Sparks Marina location the first time we saw it and we wanted to build something special. (The bookmaker has a 10ft by 15ft Daktronics video board displaying live odds and six large TV screens, multiple seats and a capacity for 140 sports bettors.)
Would you like Nevada to allow remote entry for sports betting?
This is quite a complicated question. This is a question that has many levels. I stayed out of this fray. One thing I would say about that is how different states have deployed. When you don’t have a casino registration requirement, you end up limiting future investments. For example, you don’t see a huge amount of sports betting investments that are in Colorado properties.
Put it this way: If Nevada had remote registration, we wouldn’t invest everything to build a sportsbook like we did in Sparks, which created 15 jobs. That’s why it’s a bit of a complicated question.
How does Circa Sports compete with the Big Four?
I don’t know if I ever really considered that we were in competition with them. I am deeply respectful of FanDuel, MGM, Caesars and DraftKings. It’s clear that FanDuel, in particular, is a very dominant #1. It’s like asking how someone compares with a good chain of restaurants with 500 locations. I do not know. We just wanted to be able to compete in the market. I don’t see it as Coke versus Pepsi or Ford versus GM. I think there is room for good sports betting in all markets. The way you survive and grow your business is through differentiation. I think our product is quite different from all the ones just mentioned.
What do you think of operators spending heavily on advertising and promotions to sign up customers?
I think DraftKings marketing spend is pretty incredible and I’m glad the company is spending so much money on consumer awareness. I think when we look at the history of the past four years and say 10 years later, we’re still going to be respectful of what DraftKings has done to help create an industry. They are certainly looking for huge amounts of customers. That’s not necessarily what Circa Sports is.
Is the goal for Circa to carve out its own audience?
That’s really what we do and I think over time it will become much more apparent. Each sportsbook will be a little different for each consumer. I don’t know if there is one bookmaker that will dominate from a consumer perspective, as everyone has different needs. I think there’s a lot of room for something different.
FanDuel is mark the bookmaker Fremont in partnership with Boyd Gaming. How do you feel about having FanDuel downtown?
I think that’s great. Boyd (who owns 5% of FanDuel) has had his okay for a while. Again, I don’t really see them as competing with us and I don’t really see us as competing with them. It’s a different scenario. It’s like the hotel-casino in Las Vegas. People ask how we compete with $4 billion properties and I just tell them we have a different business model. I don’t really see us as competing with MGM or Caesars in the casino business. I see us as complementary. That’s how it works in sports betting.
What do you think of the two California sports betting ballot questions?
We are not involved in this issue, but between what the tribes push and what the other group pushes, there are positives in both directions. Whether or not there is a significant brick and mortar (retail sports betting) is a pretty complicated question.