Derek Stevens may be best known as the owner and operator of Circa Resort & Casino and The D Las Vegas in downtown, but he’s also excited about the prospects for his company in Colorado. Maybe one day in Michigan, too.
Illinois and Montana? He’s not feeling it, currently. The same can be said for his thoughts on the prospect of legal wagering on politics in the United States.
In an exclusive interview, Stevens shares his thoughts on the ever-expanding US gambling industry and sports betting ahead of the Oct. 28 public opening of his splashy new Circa Resort & Casino in Las Vegas.
Casino magnate to visionary
PlayUSA: Why do you want Circa to take on the risk of big bets?
Stevens: Well, really what we’re trying to do is, we’re trying to get a solid line. We’re willing to take a large bet from a professional player, and a lot of the professional bettors get squeezed out at some of the other properties. We’re willing to take a large bet, and the more large bets you take, the more solid your line is.
So we’re not shying away from the professional bettors. We know that there’s going to be quite a few professional bettors that are going to, over the course of a year, are going to beat the house. And we’re just really not afraid of that.
We think that it actually helps us a bit by being able to be in a position where we can have a more solid line, and it allows us to let the, I guess, more casual bettor know that they’re betting into a solid and fair line. And if they hit it big, they have a chance to kind of get a good payout.
How did you make the leap from Michigan to Vegas gaming mogul?
I would say that more has to do with the fact I’m truly a business guy and I enjoy business. I love running businesses. I love growing businesses. I love growing management teams. And I guess to some degree, that’s really at my core. I’m really a business guy, and things in Vegas kind of evolved where I kind of became a frontman on some marketing components and things like that, and I’m just kind of my own personality.
Maybe I became a frontman because we couldn’t afford other advertising and things just kind of rolled like that.
And I always thought that the fact that we’re privately held is a big advantage. We make a lot of decisions, sometimes quick, quick business decisions and quick marketing decisions. I’ve always joked with people that we make more bad decisions than anybody else, maybe because we make a lot of them, and if we come up with an idea and a plan that doesn’t work well, we’re going to learn from it and we’re not going to do it again. But we might hit a couple home runs there and be able to roll with it.
Do you feel the pressure of gaming industry consolidation?
Oh, yeah. I mean, I get calls like that frequently, but I’ve been getting those for 25 years. So it’s not really of interest. I like growing our own businesses.
Will you take Circa back home to Michigan?
We certainly are interested in Las Vegas, and we’re interested in growing our Circa Sports brand to other states. We’ve done that now in Colorado, and from a Circa Sports perspective, we certainly would be interested in growing into other states.
Why has Colorado become the belle of the sports betting ball?
When you look at other jurisdictions, the critical … variables are potential size of market and the regulatory environment. And it’s really the secondary issues that are the big determining factor.
I believe Colorado set up the best regulatory framework for sports wagering outside of the state of Nevada.
And we worked with the Colorado gaming commission, and we felt that they set up the most appropriate regulatory environment and tax structure to allow that to be a very vibrant market. Some states did not do that.
I can give you a couple of states that I think set up a regulatory and tax environment that’s to their own detriment: Illinois is probably the one that stands out the most as far as really limiting the interest of a sportsbook provider, just because of their regulatory environment.
And then you take a look at, let’s say the state of Montana. Montana set up what I would say would be a trial period for sports betting for a couple years. They do have mobile, but the mobile is geo-located only inside of certain bars. It’s not something where you can make a wager while you’re at your house or something like that.
Now, Montana always said, because they were a very, very early adopter, ‘We’re going to go at this slow, and we’re going to see how different states come out, and then we will adjust our regulatory environment.’ So that’s what’s happened in Montana. So Montana might be a state that when they come out and they see how well Colorado’s done, they see how well New Jersey’s done, [and] they’re probably going to change some of their environment that’s going to more follow those states as opposed to what Illinois did.
Should wagering on elections be legalized in the United States?
When you see these offshore off lines of US presidential betting and things like that, I really don’t take them all that seriously. They’re limited-action markets, basically [a] small sample size, and I don’t believe it’s really a true market. I mean, the wagers that they take are not that large, so the variability and the quick movements of probabilities in the odds on presidential betting, it’s not something that I currently take very seriously.
If the question then comes to, “Would I be supportive of it in the United States?” I would say I would be someone that would lean against.
I don’t necessarily know that it’s a positive thing for our country. I’m more indifferent, but I would be a lean-against. I don’t know how it would benefit anyone to have presidential betting.
Is there a last flourish or last portrait you’ll adjust over a bar somewhere before you throw the doors open at Circa?
I’m there every day. And every day we have situations that we’ve got to adjust or change or something like that. But, yeah, by the time we get to the day before we open, I’m sure we’re going to have … a situation where we’re going to have to really pump in a lot of fresh air, because we’re going to have left last-minute painting, going to have all kinds of last-minute issues. So no matter what, no matter what date you put out there, you’re always going to have those last-minute issues. We’ve mentally thought through that to be able to get through those scenarios.
Rendering photo courtesy of Circa Resort & Casino