Sports betting isn’t dead in Las Vegas just yet.
What happens in Vegas stays in Vegas might be an annoying old slogan, but it’s still very real for many visitors. It’s also real for some sports bettors around the country.
Whether it’s because of locals learning more about sports betting or tourists betting more often, sports betting is not only growing in Nevada but is still breaking records. In 2018, the state saw more money wagered on sports than ever before, as more than $5 billion was bet on sports in Nevada.
It would not be a surprise to see the amount of money wagered on sports to continue to grow despite less money bet on the Super Bowl this year.
When the Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act (PASPA) was repealed in 2018 and states started to legalized sports betting, there was a lot of chatter that Las Vegas would lose customers, clout and part of its essence now that people could bet on sports elsewhere. After all, being the entire gaming epicenter of the country gave Las Vegas its major hook to draw customers, who would party, eat and drink in between gambling.
But not so fast, my friend.
Big events remain popular in Las Vegas
People aren’t ready to give up their annual getaway to Las Vegas for big sporting events. The Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority (LVCVA) said that there were more than 300,000 visitors for Super Bowl weekend.
Football's biggest night may be on Sunday 🏈✨, but in Las Vegas we start celebrating early. More than 306,000 fans are expected to visit the city this #BigGame Weekend, generating $426 million for the local economy. #TourismMatters #VegasIsSports 📸: @LVNewsBureau pic.twitter.com/Mz8QsSccDQ
— LVCVA Impact (@LVCVAImpact) February 1, 2019
Super Bowl weekend is still one of the busiest weekends of the year in Las Vegas. It’s right up there with Memorial Day and New Year’s Eve for tourists.
Demand for hotels was high for the Super Bowl. Room rates at Bally’s in Las Vegas were twice as high as the Atlantic City property on Super Bowl Sunday. This was the first year Bally’s Atlantic City sportsbook was open for the big game, but demand didn’t seem high to even wager on the game. It might have helped if they promoted the biggest sports betting event of the year, but that’s a story for another day.
Sports fans don’t appear to be slowing down when it comes to visiting Las Vegas for big sports events. Viewing parties for the first weekend of the NCAA basketball tournament (aka March Madness) are filling up fast and at higher prices than ever before.
The market doesn’t seem to be slowing down for March Madness just yet. According to the March Madness in Las Vegas group on Facebook, there are still people making their first trip to Las Vegas to experience the madness.
Believe it or not, Las Vegas is still a new destination for people every year. The LVCVA Visitor Profile says that 21 percent of visitors in 2017 were first-time visitors. The number of new visitors fluctuates annually but it’s been between 15 percent and 27 percent for the previous five years of the survey.
The first weekend of March Madness lines up with Spring Break for many colleges. New Jersey sportsbooks, racetracks and casinos aren’t top of the mind for Spring Break partying. The same can be said for every other state that currently offers legal sports betting in the U.S.
Las Vegas may lose some of its allure over time for sports bettors looking to stay closer to home and save some money, but it shouldn’t shut off the lights on the sportsbooks. (TheLines podcast recently had an excellent discussion about this.)
Keeping sports betting special
This might be difficult to believe, but not all sports fans bet on sports. Further, not everyone that gambles wants to gamble close to home. There are casinos in just about every state but some gamblers prefer to keep their action for vacations or special occasions.
Whether its a fear of addiction or just keeping gambling special, there are a fair number of people who only visit casinos as a vacation. Sports betting, blackjack, and all casino games are often seen as the same thing by recreational gamblers. It’s all just legal gambling.
This could change over time, but there’s a significant segment of gamblers that see all gambling the same. Even though it’s possible to gamble on a phone in New Jersey, it might just be more fun to keep this activity as something special to do on vacation.
Las Vegas is still home to the best sports betting experience
It will take time for states to catch up with Las Vegas in many ways. On the plus side, many new sportsbook operators outside of Nevada are offering slick mobile apps and new ways to bet. On the downside, many lack a better retail sportsbook than at a casino or racetrack.
The majority of sportsbooks being built are appropriate for their location. However, there won’t be many sports bettors making a weekend experience at a sportsbook that looks more like the corner bar or cafe. Las Vegas casinos may always have the advantage of the best retail sportsbooks.
Not many brick-and-mortar locations around the country will offer a sportsbook that is 30,000 square feet with 350 seats and a 220-foot-by-18-foot, 4K video wall like the Westgate SuperBook. That’s just one of the phenomenal sports betting venues in Las Vegas.
Las Vegas continues to upgrade and improve their sportsbooks. Circa in downtown Las Vegas will open in 2020 with a three-story sportsbook. Their 4,000 capacity pool deck will have a 125-foot TV screen that should be spectacular for March Madness parties in 2021.
We’re still waiting for the first amazing sportsbook outside of Nevada. It could happen — someday.
The rest of the country is still a feeder system for Las Vegas
Sin City is a major tourist destination. More than 42 million people visited Las Vegas in 2018, according to the LVCVA. The small decrease from 2017 might have more to do with increased hotel room prices and fees than sports betting becoming legal in more states.
Legalized sports betting should increase the number of people around the country that gamble on sports. Not all of these people will come to Las Vegas to bet on sports. Enough will visit to enjoy the city and the spectacle at the great sportsbooks.
These new customers will become a target for casino and sportsbook operators around the country. National casino operators, such as Boyd and Caesars, use their loyalty clubs at properties around the country to bring guests to Las Vegas.
New sports bettors who visit Las Vegas for the shows, restaurants, bars, etc., may now be more apt to spend a few bucks in the sportsbook now that they understand how to wager on sports.