G2E: Sports entertainment industry sold on games

There was a strong focus on sports betting and fan experiences during the Global Gaming Expo, the gaming industry trade show, held this week at The Venetian Expo.

It’s no surprise that more and more states are considering legalizing sports betting. And online gaming — including sports betting — is the industry’s fastest-growing segment, according to Bill Miller, president and CEO of the American Gaming Association.

But the sports entertainment industry’s impact on the conference went beyond the book. Aristocrat Gaming, a subsidiary of Australia-based Aristocrat Leisure Ltd., showcased its NFL-licensed slot machines at the show, while casino operators expressed their excitement about upcoming sporting events.

In an interview Tuesday, Circa CEO Derek Stevens said he was heartened that the sports betting industry was still in its infancy and expected a broader market in the years to come.

He said having room to grow is good for brick-and-mortar casinos because watching sports creates an experience — where watching a game live, and often with others, can change people’s schedules.

“You’re not going to tape the Super Bowl and watch it three hours later,” Stevens said. “People make decisions to ensure they are in front of a TV. They adjust their schedules for exercise. I think it’s a good thing for sports teams; it’s a good thing for sports leagues; It’s a good thing for sports fans and a good thing for sports bettors.”

Stevens said he expects Circa, a sports-focused property with a three-story sportsbook center, and the city to benefit from being a sports fan destination.

And he’s not alone. According to JP Morgan analysts’ investor note on a meeting with Caesars Entertainment executives, the company expects future demand on the Las Vegas Strip to be buoyed by two target sporting events coming to Las Vegas — the Formula 1 race in November 2023 and the Super Bowl in 2024.

“In Formula 1 terms, the race will take place on November 18, historically one of the weakest weekends of the year, with management noting that this is likely to attract ‘hundreds of thousands of visitors’ (the Singapore race recently had ~300,000 entries attracted,” analysts wrote. “So you’re trading a soft weekend for one that’s likely to be a lot stronger than even the Super Bowl.”

Aristocrat’s partnership with the NFL also illustrates another area where sports entertainment and gaming are merging. A quick look at the machine wasn’t open to the public, but Aristocrat still focused its booth on the first partnership of its kind with the football league. The games are to be rolled out for the 2023 season.

Jon Hanlin, the company’s senior vice president of commercial strategy and business analytics, said that while the partnership grows out of the symbiotic relationship between the NFL and casinos, he was impressed when the NFL reconciled itself given its past anti-gaming stance approached Aristocrat about a potential partnership.

“They did a complete 180-degree turn — I never thought they’d be the first to dive into this space,” Hanlin said. “I think other leagues and other sports entertainment brands are likely to follow suit. But we will be here to help them if they want to join the party.”

McKenna Ross is a Corps member with Report for America, a national service program that places journalists in local newsrooms. Contact them at [email protected] consequences @mckenna_ross_ on twitter.

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