If and when sports betting becomes legal in the United States, it’s not likely to proliferate quickly via mobile devices and online.
That’s not because it’s a bad idea. To the contrary, it’s a fantastic idea.
I won’t delve deeply into the reasons of why it won’t happen quickly here; you can read about that in this piece. But sports betting certainly should not be confined brick-and-mortar gaming facilities like casinos and horse racing tracks.
And we have evidence of exactly why sports betting should quickly move to mobile if legalization happens federally or at the state level.
Online doesn’t cannibalize land-based gaming
The knock against online gambling in general has been fears of cannibalization of land-based gaming revenue. In reality, nothing can be further from the truth. We have evidence of that from a flourishing New Jersey online casino market that continues to generate meaningful revenue and has led to a resurgence for Atlantic City casinos.
The same fears will crop up when sports betting comes up, even if they are unfounded. How do we know this? We have the very relevant — and not much reported — example of Nevada.
Nevada sports betting
Nevada has had legal sports betting for a long time. It has not had mobile sports betting for a long time.
In recent years, nearly every sportsbook operator in Las Vegas has rolled out a sports betting app. Two of the final holdouts — MGM and Caesars — have joined the bandwagon. That alone should be a sign that casinos see online sports betting as a positive. (Even famed online gambling opponent Sheldon Adelson has mobile sports wagering via the CG Technology app offered through the Venetian.)
Furthermore, if mobile sports betting were indeed “stealing” money from land-based casinos, we would either expect flat revenue for Nevada sports betting or only a moderate increase.
Handle has also ticked up during that time period. Anecdotally, Nevada sportsbooks say mobile handle accounts for anywhere from a third to 50 percent or more of total handle.
States would be foolish to dismiss online sports betting
We’ve seen a slow rollout of online gambling in the US. In fact, no one has passed a law allowing it (if we’re not counting 16 laws dealing with daily fantasy sports) since 2013.
But states looking to offer legal sports betting should not dismiss the possibility of online sports betting. Instead of hurting casinos tracks or other land-based forms of gaming, it would simply be additive to their bottom lines.
All you have to do is look at Nevada to see why.