The days of walking into a sportsbook to open an online sports betting account are numbered, maybe even in their US birthplace of Nevada.
When that happens, Nevada will be left standing as the biggest sports betting state that does not allow remote registration.
Black eye for Nevada sports betting
The rule reflects a now outdated view of sports betting as an amenity to the casino experience. But the ongoing opportunity cost is potentially massive.
Nevada took 63% of its $787 million handle via mobile in September. That is a far cry from the ~90% that states like New Jersey and Pennsylvania hit on a routine basis.
“It’s been a sore subject and embarrassment to Nevada,” said Robert Walker, the director of sportsbook operations for USBookmaking (USB.)
Consider Iowa, which tripled its handle year-on-year in the first month with remote registration.
Nevada would likely never reach 90% online handle given its tourism industry and retail footprint. But the state is still potentially forgoing hundreds of millions of dollars in handle each month.
Now that Arizona is online, Nevada is even losing handle as residents reportedly cross the border to bet with apps like FanDuel and DraftKings. Nevada is also missing out on sports betting tourism of its own.
The state borders California and could enjoy the ‘New Jersey effect’ as Californians cross the border to wager on their phones. It could be much the same as Nevada residents driving over the California border to play Powerball and Mega Millions.
“I think remote registration would be huge,” said Matthew Holt, the president of US Integrity and former VP at Cantor Gaming. “With all the cross-border business, there is no reason it couldn’t potentially double handle.”
Momentum to change Nevada sports betting rule?
So is there any chance for change in Nevada?
The discussion picked up momentum again in recent months as Nevada regulators approved remote registration for other forms of gaming.
That petition, brought by Sightline Payments, does not extend to NV sports betting since it does not materially impact Sightline’s business. But industry experts are hopeful that similar discussions for sports betting might be around the corner.
You’re either in or you’re out
The last time sports betting signups made it in front of regulators in 2018, MGM, Caesars and Wynn all testified in favor of remote registration.
The only holdouts were locals casino giant Stations – owned by Red Rock Resorts – and William Hill.
Both benefit from in-person registration thanks to their large retail networks. Station owns casinos catering to locals throughout southern Nevada and William Hill operates a robust kiosk business in the state.
William Hill is now owned by Caesars, but two sources with knowledge of the company suggested its stance remains opposed to remote signup. Caesars did not respond to requests for comment by LSR.
The last holdout?
Station may be a different matter. The company opposes the Sightline effort to allow remote registration for other forms of gaming in Nevada and CEO Frank Fertitta is an influential figure in the state.
“Fertitta may be the last obstacle, but he’s a pretty huge obstacle,” said one Nevada sportsbook exec.
However, Station recently partnered with GAN to upgrade its sports betting technology. It is aiming to switch over to that technology by the 2022 NFL season.
Could that preface a change in its stance on remote registration? Station did not respond to a request for comment.
Time for a change in Nevada sports betting
Former Nevada Gaming Control chair A.G Burnett said the change to remote registration could be enacted within a month.
“I think there’s some momentum for a change,” Walker said. “You talk about Nevada being a gold standard but certainly not in this area. The rule has served its purpose and hopefully now it goes by the wayside as opposition fades.”
The process might look like something like this:
- An interested party proposes an initiative (as Sightline did with cashless gaming.)
- The board hosts a regulatory workshop to discuss.
- The Board then puts it on the agenda for their own meeting and votes on the proposal. If approved they recommend it to the Nevada Gaming Commission.
- The Commission then takes it own vote and changes can be made effective in two weeks.
“The Board is receptive to new technologies that can enhance the industry,” Burnett told LSR. “But it is hard if the industry doesn’t want something. The Board has to go with majority.”
Transformative for Nevada sports betting?
It is hard to argue that remote registration would be anything but a positive in the Silver State.
Beyond the immediate bump in handle and revenue, consumers likely would see more innovation.
The change would almost certainly draw FanDuel and DraftKings to Nevada. DraftKings co-founder Matt Kalish told LSR years ago that the company needed to see remote registration enacted to consider bringing its app to Nevada.
Both operators already filed for licenses. Local books would either have to upgrade their product experience or risk falling behind.
Innovate or die for sports betting apps
Walker urged Nevada sportsbooks to simply “build a better product and go compete”.
“DraftKings and FanDuel have been a wakeup call,” said Walker. “I thought the US market would be Nevada moving west, not Europe moving east.
“Part of that is because Nevada was behind on things like cash-out, props and in-game wagering.”
But could a shift to remote registration put Nevada back on top?