Online casino fun has always been a reality for us at Grande Vegas online casino for USA players, but not so for land-based casinos. They now realize the advantages of online gaming for players and are trying to get in on the deal (so to speak).
Over the last three years the go-ahead that the Supreme Court gave to states to legalize sports betting has led to a tsunami of gambling legislation that has led to a massive increase in real money gaming throughout America. More than half U.S. states now allow sports betting and many states have tagged other types of wagering activities onto their sports betting bills.
Some of those states have also established infrastructures that allow online betting, either through local operators or operators who introduce online betting platforms to the state. One would think that Nevada, where gambling is an important state industry, would want to participate in this new wave but thus far Nevada has eschewed online betting.
Nevada’s state policies are heavily influenced by the big Vegas casino operators who, in the past, have fought to keep gambling limited to retail establishments to justify their investments in their resort-casinos. Now, operators like Wynne, MGM, Caesars, and others are changing their tune and are beginning to lobby for online gambling which will benefit the state and, ultimately, the casinos themselves.
Benefits to the State
MGM Resorts' CEO Bill Hornbuckle is among those who supports the legalization of online casino gambling in Nevada. He argues that the state will enjoy the fruits of online gambling in the form of tax revenues that it can then use to fund various economic and social projects. At a panel discussion during the Nevada Independent’s IndyFest, Hornbuckle said that Nevada is “missing a significant opportunity for growth.”
IndyFest is the Nevada Independent’s annual conference on political and policy issues. At the 2021 Indyfest held in early October 2021, Hornbuckle acknowledged that not all brick-and-mortar casinos wanted to see legalized internet gambling but he believes that it would be significant for the state and for the industry nationally and, potentially, globally.
MGM has been among the early supporters of casino involvement in online gambling. The company owns destination resorts in Las Vegas, Massachusetts, Maryland, Detroit, Mississippi and New Jersey and operates its online brand, BETMGM, in Virginia, New Jersey, Indiana, Michigan, West Virginia, DC, Nevada, New York, Tennessee, Pennsylvania, Iowa, Colorado and Wyoming.
Hornbuckle said that, via the company’s Internet and sports betting platforms, it expects to take in “a billion dollars in net gaming revenue next year. “It has not taken from our brick-and-mortar business,” Hornbuckle said.
The legal status of online gaming in Nevada is complicated The Nevada legislature voted in favor of online poker in 2001 but the Justice Department intervened, saying that online gambling (at that time) was illegal due to the Federal Wire Act that prohibited certain types of gambling businesses.
Over the years the Wire Act has been reinterpreted to allow for online betting and today, there is one legal and active online poker in Nevada, site operated by Caesars Entertainment and based on the World Series of Poker.
Since sports betting was legal in Nevada between 1992 (when the Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act was enacted that banned sports betting in America) and 2018 (when the Supreme Court struck down PASPA) due to a grandfather clause, Nevada casinos could operate sportsbooks when other states could not.
In 2010 the Nevada legislature approved new rules about Internet and mobile sportsbook apps which paved the way for Nevada sportsbooks to take online bets.
Online casino gambling has, however, never been a popular idea but if MGM continues to do well with their venture into the world of online gambling, other casinos may join the move.
Hornbuckle says that the big casino operators must expand if they want to survive because the Vegas market is already oversaturated. “The opportunity to build a new casino, a new brick and mortar casino, at any scale, the economics are upside down,” told the panel. “This has been the capital of the gaming universe for decades, and we are losing. We're not going to see a new brick and mortar casino here for a long, long time.”
Conversely, MGM’s expansion into the online gambling market has meant that the company has grown. BETMGM is headquartered in New Jersey with 700 employees and Hornbuckle says that within the next six months that number will grow to 1000.
He believes that expanding online gaming in Nevada can be done in a way that protects the local land-based casino market. “We’re not interested in my mother sitting on her couch in Henderson, gaming,” he said. “That’s not what we're after. We're after a global business and we are going to miss this opportunity if we don't quickly get on board.”
One way that that can happen, Hornbuckle suggests, is for operators to facilitate remote registration for customers who wish to sign up to place online sports bets.
There’s no reason, he said, that the present system, in which customers who want to place sports bets need to register in person at a casino venue, should continue. His assessment was seconded by American Gaming Association CEO Bill Miller who called the current Nevada system “backwards.”
“There's a way to protect our industry and still let it grow and do other things,” said Hornbuckle. “Hopefully, the Gaming Commission (will) get us to a different place. “The laws are in place. We need the regulators to put the appropriate regulation in place, to let us go forward. Along the way we can talk about local interests because I get it, it's real.”
Everything points to the need for mobile access for sports betting to succeed. Mobile accounts for between 80% and 90% of all wagers in states with both retail and online sportsbooks. Even in Nevada, with its large land-based casino industry, more than 69% of all sports bets were placed on mobile in one month this summer.
Bill Miller of the American Gaming Association said “The old way of thinking was the only way we are able to gain customers is to get them on the property. The reality is you have to create a larger pie which includes different things off property. The brand brings them to property.”
Miller noted that revenue spikes in retail + online gambling states like New Jersey and Pennsylvania where casinos shut down because of COVID-19 in 2020 did not subside as casinos reopened. The Association compiled revenue figures that showed that the five states with online casinos had revenue of nearly $2 billion for the first seven months of 2021. That surpasses the $1.55 billion of 2020’s combined revenues.
Online gaming, says Miller, while still a small part of the casino industry, is the fastest-growing sector of the gambling industry. Casino operators would miss a huge opportunity by ignoring it.