The panel on in-venue sports betting Tuesday at the VenuesNow Conference, moderated by Marcus DiNitto, managing editor of BetIndiana.
A panel of insiders on the sports betting experience in-venue weighed in on the trend at the 2019 VenuesNow Conference in New York.
Scott Butera, president of interactive gaming for MGM Resorts International, said that the pace has been a little slow as teams, leagues and state governments work through the regulations for sports betting at arenas and stadiums but that there are signs of momentum for the activity.
“It’s important to do it right,” Butera said. “The issue for us is trying to get states to adopt a model that we think makes sense and can maximize revenues for everyone involved, where you have a lower tax design, reasonable licensing fees and open competition to get in the market. Those are all very important things.”
New Jersey has been at the forefront of sports betting through mobile devices at sports venues such as Prudential Center in Newark, home of the NHL’s New Jersey Devils. New York, meanwhile, has legalized sports betting, but it’s restricted to in-person wagers placed at four upstate casinos.
“I’d love to see what the bridge and tunnel toll fees are in New York, how many people are going over (to New Jersey), now that football season has started,” Butera said.
It’s a movement that remains under the radar for a large portion of Americans since sports betting was legalized nationwide in May 2018 pending states’ approval, according to Sara Slane, founder of Slane Advisory, a gaming strategy consultant.
“We did a lot of survey work for the American Gaming Association, and what we found was that a majority of people don’t even realize that sports betting was illegal, ” Slane said.
Thirteen states have legalized sports betting and a half dozen others have legislation pending approval. Slane anticipates other states will follow suit because of FOMO — the “Fear of Missing Out.”
“One of the most compelling arguments that you can make to legislators is exactly what Scott said — people are leaving New York, they’re going to New Jersey, they’re placing their bets and Jersey is racking up the coffers,” she said. “So, why not legalize it, keep your residents in the state and promote it as entertainment.”
In Washington D.C., Monumental Sports & Entertainment, owner of Capital One Arena, the NBA’s Washington Wizards and the NHL’s Washington Capitals, is poised to become the first big league arena to feature a physical sportsbook, pending regulations set by the D.C. Lottery, which administers licensing for sports betting locations.
“The Friday before Labor Day, the regulations were finally released in D.C.,” said Jim Van Stone, Monumental Sports’ president of business operations and chief commercial officer. “They will be sending out the opportunity to do applications over the next few weeks.”
“We’ve got to figure out in this short period of time how we’re going to set up and structure everything from the beginning,” Van Stone said. “We’re looking at kiosks and certainly mobile. We’ll be a Class A licensed operator (through a third-party gaming firm), which allows us to have a brick-and-mortar operation as part of the complex.”
Monumental Sports sees sports betting as a natural transition as the group goes through a multiyear process for upgrading Capital One Arena and positioning it for the future as a sports betting destination for local residents and visitors to Washington, Van Stone said.
As a designer of sports betting spaces in facilities, sports architects must be thoughtful and proactive about how they approach these projects and make room for flexibility to confirm with league regulations with a trend still in its infancy, said Jason Carmello, a principal with Populous.
“It’s amazing. We’re working with a lot of teams preemptively,” Carmello said. “So, they may be two to three years out ahead of gaming, but (it’s about) how can we provide infrastructure ahead of time. We’ve got to make sure the space allocations fit. The reality is that these buildings are so critical in the communities that it’s not just the short term, it’s 30 to 40 years down the road, and we have to set up our clients to be successful.”
Belmont Park officials have vast experience with sports betting in-venue at the 114-year-old facility that’s home to the third leg of horse racing’s Triple Crown. Belmont Park is open 364 days a year, and with a new NHL arena opening for the New York Islanders next to the track in 2021, it adds another dimension for the local gaming community.
“Now, you’re going to have 150 (annual) events at the arena and it’s going to bring a lot of traffic flow; it’s a big opportunity,” said David O’Rourke, president and CEO of the New York Racing Association, which runs Belmont Park. “Outside the arena, the grandstand at Belmont is pretty big, so there’s a lot of space that can be incorporated into a concept there.”