Indy Gaming: As sports betting grows, leagues look to moderate advertising

26 April 2023

Good morning, and welcome to the Indy Gaming newsletter, a weekly look at gaming matters nationally and internationally and how the events tie back to Nevada. 

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The NFL suspended five players last Friday — three indefinitely — for violating the league’s gambling policy.

Two days earlier, the league joined a coalition of professional sports organizations committed to a responsible approach toward sports betting advertising.

The separate announcements highlight the conundrum facing the NFL and all professional sports leagues that have latched on to the expansion of legal sports betting across the U.S. to 33 states and Washington, D.C.

The millions in advertising dollars and partnerships with sports betting operators are too lucrative to ignore.

But at the same time, just one scandal involving a player betting on their own games would flush away any credibility the leagues and operators have sought hard to build.

Five players in the past four years have been banned by the NFL for betting on league games. Two Detroit Lions players were suspended for six games last week for gambling violations that did not include betting on NFL games.

In a statement, the NFL said a “league review uncovered no evidence indicating any inside information was used or that any game was compromised in any way.”

The league said it was part of the newly formed Coalition for Responsible Sports Betting Advertising, which wants to take steps to ensure an accountable approach to the sports betting marketing efforts that dominate the airwaves during games.

In addition to the NFL, the coalition includes Major League Baseball, the NBA, the NHL, the WNBA, Major League Soccer and NASCAR, as well as sports broadcasting networks NBCUniversal and FOX.

The coalition was formed to help the sports leagues balance the millions of dollars sports betting operators spend on advertising their product — customer acquisition is the term used by the betting companies — with the integrity of the games.

In its statement, the coalition said legal gambling advertising should only be marketed to adults of legal betting age, not promote excessive gambling, not be misleading and be in good taste. The coalition also said the leagues and networks should have internal reviews for the ads and have a process for addressing consumer complaints.

A UCLA fan places a wager on the Bruins at the BetMGM sportsbook inside Park MGM before the team took on Gonzaga in the NCAA West Regional semifinal at nearby T-Mobile Arena on Thursday, March 23, 2023. (Jeff Scheid/The Nevada Independent)

But untangling the prevalence of sports betting marketing will be challenging. For example, during NHL playoff games, announcers often mention in-play betting odds (accompanied by a televised graphic) from DraftKings on which player might score the game’s next goal. 

The gaming industry is also coming up with ways to better track who exactly is making sports wagers.

ProhiBet, a product offered by Nevada-based technology provider US Integrity, gives regulated sportsbooks a real-time monitoring and blocking tool that can ban certain gamblers — including players, team executives and team personnel — from making wagers.

The American Gaming Association, which has advocated for responsibility in sports betting advertising, said in a statement the effort by the leagues and networks closely mirrors commitments by members of the Washington, D.C.-based trade organization.

“These efforts reflect a shared prioritization of responsible gaming and consumer protection,” said AGA Senior Vice President Casey Clark. “Building a sustainable legal wagering market requires alignment from the entire sports betting ecosystem, and today’s announcement is another important step.”

Nevada Gaming Commission member Ogonna Brown during a license suitability hearing for Apollo Global Management to own the Venetian, Palazzo and Venetian Expo complex on Thursday, Feb. 17, 2022. (Jeff Scheid/The Nevada Independent)

Proposed Nevada gaming regulation removals approved, sent to the governor

The Nevada Gaming Commission let the Gaming Control Board do the heavy lifting.

The panel took less than 30 minutes to approve 16 gaming regulation subsections designated for elimination as the agency complied with a January directive issued by Gov. Joe Lombardo tasking all state agencies with reviewing regulations and recommending at least 10 for removal by May 1.

The part-time, five-person gaming commission also approved another eight regulation subsections identified for language changes.

Jose Torres, the agency’s senior research specialist, and deputy attorney general Tiffany Breinig worked with the control board’s division chiefs to identify the suggested regulation eliminations or changes. The list was approved and ranked in priority order by the control board during a public workshop earlier this month.

“This has been a very collaborative effort with all board staff,” Torres told the gaming commission last week. “[In] coming up with the precise language and the explanations, there are certain requirements within the executive orders, such as economic impact.”

Torres said the final draft of the proposed changes contained a general assessment of whether the changes would have a negative or positive economic impact on the state, the industry and the control board.

Gaming Commission member Ogonna Brown commended the control board staff for the “very thoughtful, deliberate and insightful” effort to come up with the proposed changes.

“I have a lot of confidence in accepting the recommendations in terms of the priority specifically for the regulations that were selected to be presented to the governor for consideration,” Brown said before the unanimous commission vote.

The Atlantis in Reno, which is owned by Monarch Casino & Resort. (David Calvert/The Nevada Independent)

Monarch survives California weather issues in Q1 with Colorado casino results

Northern California saw its highest snowfall levels in more than 70 years in the first three months of 2023, which kept the customers away from Northern Nevada’s casino markets.

Luckily, Reno-based Monarch Casino and Resorts has a property in Black Hawk, Colorado.

Thanks to its property 45 minutes outside of Denver, Monarch grew revenue by 8 percent to $116.6 million in the quarter that ended March 31. Cash flow grew 6.2 percent to $36.5 million. Monarch doesn’t break out results between its Black Hawk casino and its legacy Atlantis Casino Resort in Reno.

“Monarch noted severe weather conditions in Northern California had an impact on visitation for the Reno market,” Truist Securities gaming analyst Barry Jonas told investors in a research note.

According to the Nevada Gaming Control Board, weather issues caused Reno casinos to see a 12.1 percent decline in gaming revenue during the first three months of the year.

“(Monarch) management believes the impact drove a 20 percent year-over-year decline to (cash flow) for the Atlantis property, although this doesn’t factor what growth would have been in a normal weather pattern,” Jonas said.

Monarch told investors the company, which recently completed room renovations at Atlantis’ original hotel tower, has begun a similar upgrade on the property’s newer hotel tower. The company said it has roughly 16 percent of the Reno market, whereas Caesars Entertainment has three resorts downtown.

“Monarch has seen more flattish share in past quarters given a more competitive market,” Jonas said. “The promotional environment in Reno has ticked up as the weather impacted visitation play and operators compete for more locals.”

A rendering of Las Vegas Sands’ proposed integrated resort project on Long Island in Nassau County, New York. (Courtesy photo)

Asian-centric Sands sees NY casino as a way back into the U.S. gaming market

It’s been a year since Las Vegas Sands owned a casino in the U.S., so it wasn’t surprising the company fielded just one question on its first-quarter earnings conference call last week about its prospects in the American gaming market.

Barclays gaming analyst Brandt Montour asked the question about New York, where Sands hopes to land one of three potential gaming licenses in the New York City area.

Sands Chairman and CEO Rob Goldstein said it would take until next January for the process to play out in New York.

In January, the company said it wanted to create a resort in Nassau County on Long Island, roughly 36 miles east of Manhattan. Sands has an agreement to acquire 80 acres that include the Nassau Veterans Memorial Coliseum, the former home of the NHL’s New York Islanders.

“We do believe we have a very compelling bid,” Goldstein said on the conference call. “The project is in sync with our historical approach to development,” adding that the nongaming amenities, such as the hotel, convention and entertainment areas, are “very much [in the Sands] spirit, the way a hotel should be designed as a real resort, a real destination.”

No other analysts asked about the U.S. or even Sands’ efforts to legalize casinos in Texas.

The company, which has its corporate headquarters in Las Vegas, recently saw its resorts in Macau and Singapore break out of a nearly three-year slump brought on by pandemic-related travel restrictions in Asia.

In Macau, gaming revenue in the quarter that ended March 31 exceeded $1.2 billion, the first time since pre-pandemic 2019 the company’s five casinos hit the $1 billion mark in a single three-month period. In Singapore, Marina Bay Sands saw gaming revenue top $848 million, an all-time record for any quarter since the resort opened in 2010.

“We knew there was pent-up demand in Macau and Singapore but not sure we understood the magnitude,” Stifel Financial gaming analyst Steven Wieczynski wrote in the research note. “Based on what Las Vegas Sands reported in the first quarter, that pent-up demand is well beyond what we would have expected.”

Sands sold The Venetian, The Palazzo and The Venetian Expo a year ago for $6.25 billion, and is using part of that money to reinvest in Asia,  including $575 million this year at Marina Bay Sands. The company plans to spend another $900 million in Macau and Singapore in 2024, including $425 million at Marina Bay Sands.

Sen. Jacky Rosen (D-NV) left, greets Vice President Kamala Harris after arriving at Harry Reid International Airport in Las Vegas on Saturday, July 3, 2021. (Jeff Scheid/Nevada Independent)

Quotable

Via press release from the U.S. Travel Association

Sen. Jacky Rosen (D-NV) was named one of three recipients of the 2023 Travel Champion Award, along with Sen. Dan Sullivan (R-AR) and U.S. Secretary of Commerce Gina M. Raimondo. Rosen was selected for her efforts on behalf of the bipartisan Omnibus Travel and Tourism Act, which helped the U.S. travel industry in its recovery following the pandemic and advanced travel industry priorities.

“Travel performs at its best when the private sector and the government work together to achieve common goals, and Senators Rosen and Sullivan and Secretary Raimondo each are credited with tremendous contributions towards this industry’s success. Each of our honorees has shown consistent dedication to helping travel grow and thrive.”

–          Geoff Freeman, CEO, U.S. Travel Association

Via press release from Penn Entertainment

Penn Entertainment, which owns M Resort and two casinos in Jackpot, has launched a new customer loyalty program. In a statement, the company said Penn Play expands the abilities of 26 million members to earn and redeem rewards across 43 casinos in 20 states.

“Penn’s business has transformed over the last few years as we’ve expanded our retail, online gaming and entertainment experiences. With the rebranding of our loyalty program to Penn Play, we are taking steps to better align all of our brands under the Penn umbrella and create a more seamless omnichannel experience.”

–          Jay Snowden, CEO, Penn Entertainment

Via press release from the International Center for Responsible Gambling

Nicole Scott joined the Massachusetts-based International Center for Responsible Gambling as its new director of Tribal Nations Relations and Communications. Scott will be responsible for developing and maintaining relationships with tribal communities and organizations and overseeing all communications and outreach efforts. Prior to joining the ICRG, she served as a consultant to tribal governments and casinos. 

“Her extensive experience in tribal relations and communications makes her a perfect fit for our organization. We are confident that she will be an asset in advancing our mission of funding research to mitigate potential harm to players and promoting responsible gambling practices.”

–          Art Paikowsky, President, ICRG 

The post Indy Gaming: As sports betting grows, leagues look to moderate advertising appeared first on The Nevada Independent.

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