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By Paul McCarthy-Brain
After ten days of visiting thirty eight separate Vegas sports books it struck me as insanity that these lifeless run down entities in the gambling capitol of the west offer just about the poorest sports betting markets on earth.
Don’t get me wrong, there are some things to like, most notably the sports book in the Palazzo casino, run by Cantor gaming. However, head over to Caesars, the Hilton, Bellagio, Caesars, Bally, Flamingo, Palm, The Cosmopolitan and what you find is under investment and a can’t be bothered attitude towards the sports punter.
Let’s get down to brass tacks, I spoke with a number of sports book managers over there and a few casino VP”s too and all of them told me the same thing… sports books within casinos exist purely as a means to get the punter to get in their car and enter the premises.. once in they hope the additional foot fall will generate higher incomes on the slots and card tables as per square foot these are the most profitable sections of the properties. Truth is, the sports book is value add but they’d rather not bother with one and thus the relatively poor availability of markets and bet types available.
Cantor gaming are trying to shake things up with really great looking high tech sports bars, interactive betting kiosks where you can watch the game and bet away, tablets you can rent to bet in-running, apps you can download to your android phone to bet away, awesome mega high def large screens, good bars and food. They’ve got it all right haven’t they ? Wrong.
The marketing / PR staff have done their jobs, awareness is high, the literature is great and the little things like presenting you with a business card with the app QR code on it during the registration process is slick. So where’s it all going wrong then..
Two pretty critical factors..
1. The technology
2. The markets
When you’re building a super high tech betting business in Vegas these are pretty much the two things you had better get right. Its no good having everything looking awesome to get the punters in the door if your product ****** them off to never bother coming back..
Without getting into a cantor bashing bash, I’ll make this relatively short then move onto other targets..
Talking to a couple of the cantor sports book managers, they showed me the email they get each day from HQ stating what games would be held in-running that day. It turns out that they actively manage one or two in-running markets each day – i.e. the big game of the day’, then they may do another four or five markets in what’s called limited in-play, i.e. the number of active selections is tiny and the lines are moved by an automated system tracking a sports feed like Don Best or Pinnacle.
The big shout from cantor PR is in two products. The e-deck – a portable seven inch tablet to let you play on-line versions of casino games whilst anywhere within the casino.
The second product is the in-running tablet. During my stay I visited five cantor properties, each day the e-deck was unavailable as they were having serious technical issues and was removed from public use until further development had been completed and you know my feelings by now about the sports book in-running tablet and mobile app for Android.
Now this article isn’t just a rant about Cantor it’s just they have and to great fan fare taken over the premier sportsbook locations on the strip, made them look awesome but failed to deliver on the technology ( Awesome high res screens and plush surroundings aside – The Palazzo is fantastic !!! )
Non Cantor properties don’t fare any better. Smoke filled dour halls, with backlit projectors, endless rows of cubical’s and the most convoluted system of placing a bet you’ve ever witnessed. All topped off by the lack of any meaningful depth in markets, lots of outrights/futures, plenty of parlays / accumulators but where is the Golf , Tennis, Soccer, first round , second round, corners, fouls, betting hole by hole on the golf… etc etc
The cubical’s are rife for development, most of them are either empty or have a small flat screen lcd in them. What they need is embedded tablets which can stream live sports video whilst allowing the customer to place a bet with a great depth in markets and view stats.
If Vegas rue the day that sports books were integrated into the casino’s for taking up valuable real estate away from slots and card tables, then why not make these cubical’s into live in-play terminals with video / stats / commentary, where the end user can bet away all day on teams they’ve never heard of. This is massive in Europe , just look at Bet365 and their in-play games and its been a huge success. Effectively a sportsbook slot machine.
The European operators are marching towards the states and the first stop is Vegas, not because of the size of the market, there are only 2.3 Million people in the state of Nevada and 2 million of these are in Vegas, they are going because they smell decay and an opportunity to completely redevelop the gambling capitol of the western world. Paddypower and William Hill are amassing their soldiers, Cantor already has a presence, Zynga are in talks with Wynns and the landscape is about to go pop. Once these operators get a foot hold in Vegas, they’ll be peddling their wares state by state as more permit on-line gaming ( See article on New Jersey )
It’s time for these American institutions to pull their head out of their arses and do something before Vegas and all American on-line betting is being run by the British / Irish / Europeans. Pretending that it isn’t going to happen usually leads to terrible things happening quicker than you’d think.