G2E: Sports entertainment industry sold on gaming

A heavy focus was placed on sports betting and fan experiences during the Global Gaming Expo, the gaming industry trade show held this week at The Venetian Expo.

It comes as no surprise as more states consider legalizing sports betting. And online gaming — including sports betting — is the fastest growing segment of the industry, according to American Gaming Association President and CEO Bill Miller.

But the sports entertainment industry’s impact on the conference went beyond the book. Aristocrat Gaming, a subsidiary of Australia-based Aristocrat Leisure Ltd., teased its NFL-licensed slot machines on the trade show floor while casino operators expressed excitement about future sporting events.

In an interview Tuesday, Circa CEO Derek Stevens said he’s encouraged that the sports betting industry is in its infancy and expects a wider market in the coming years.

He said having room to grow is good for brick-and-mortar casinos because of the experience created by watching sports — where watching a game live, and often with others, can change people’s schedules.

“You’re not going to record the Super Bowl and watch it three hours later,” Stevens said. “People are making decisions to make sure they’re in front of a TV. They adjust their schedules for sports. I think it’s a good thing for sports teams; it’s a good thing for sports leagues; it’s a good thing for sports fans and it’s a good thing for sports betting operators.”

Stevens said he expects Circa, a sports-oriented property centered by its three-story sportsbook, and the city to benefit from being a destination for sports fans.

And he’s not alone. According to J.P. Morgan analysts’ investors note about a meeting with Caesars Entertainment executives, the company expects future demand on the Las Vegas Strip to be buoyed by two destination sporting events coming to Las Vegas — the Formula One race in November 2023 and the Super Bowl in 2024.

“Regarding Formula 1, the race will take place on November 18th, historically one of the weakest weekends of the year, with management noting this is likely to bring in ‘hundreds of thousands of visitors’ (Singapore’s race recently brought in ~300k attendees,” analysts wrote. “So you swap a soft weekend with one that’s likely much stronger than even the Super Bowl.”

Aristocrat’s partnership with the NFL also illustrates another area where sports entertainment and gaming are merging. A sneak peek of the machine wasn’t available for public viewing, but Aristocrat still centered its booth around the first-of-its-kind partnership with the football league. The games are expected to be rolled out for the 2023 season.

Jon Hanlin, the company’s senior vice president of commercial strategy and business analytics, said while the partnership comes from the symbiotic relationship between the NFL and casinos, he was impressed when the NFL approached Aristocrat about a potential partnership given their past anti-gaming stance.

“They did a complete 180 — I would have never thought they would have been the first to dive into this space,” Hanlin said. “I think other leagues and other sports entertainment brands are probably going to follow suit. But we’ll be here to help them if they want to join the party.”

McKenna Ross is a corps member with Report for America, a national service program that places journalists into local newsrooms. Contact her at mross@reviewjournal.com. Follow @mckenna_ross_ on Twitter.

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