Monthly Archives: April 2020

MGM Resorts’ casinos to lean on ‘drive-in’ traffic post-pandemic

Casino operator MGM Resorts says it will likely rely on ‘drive-in’ traffic in the immediate aftermath of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Thursday saw MGM release its official first quarter financial report, the gist of which was previewed one week ago. In short, revenue was off nearly 30%, earnings were down over 60% and the company would have booked a major net loss were it not for January’s deals involving two of its major Vegas properties.

Speaking of Vegas, MGM’s new CEO Jim Hornbuckle was asked on Thursday’s analyst call about what form the company’s Strip operations will take when Nevada’s governor finally gives casinos the nod to shuffle up and deal. (Gov. Sisolak indicated Thursday that casinos will likely remain closed for the month of May.)

Hornbuckle said MGM would likely open its New York, New York casino first, “because it’s one of our simpler places to run” with around 2,000 rooms. At the other end of the scale, the Bellagio is also on MGM’s opening radar because “we want to be in the high-end business.”

The SBC Digital Summary gives insight into tribal gaming in the US

No one could have anticipated the world would have to deal with a major health pandemic capable of disrupting virtually every industry at every level. However, that’s exactly what has happened because of the coronavirus, and one of the industries that have been hit the hardest is the gaming industry. Casinos across the globe have been forced to shut down, sports leagues have had to cancel or postpone their activities and even lotteries have taken a hit due to stay-at-home orders. In the US, tribal casino operators have suffered, as well, and they came together today at the SBC Digital Conference to discuss how COVID-19 is impacting their business.

When it became evident that the U.S. states would need help to keep their heads above water during the health crisis, the federal government stepped in to offer several economic stimulus packages to individuals and businesses. While casinos were included in the relief, smaller gaming operations with less than 500 employees were initially not eligible for the funds. This included essentially all of the tribal casinos, many of which are independent from one another and have minimal workforces compared to the larger operations. Despite the fact that the tribes give it a substantially portion of their revenue to government bodies, they were going to be left out in the cold.

However, the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) was ultimately changed to include these smaller casinos – for the first time in 25 years. Tribes from around the country worked together to help lobby for the changes, joined by other operators who were in the same position. Even without the stimulus, the majority of the tribes had still been willing to keep their casino staffing levels intact, or close to the same, and the PPP support has made their decision a little easier to manage.

Tribes in the U.S. are controlled differently when it comes to casino matters. As opposed to commercial casinos that can essentially present a proposal to regulators and receive approval, each tribe has to present a separate proposal every time it wants to make some type of change. This is due to the complex gaming compacts they have in each state, as well as the oversight maintained by the U.S. Department of the Interior (DOI). Any change that would incur an alteration in the economy of the tribe has to be approved each time.

Nevada casinos might stay closed for the entire month of May

Nevada casinos will likely remain closed for the full month of May under the governor’s plan for restarting the economy following the COVID-19 pandemic shutdown.

On Thursday, Gov. Steve Sisolak unveiled what he called Nevada United: Roadmap to Recovery, aka the plan to get back to something resembling normalcy prior to the pandemic lockdown, which included the closure of all gaming venues in mid-March.

The plan is to open the state in phases, each one lasting a period of two to three weeks so the authorities can gauge the impact of each step along the way. The state will only proceed to the next phase if the data – daily case counts, hospitalizations, deaths – supports such an advance. If infection rates rise, steps will be paused and phases could even be rolled back if the data turns truly dire.

Phase One will (hopefully) start by May 15 but the businesses that will be allowed to reopen will be subject to “extremely aggressive social distancing measures.” Businesses that won’t be allowed to open in Phase One include bars, nightclubs, malls, large sports events, mega-churches and live concerts.

Online gambling ops warn Sweden: if customers leave, we’re next

Sweden’s online gambling licensees are warning that they could ‘leave’ the regulated market if the government continues to impose ever more restrictive limits on their operations.

On Thursday, the Branschföreningen för Onlinespel (BOS) industry association published an open letter to Social Security Minister Ardalan Shekarabi, warning that the government’s efforts to limit locally licensed online gambling sites’ offering was driving customers to internationally licensed alternatives. The letter further warned that “if players leave, the companies follow suit.”

The letter – which was signed by the CEOs of Betsson, Kindred Group, LeoVegas, NetEnt and William Hill – starts by noting that the whole purpose of liberalizing Sweden’s online gambling market was to ‘channel’ local gamblers to local sites so their activity could be monitored for signs of problem gambling (and earn the government a tidy pile of cash, but we digress).

The government initially claimed a 91% channeling rate – above the stated 90% target – shortly after the market’s launch but this slipped to 85-87% by autumn. A BOS-commissioned report released this week claimed that the current overall rate stands between 81% and 85%, with an online casino rate as low as 72%.

Gaming leaders talk US legislative changes at the SBC Digital Summit

Never before has there been a gaming conference as unique as this year’s SBC Digital Summit (SDS). Additionally, never before has there been a gaming conference as important as this one. With the entire world facing the coronavirus pandemic, the global gaming industry is being forced to make changes, whether it wants to or not. Some of these changes may be temporary; however, many will become a permanent part of the landscape, driving a new era of gaming like nothing seen before. As Day 4 of the SDS wraps up, a lot of attention was placed on North American gaming operations. While not as mature as the European gaming market, for example, the ability of the U.S. market to provide a major source of revenue exists. Before that happens, though, several hurdles will have to be jumped.

One of the issues facing the U.S. market, as discussed in a presentation about the state of legislative efforts, is the disconnect found from one state to the next in how regulations are implemented. Each state establishes its own guidelines and frameworks, and these are sometimes burdens to entry by operators who overly burdened with weeding through the state nuances. However, progress is being made and, as new states come on line, they will find the support from one source or another.

Virginia, Tennessee, Washington State and South Dakota are among the most recent states to be launching legalized gambling or expanding existing gambling laws. While legislators from all the states have worked diligently to introduce frameworks they feel will generate the most revenue while protecting consumers, this isn’t always the case. For example, Tennessee and Washington State won’t permit bets on in-state college athletics.

While this may seem like a good way to protect the athletes, the only result is that gamblers will turn to black market and offshore sportsbooks to place their wagers. The takeaway that many legislators still fail to comprehend is that gamblers are going to gamble, regardless of whether or not the activity is regulated or illegal. By prohibiting wagers on college sports, the states have only hurt themselves, missing out on a revenue stream that will exist for someone, somewhere.

The SBC Digital Summit highlights COVID-19’s impact on sports bets

Sportsbooks in the U.S. got a serious kick in the butt this year when the coronavirus suddenly came in and forced all sports activity to a grinding halt. Not only in the U.S., but around the world, athletic organizations were forced to put everything on hold, and the impact felt by the sports gambling community was fast and brutal. The SBC Digital Summit prepared a couple of panels to discuss how the sports gambling world will change post-COVID-19 and, despite the major drop in activity, there is a silver lining.

One of the panels was designed to discuss how investments and mergers and acquisitions (M & A) will change as a result of the coronavirus. Led by several industry experts from companies like Roar Digital, SeventySix Capital, Drive by DraftKings and more, there is a general feeling that, once the gaming industry begins to recover, there could be a lot of movement in the sports gambling space. This could include entries from players no one has heard of before, looking to topple some of the largest sportsbooks around, or from corroboration between different entities that join forces to make a bigger impact and capture a larger piece of the pie.

Many states had only just launched their sports gambling operations when the global pandemic hit – some literally only had days in the market. Sportsbooks and casino operators spent millions of dollars securing licenses, looking to recuperate their investments from things like the NBA Finals, the NCAA March Madness and the NHL Stanley Cup tournament, all of which would have been wrapping up over the course of the past two months. All three regularly see huge betting activity, and the loss of the money spent on securing sports gambling operations might force some operators out of the business. As a result, consolidation could be coming, and entities may be forced to give up a percentage of their control in order to stay afloat.

With the halt to sports action, sportsbooks suddenly found themselves looking for alternatives for which they could post lines and generate some type of income. It hasn’t been easy, especially in the U.S., as regulations have prevented a lot of potential sources of revenue from being off-limits. That has changed somewhat, though, as was discussed in the second panel on alternatives to sports gambling. SG Digital, DraftKings, Roar Digital, as well as others, were on hand to provide their take on what is happening to keep operations running, and what will be seen going forward.

NFL Defensive Rookie of the Year odds roundup

There’s no tried and true way to win a wager on the NFL Defensive Rookie of the Year each season, but one smart bet of late has simply been picking an Ohio State player. Last year, former Buckeyes defensive end Nick Bosa won the award for the San Francisco 49ers as the No. 2 overall pick.

Odds courtesy of

Bosa was the third Buckeye to win it in the past four seasons, joining New Orleans Saints cornerback Marshon Lattimore (No. 11 overall pick in 2017) and Chargers defensive end Joey Bosa (No. 3 overall pick in 2016), Nick’s brother.

The first defensive player off the board in the 2020 NFL Draft was a player ranked higher by scouts than any of the three listed above: Buckeyes defensive end Chase Young was the No. 2 overall pick by the Washington Redskins and is the +200 DROY favorite. He was favored before the draft too.