The Supreme Court Just Essentially Legalized Sports Gambling in the United States …

Sports Betting Room

Now’s the time to position yourself as a leader in sports engagement

On Monday, May 14th, the Supreme Court struck down a 1992 federal law that effectively banned commercial sports betting in most states, opening the door to legalizing the estimated $150 billion in illegal wagers on professional and amateur sports that Americans make every year. In writing for the majority in the 6-3 decision, Chief Justice Samuel Alito stated, “Congress can regulate sports gambling directly, but if it elects not to do so, each State is free to act on its own. Our job is to interpret the law Congress has enacted and decide whether it is consistent with the Constitution. PASPA is not.”

That’s a lot of money that casinos and even more so – the states that they reside in – will be scrambling to grab as quickly as they can. In fact, the experts at the American Gaming Association cited in a conference call that morning, that New Jersey should have its sports gambling operations up and running in about two weeks – which means that by the time you read this, sports gamblers could already be placing bets in sportsbooks in Atlantic City. Delaware, West Virginia and Mississippi will be right on their heels.

Nearly 20 states, like Pennsylvania, Oklahoma, New York and Massachusetts, already have laws on the books, or have introduced legislation, and a 2017 report from Eilers & Krejcik Gaming estimated that as many as 32 states could offer legal sports betting within the next five years. A caveat to all of this is that Congress could act just as quickly to prevent it by writing and enacting a new law against sports gambling that could pass Constitutional muster … but there has been almost no indication that they are even considering it.

One key element not directly addressed in the SCOTUS decision was the online sportsbook component, such as being able to reside in one state and place a bet in another, or betting online in the same state where it is legal. However, on the same AGA conference call, it was thought that online gambling would be included as a natural extension and they were prepared to litigate that portion as necessary.

It will also be interesting to watch how each state approaches tribal compacts and/or the potential for added tax revenue that sports betting will undoubtedly provide.

Naturally, we could continue to speculate until the cows come home. The real question is what a tribal casino can and should do right now to take advantage of the ruling and position yourself as a leader before it becomes “official” for your location.

Position yourself as a leader in sports engagement right now

Just because you may be in a state that hasn’t formally passed legislation, doesn’t mean that you have to sit on the sidelines waiting. You should take advantage of the SCOTUS ruling by immediately engaging your customer base – and seeking out the tens of millions of untapped sports gambling customers – by strategically implementing sports-related promotions. This applies to all those who either plan to enter the legal sports betting market or not. Why? Obviously, if sports betting is in your plans, you will want to begin building a following and a qualified database. If you are not going in that direction though, there is no lack of opportunity to add new players—from millennials to boomers—to your roster. If you don’t, there is a strong likelihood that one of your competitors will.

Whether it involves the Triple Crown, Stanley Cup, MLB, NBA, NASCAR, NFL or college athletics, there are plenty of sports-related promotions that are fun, exciting, easy to implement, and proven to produce results that will help establish you as a “go-to” location when the inevitable tsunami ensues. But when dipping your toe in the water, we recommend going with the highest profile sports and events that garner the most interest and participation.

For example, we recently completed our Million Dollar March Mania Challenge promotion for a number of casinos, including Palms Casino Resort in Las Vegas, Morongo Casino Resort and Spa in Southern California, and Gun Lake Casino in Michigan. The results were outstanding.

Our clients had thousands of players actively engaged every single day over the 3 weeks of the NCAA men’s basketball tournament. From filling out their “Million Dollar” bracket of 64 teams and the chance to win $1 million if it was perfect, to playing fun basketball-related games like trivia and quizzes and crossword puzzles, our clients tapped into the sports obsession of their customers and acquired plenty of new ones along the way. Some of the most impressive stats include:

  • 26,102 brackets earned and awarded online and on-property
  • 46,108 total games and activities played online
  • 13,605 property visits generated during the tournament
  • Over $800,000 coin-in generated to unlock additional brackets

One property was extremely innovative as it allowed their customers to obtain additional “Million Dollar” brackets for over a week prior to the start of the tournament through earning a minimum amount of daily base points, as well as allowing them to trade in actual Players Club points. This strategic move allowed them to eliminate more than $11,000 of point liability off their books, in addition to incremental visits and bottom line revenue. Even better was that this decision to incorporate on-floor play made the entire promotion nearly expense-neutral before the promotion had run its full course!

We have also just introduced our $2 Million Pro Football Frenzy promotion, which actively engages customers over the 17 weeks of the pro football season and drives them into your property in order to be eligible for cash and prizes. With our optional Playoff Frenzy and Big Game challenge add-on, a casino is able to grab the attention of sports gambling enthusiasts for almost 5 consecutive months … a true win-win for everyone involved.

It’s these and other promotions available in the marketplace that all casinos should consider. These types of programs will help pave the way for cultivating new customers that have turned to others—from illegal betting, to sports fantasy sites, and the occasional trip to Las Vegas in the past. It’s a fact that these customers are going to go somewhere. It might as well be you and your operation.

Additional Resources to Explore

NY Times – “Supreme Court Ruling Favors Sports Betting”
Competitive Enterprise Institute – “Supreme Court Ends Sports Betting Prohibition—Now What?” – “Explaining the Supreme Court’s Recent Sports Betting Decision”
Washington Post – “What the Supreme Court’s sports gambling decision means”

Jerry Epstein