Analysis: Nevada Mobile Regulations Limit Sports Bettors

Analysis: Nevada Mobile Regulations Limit Sports Bettors
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Drive-through mobile sportsbooks are popping up in Las Vegas like fast-food restaurants and William Hill says it is increasing the number to give mobile sports bettors more options as sports leagues and events start returning.

William Hill opened four drive-through, or drive-up, locations in Las Vegas and one in Sparks in advance of UFC 249 to allow existing customers to access their accounts and new customers to register with the sports betting company. William Hill told the Las Vegas Review-Journal this week that it plans to open even more drive-through locations. With more UFC events scheduled and NASCAR returning this weekend, bettors will have more ways to place wagers without leaving their cars.

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Nevada’s online sports-betting market trails other states because Nevada law requires you to register in-person at physical sportsbooks. Quite simply, the state is programmed to drive bettors to brick-and-mortar casinos. Nevada has more licensed physical sportsbooks than any other state with legal and regulated sports betting, but with casinos still closed, sportsbooks have to find new ways to accommodate their clients. It would help if the state revisited its mobile regulations.

Sportsbooks in Nevada are continuing to play catch-up to other states because of the in-person registration requirement and an unwillingness to embrace existing technology. Sports betting apps outside Nevada have much better — and more — in-game betting options. Bettors traveling to Las Vegas find out quickly that the mobile sportsbooks they use back home are more advanced than what is available on the Strip.

William Hill, which has more than 30 sportsbooks in Las Vegas, wasn’t the only sportsbook offering curbside service last week. The South Point Hotel Casino on South Las Vegas Boulevard launched a sports app for mobile betting on May 6. Circa Sports started drive-through sport betting at the Golden Gate Hotel and Casino on May 7. It is open seven days a week between 10 a.m. and 6 p.m.

“Ahead of the largest sporting event of the month, we wanted a safe way to meet the current demand from our customers,” Joe Asher, CEO of William Hill US, said in a news release last week. “It sure is nice to have an American sport to bet on.”

Even though a drive-through gives bettors a chance to register and place a wager, there is still a health risk people are being forced to take by interacting socially, even curbside, to bet on sports. This wouldn't be the case if Nevada had mobile registration, which works well in other states.

Nevada Mobile Market Badly Trails Other States

Mobile betting leaders in the U.S. market, such as New Jersey sportsbooks and their Pennsylvania counterparts, do not have the unwieldy registration requirement. Those states see about 90% of the action come from their growing mobile betting markets.

Nevada saw 63% of the wagers in March placed on mobile, according to the Nevada Gaming Control Board report, a percentage far lower than the two leading mobile states. Even states such as Indiana, where sports betting has been legal for less than a year, have a higher percentage of mobile betting. Nevada first started reporting mobile handle this year. In January it was 49% of the handle and 44% in February.

Without question, Nevada would see even more bettors place their wagers on mobile without the restrictive registration requirement — especially with casinos closed.

Getting Ahead of Sports Returning

William Hill is trying to recapture some of its lost audience and build new relationships with bettors by adding more drive-through locations. The five they started last week — the parking lots of the Alamo Casino, Arizona Charlie’s Boulder, Arizona Charlie’s Decatur and the Plaza Under The Dome in Vegas and the parking lot at Sierra Sid’s in Sparks.

“We are working on plans right now,” to offer more locations, William Hill vice president of marketing Michael Grodsky said in the story in the Review-Journal, adding that more details would be released soon. William Hill also offered promotions tied to UFC 249 to entice bettors.

There will be more sports to bet on soon, too. The PGA will return June 11 and MLB is in negotiations to return around July 4. With UFC hosting events in Jacksonville, Florida, on Wednesday and Saturday, and NASCAR racing in Darlington, South Carolina, on Sunday, Nevada bettors will be looking to find ways to access their accounts or sign up for new ones. With a fully developed online sports betting market, it wouldn’t have to be that way in Nevada.

More sportsbooks will have to open curbside service like William Hill, Circa and South Point have done. Even when casinos reopen, capacity will be limited and coronavirus safety guidelines could keep people at home.