What Canadian Sportsbooks Might Learn from the Mistakes of Nevada

Other Dec 14, 2021

This might be hard to believe if you reside elsewhere, but living in Nevada isn't the greatest thing when it comes to being a sports bettor.  This recent article in the Nevada Independent explains why.  There are might be lessons for this in Canada, which is expanding legal sports wagering.

Despite a head start of decades, Nevada remains in sports betting Dark Ages

Nevada was the only state with legal betting on single games until 2018 when a Supreme Court ruling nullified the Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act. That 1992 law had grandfathered in Nevada sports betting, while barring new states from legalizing it. Since it was overturned, 16 other states have legalized mobile sports betting.

Nevada and Illinois are the only states that require sports bettors to enter a physical casino in order to create a mobile wagering account. Iowa and Rhode Island launched mobile sports betting with the same policy in place, but both states eventually dropped it. At points during the pandemic, the Illinois policy was suspended by the governor. In Nevada, no such allowance occurred and sportsbook operators were forced to open pop-up locations to make it easier for new players to create accounts. (The Illinois General Assembly set an expiration of its policy for March 5, 2022. That will make Nevada the only state without remote registration.)

The decision to prohibit remote registration in Nevada cannot possibly be driven by any security issue, because Nevada already permits online poker players to create accounts remotely. It is the same technology that licensed mobile sportsbooks use in other states.

Nevadans, especially those outside Las Vegas, have fewer sports betting options because of this policy. A Nevada mobile sports betting operator must have a retail sportsbook, and players must go to the sportsbook to create an account. This limits the options available to Nevadans who do not routinely travel the state or visit tourist areas. A Reno sports bettor cannot sign up at an independent sportsbook in Las Vegas. A rural sports bettor often only has one sportsbook brand nearby, if one is available at all.

Even in Las Vegas, things aren’t always easy. Attendance around major events such as the Super Bowl and March Madness create long waits at sportsbook counters. This hurts the betting handle as players simply give up or get shut out at the betting window when the game starts. Tourists visiting from states with sports betting that do not have this archaic rule may not expect Nevada, of all states, to have it — and may allow their frustration to turn them and their dollars elsewhere.

It is actually more convenient for some Nevadans to bet on sports in Arizona, which launched mobile sports betting in September. The state allows players to create an account anywhere in the state from a phone. Nevadans who live in Laughlin, Boulder City and Mesquite can drive across the state line to create and fund these accounts. This may be more convenient than going into a casino and waiting in line.

Mobile sports betting revenue in Nevada has suffered because of the requirement for in-person registration. Nearly every other state posts mobile sports revenue about eight to ten times the amount seen from casinos and kiosks. In Nevada, that number is about two-to-one in favor of mobile bets. While large counter bets play a role in that, the difficulty of opening an account discourages the use of mobile betting apps, especially among out-of-state visitors.

Nevada’s in-person registration requirement also prevents mobile sports betting companies from buying a rural casino so they can market to players in Nevada. Permitting this would have its problems, however, it is to the benefit of Nevada bettors and regulators to find a solution. New rural operators could be required, for example, to meet a minimum investment amount in the same way unrestricted gaming licenses must in the state’s larger counties.

Licensing new mobile sports betting operators would bring fresh marketing money to the state. Much of that would be given to players in the form of first deposit offers. It would also be spent on advertising with Nevada media companies. Many sports betting operators in other states offer affiliate programs because players can create accounts instantly, but Nevada operators currently do not spend money on this type of marketing. Allowing remote registration for sports betting would change this, and help many businesses beyond the gaming industry.