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Indy Gaming: Analyst says Circa now one of Nevada’s leading sports betting operators

Howard Stutz
Howard Stutz
Circa Sports CEO Derek Stevens gives an interview to a northern Nevada reporter at the company's sportsbook inside the Legends Bay Casino in Sparks during a media preview event the day before the property’s grand opening on Aug. 29, 2022. (David Calvert/The Nevada Independent)

Good morning, and welcome to the Indy Gaming newsletter, a weekly look at gaming matters nationally and internationally and how the events tie back to Nevada.

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When Circa Sports opened for business at the Golden Gate Casino in June 2019, the small sportsbook took up only 1,300 square feet — tiny when compared to the company’s three-level, 1,000-seat flagship facility at Circa Casino Resort on the opposite side of the Fremont Street Experience that would open 16 months later.

Size wasn’t a concern.

Golden Gate owner Derek Stevens told ESPN’s David Purdum his newly launched Circa sports betting operation needed to make a statement in a crowded market. The sportsbook took in $800,000 in wagers on opening day because Stevens didn’t charge customers vigorish — a fee placed on wagers.

The result? Circa lost roughly $100,000 over 24 hours.

In the four years since launching, Circa Sports hasn’t changed its business plan.

The company still offers unlimited mobile and retail sportsbook wagering opportunities including at the company’s three downtown casinos, two satellite locations at casinos in Las Vegas and Henderson and the Circa sportsbook at Legends Bay in Sparks.

“We’re excited about where we're positioned in Nevada,” said Mike Palm, vice president of gaming operations at Circa, D Las Vegas and Golden Gate. All three casinos are owned by a privately held company owned by Stevens and his brother, Greg.

“We’ve stuck with the business model that is all about the low hold/high volume approach and taking bets from everybody,” Palm said. “That, coupled with the great retail experience [at Circa] and the success we’ve built with our mobile app, we’ve been able to gain market share pretty steadily in the last four years.”

Circa has moved outside of Nevada with mobile sports betting in Colorado and Iowa and will soon open a sportsbook and mobile wagering in Illinois through Full House Resorts’ casino north of Chicago.

Unlike other states with legal sports betting, Nevada gaming regulators don’t break out the sports betting market share by individual companies, instead only providing overall totals.

Through May, Nevada sportsbooks this year have collected almost $3.6 billion in sports wagers — a decline of 9 percent from 2022, and revenue of $198 million, up 16.4 percent. Mobile sports betting accounts for almost 65 percent of all sports wagers.

Southern California-based advisory firm Eilers & Krejcik Gaming has been able to calculate through its own research Nevada’s sports betting landscape, which is dominated by Caesars Sportsbook and its William Hill U.S. subsidiary. The firm said Caesars captured 56.2 percent of the state’s sports betting revenue during the past three months, followed by BetMGM with 12.3 percent.

In the last year, Eilers & Krejcik said Circa has been either Nevada’s third or fourth largest sports betting provider, alternating spots with the Red Rock Resorts-owned STN Sports. In the past three months, Circa has collected 10.8 percent of Nevada’s sports betting revenue.

But between May 2022 and May 2023, Circa accounted for 11.6 percent of Nevada sports betting revenue, trailing BetMGM by just 1.1 percent.

The three-story Circa Resort & Casino sportsbook in downtown Las Vegas is seen ahead of the property's opening on Oct. 24, 2020. (Jeff Scheid/The Nevada Independent)
The three-story Circa Resort & Casino sportsbook in downtown Las Vegas is seen ahead of the property's opening on Oct. 24, 2020. (Jeff Scheid/The Nevada Independent)

“Circa is playing something of a different game to most operators, with its high limit, low hold model versus the feature-rich single game parlay-heavy approach of [the] leading operators,” said Eilers & Krejcik analyst Chris Krafcik.

The other Nevada-specific sports betting dynamic is the absence of DraftKings and FanDuel, the nation’s two leading sports betting operators. Because the state requires in-person registration at a sportsbook to open a mobile account, the companies have shied away from Nevada.

Krafcik said the rule “provides a natural advantage for incumbents with larger retail footprints. That dynamic has clearly helped Caesars/William Hill maintain a commanding top-line lead.”

The lack of DraftKings and FanDuel, which Krafcik said could be “disruptors” in a state “vulnerable to disruption,” has allowed companies such as Circa to carve out their slice of the market.

Satellite locations at The Pass Casino in Henderson and the off-Strip Tuscany on East Flamingo Road allow Circa to acquire new online customers through sign-ups and serve as “deposit centers” for mobile accounts.

Palm said Tuscany might be second to Circa’s flagship sportsbook for mobile sports wagering deposits.

“Mobile business is obviously where it’s at. It’s a huge factor in what we do.” Palm said.

In an interview last September, Stevens said having a sportsbook at Legends Bay gave Circa a foothold in Northern Nevada and would attract business from Northern California — a state that does not have legal sports betting.

Next week, Circa is holding a sign-up effort at Legends Bay for its two professional football contests with a prize pool of $14 million. The casino didn’t open until Aug. 30 last year and Circa missed out on the early sign-ups for the football contests.

“Derek has been advertising in the San Francisco, Oakland and San Jose markets in trying to get our name out there,” Palm said. “At this point, it’s still an untapped market in Northern Nevada.”

The Atlantis in Reno, Nevada. (David Calvert/The Nevada Independent)
The Atlantis in Reno, Nevada. (David Calvert/The Nevada Independent)

‘Solid’ second quarter financial performance for Reno-based Monarch

Reno-based Monarch Resorts’ second-quarter results mirrored the company’s first-quarter performance.

In both quarters, hotel room renovations at the Atlantis and unseasonable winter weather depressed results in the Reno market while booming business at the company’s Monarch Hotel and Casino in Black Hawk, Colorado, helped drive year-over-year quarterly increases in revenue, net income and cash flow.

The Reno market turned around in June when Atlantis was operating with a full slate of hotel rooms and visitation picked up in Northern Nevada.

“The Reno market remains extremely competitive, we continue to prudently invest in Atlantis to maintain, what we believe is, a market-leading position,” Monarch CEO John Farahi said in a statement as part of the company’s quarterly earnings announcement.

For the quarter that ended June 30, Monarch reported revenue of $123.7 million, a 7.3 percent increase from a year ago, and cash flow of $42.1 million, a 7 percent increase.

“The quarter continued the trends of the past several quarters, with progress in Black Hawk, solid performance in Reno and the ongoing search for further value expansion opportunities,” Jefferies gaming analyst David Katz wrote in a research note last Thursday.

Farahi said Monarch continues to evaluate possible casino acquisitions but didn’t provide any details.

The New Hampshire Statehouse in Concord. (Alexius Horatius/Wikimedia Commons)
The New Hampshire Statehouse in Concord. (Alexius Horatius/Wikimedia Commons)

Las Vegas gaming ties abound in New Hampshire casino effort

Two gaming executives with Las Vegas ties want to build a casino with a historic Las Vegas name inside a closed Sears store in Southern New Hampshire.

Under plans reported by the New Hampshire Union Leader on July 16, Ron Winchell, who operates 20 gaming locations in Southern Nevada, and Marc Falcone, former CFO of Red Rock Resorts, will partner with a Toronto-based private equity firm to create a casino in the building that would house 1,200 historical horse racing slot machines and 62 table games.

The project, named “The Mint,” would be located in Nashua, 20 miles south of Manchester, New Hampshire, and 50 miles north of Boston.

The Mint was a historic casino on Fremont Street that opened in 1957 and became the tallest building downtown when its 26-story hotel tower was unveiled in 1965. The Mint is now part of Binion’s Hotel and Casino.

Winchell, through his privately held Eclipse Gaming Operations, owns five traditional taverns with slot machines under three brands and more than 15 Jackpot Joannie’s slot parlors throughout Las Vegas, North Las Vegas, Henderson and Laughlin.

Winchell and his family also own thoroughbred racehorses, 12 of which have run in the Kentucky Derby. In 2022, Winchell’s co-owned Epicenter finished second in the Derby and Preakness Stakes.

Falcone, a longtime gaming research analyst and private equity hedge fund manager, spent four years as Red Rock’s top financial executive.

In 2018, Winchell and Falcone bought Kentucky Downs near the Kentucky and Tennessee border. The facility also has a historic horse racing venue under “The Mint” name.

Falcone said in a news release the partnership plans to develop The Mint into “one of the most sought-after [historical horse racing] gaming platforms in the New Hampshire market.”

Global Gaming Expo attendees view the electronic table games at the Interblock booth on Tuesday, Oct. 5, 2021. (Jeff Scheid/The Nevada Independent)
Global Gaming Expo attendees view the electronic table games at the Interblock booth on Tuesday, Oct. 5, 2021. (Jeff Scheid/The Nevada Independent)

Interblock to acquire bankrupt Aruze’s table game division

Interblock is buying Aruze Gaming’s electronic table game business and will integrate the devices into its product line. Financial terms were not disclosed.

Aruze, which filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection in February, is closing its Nevada offices next month after filing a Worker Adjustment and Retraining Notification (WARN) Act letter with state officials in June.

Las Vegas-based gaming equipment provider Play Synergy said last week it was acquiring Aruze’s slot machine and online gaming operations for an undisclosed price.

Interblock said in a statement that adding Aruze’s electronic table games would “accelerate” several of the company’s growth initiatives. Interblock is headquartered in Slovenia with U.S. offices in Las Vegas, and the company expects to add 700 employees through the acquisition.

Interblock Global CEO John Connelly said the Aruze games provide the company with a new level of diversity in its table game technology.

"As we continue to differentiate ourselves in the gaming industry, this acquisition empowers us to offer a broader range of high-quality, innovative gaming solutions to our valued partners in both a traditional and online offering,” Connelly said.

People line up on the pedestrian bridge near the Venetian to view the Sphere in Las Vegas on July 4, 2023. (Jeff Scheid/The Nevada Independent)
People line up on the pedestrian bridge near the Venetian to view the Sphere in Las Vegas on July 4, 2023. (Jeff Scheid/The Nevada Independent)


Via press release from Sphere Entertainment

Sphere Entertainment Co. unveiled the sound system for the $2.2 billion entertainment venue expected to open in September. The immersive sound system provides crystal-clear, individualized sound to every seat in Sphere. The system consists of approximately 1,600 permanently installed and 300 mobile loudspeaker modules and includes a total of 167,000 individually amplified loudspeaker drivers.

"The beauty of Sphere is not only the ground-breaking technology that will make it so unique … it's also the possibilities around immersive experiences in real and imaginary landscapes. In short, it's a canvas of an unparalleled scale and image resolution and a once-in-a-generation opportunity. We all thought about it and decided we'd be mad not to accept the invitation."

-          The Edge, lead guitarist, U2

Via Las Vegas Sands second-quarter earnings conference call

Las Vegas Sands sold its Strip holdings 17 months ago and only operates casinos in Macau and Singapore. Last week, Sands said it is taking a $3.3 billion expansion plan for Singapore’s Marina Bay Sands “off the books” until it receives additional direction from the government. The nongaming expansion was first announced in 2019.

“We’re very motivated to make an investment there and expand our capacity at Marina Bay Sands. We're in discussions with the government about what the final form of our project will look like. There's obviously been a lot of change in the market in terms of potential, the government's goals around high-value tourism, and to be fair, the way we want to grow into that market.”

-          Patrick Dumont, president, Las Vegas Sands

Via story in the Reno Gazette-Journal

The Reno-Tahoe International Airport posted its highest number for passenger traffic in more than a decade. The facility’s governing authority said 2.18 million passengers traveled through the Reno airport during the first half of 2023. The number surpassed the passenger count seen in the first half of 2019 — the last normal year prior to the pandemic — by 3.6 percent and was the largest passenger total since 2008.

“Our airport has shown tremendous resilience over the last few years and this is an accomplishment to celebrate. We are grateful for the continued dedication and commitment from our airline partners in providing our community the flights we know, love and depend on.”

-          Carol Chaplin, chairwoman, Reno-Tahoe Airport Authority

Via research note from CBRE Equity

Caesars Entertainment has migrated its Caesars Sportsbook online sports betting operation in Nevada to a new platform. The changes also involved the company’s William Hill U.S. application, which crashed in Nevada during Super Bowl LVII, leaving thousands of gamblers on the sidelines during the year’s largest sports wagering event. 

“The Liberty platform brings an improved betting experience featuring same-game-parlay and in-game betting options. This should help Caesars drive more leisure and recreational customers in [Nevada], which historically has a lower hold percentage given the number of experienced bettors.” 

-          John DeCree, gaming analyst, CBRE


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