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Indy Gaming: More states banning ‘prop bets,’ citing harassment of athletes

As blowback to sports betting grows in legislatures and Congress, the fast-growing industry pledges $20 million to responsible gaming efforts.
Howard Stutz
Howard Stutz

After nearly six years of unparalleled growth, the sportsbook industry is facing some headwinds.

Major sports betting companies formed a collective to research responsible gaming habits. The announcement comes as several states are banning certain wagers involving college athletes. 

Programming note: I’m taking a few weeks off starting Friday. Indy Gaming will return May 1. 

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In March, NCAA President Charlie Baker said the organization was asking state gaming regulators nationwide to ban proposition wagering, or prop bets, on college athletes because of evidence that gamblers are harassing collegiate players, both online and at games.

“Oh, yeah, it happens all the time,’’ Purdue center Zach Edey told The Athletic.

This month, Louisiana became the 12th state to enact the ban. It won’t be the last. Minnesota, one of five states where lawmakers are actively considering sports betting legalization, would ban the activity, which allows fans to wager through mobile accounts on aspects of a player’s performance during games — total rebounds or points scored for a basketball player; total touchdowns scored or total yards gained for a football player.

In Nevada, an effort to ban college player proposition bets hasn’t surfaced. Gaming Control Board Chairman Kirk Hendrick told The Nevada Independent an agency representative spoke with NCAA officials regarding concerns about harassment of college athletes and the integrity of collegiate sports.

“With the recent national proliferation of sports wagering, the [board] welcomes input from the NCAA, as well as Nevada’s licensed sports pool operators, and the public, to ensure Nevada continues protecting its citizens and the integrity of sports wagering,” Hendrick said in a text message.

Meanwhile, seven of the largest sports betting companies formed the Responsible Online Gaming Association (ROGA) at the end of March. The trade group plans to promote responsible wagering habits for its customers. 

Jennifer Shatley, who has spent almost 25 years in the gaming industry focusing on responsible gaming issues and programs, was installed as ROGA’s executive director. In an interview with  The Nevada Independent, she didn’t commit to the group specifically targeting certain types of wagers, such as proposition bets.

“The organization is focused on how to better promote responsible gaming, which will affect how people engage with the games and how they view it as entertainment,” Shatley said, adding that responsible gaming education would help bettors “understand that they're more likely to lose when they gamble [on] those types of concepts.”

Thirty-eight states and Washington, D.C., have legalized sports betting following a May 2018 Supreme Court ruling that ended a nationwide ban on the activity outside of Nevada, which took $248.8 million in sports betting revenue in 2017.

The expansion hit across the U.S. like a tsunami and was bound to lead to some hiccups, given that sports betting has now grown to almost $11 billion in gaming revenue nationally during 2023, with operators taking in nearly $120 billion in wagers, according to the American Gaming Association. It’s led to a multimillion-dollar onslaught of advertising on TV, online and in sports venues themselves. It’s all in the name of customer acquisition.

JMP Securities gaming analyst Jordan Bender told investors in a March 28 research note that banning proposition wagers could cost sportsbooks $200 million in annual revenue based on 2023 totals. He said proposition wagers “serve as a diversification away from traditional gaming results.” 

Simply put, it gives sportsbooks a way to increase revenue by offsetting losses from traditional game results, and creates more opportunities to place bets during a game.

In February, two Democratic congressional lawmakers introduced legislation that would use money raised by a small federal excise tax on sports wagers to fund problem gambling treatment and research, much to the dismay of Rep. Dina Titus (D-NV), who has been trying to repeal the tax for nearly a decade.

Last month, Titus weighed in on several national sports betting headlines, including reports of “unethical sports behavior in NCAA basketball.” She also expressed concern the issues could lead to federal oversight of sportsbook operators if the industry doesn’t take care of its matters.

“At this critical juncture, the regulated sports betting industry must adequately monitor integrity issues while providing protections for players,” Titus said in a statement.

Sports bettors stand in line to use the BetMGM sports betting kiosks at Mandalay Bay ahead of Super Bowl LVIII on Feb. 11, 2024. (Jeff Scheid/The Nevada Independent)

Sportsbook operators are aware of the unwanted attention.

The operators — DraftKings, FanDuel, BetMGM, ESPN Bet, Fanatics Sportsbook, Hard Rock Digital and bet365 — account for more than 85 percent of the revenue produced by legal online sports betting and online casinos in the U.S. The group has pledged to spend $20 million to fund ROGA efforts.

Only one of the seven companies, BetMGM, operates sports betting in Nevada. 

Shatley said the organization would focus on the online gaming industry — which includes not just the more than half of U.S. states where sports betting is legal but also the seven states where internet casinos are licensed. 

But she views the efforts as complementary to other responsible gaming organizations, such as the International Center for Responsible Gaming (ICRG) in Massachusetts, which was created by the gaming industry in 1996. The organization funds scientific research on gambling disorders and responsible gambling in the U.S.   

“We want to be collaborative, and help move the research forward,” Shatley said. “The resources that have been put forth to do so will help advance the field.”

Shatley, who researched responsible gaming for three years as part of the UNLV International Gaming Institute, spent 17 years overseeing responsible gaming and corporate compliance matters for Caesars Entertainment. Caesars Sportsbook is one of the largest sports betting operators that is not part of the coalition. 

An emailed statement provided by a Caesars Sportsbook spokesman noted the company has undertaken responsible gaming efforts for 35 years but did not say why it didn’t join ROGA.

A rendering shows a planned hotel tower and arena development, left, for the Marina Bay Sands in Singapore. The project is part of more than $3.3 billion in renovations and an expansion. (Courtesy Las Vegas Sands)

Sands planning 1,000-room hotel tower for Singapore resort

Nearly five years after announcing an ambitious upgrade to the Marina Bay Sands in Singapore, Las Vegas Sands Corp. unveiled expansion plans, which include a fourth hotel tower and a 15,000-seat entertainment venue. 

The project, expected to begin next year and be completed in 2029, includes expanding the resort’s conference facilities and adding new restaurants, but not adding casino space. Marina Bay Sands and Resorts World Sentosa are the only casinos in the island nation.

Sands is already spending $1.75 billion to remodel Marina Bay’s hotel rooms and suites in the three original towers. Two towers have been completed and work is underway on the third tower and the resort’s rooftop SkyPark.

Las Vegas Sands first announced the expansion in 2019, saying it would spend $3.3 billion on the Singapore resort in room and amenities enhancements while adding a 1,000-room hotel tower and event center. The new hotel tower also contains a rooftop SkyPark, a smaller version of the one that spans the roofs of the three original towers.

Marina Bay Sands opened in 2010 for $5.6 billion. Sands President Patrick Dumont said in a statement the investment was to “ensure Marina Bay Sands is ideally positioned to grow its economic, employment and visitorship contributions.”

Las Vegas Sands, which operates five resorts in Macau, remains headquartered in Las Vegas even though the company no longer has a licensed casino operation in the U.S. The company sold The Venetian, Palazzo and Venetian Expo on the Strip for $6.25 billion in 2022.

What I'm reading

Commentary - John Fisher’s legacy of failure in Oakland as A’s owner leaves with him — Scott Ostler in the San Francisco Chronicle

The longtime Bay Area sports columnist tees off on the A’s going to Sacramento for three years.

Workers sue to overturn law that exempts Atlantic City casinos from indoor smoking ban — Wayne Parry in The Associated Press

Employees believe the 18-year-old law that bans smoking everywhere except casinos is unconstitutional.

Inside the gambling ring linked to Ohtani — as told by two bettors themselves — David Wharton, Nathan Fenno in the Los Angeles Times

The gamblers blamed California’s lack of legal sports betting for sending them to an illegal bookie.

The Nugget Casino Resort in Sparks on March 10, 2023. (Tim Lenard/The Nevada Independent)

News, notes and quotes

Sparks Nugget a key to Century Casinos' profitability

Improving operations at the Nugget Casino in Sparks is critical to Century Casinos’ balance sheet, according to a note written by Stifel Financial gaming analyst Jeffrey Stantial. The Colorado-based company bought the Nugget last year for $195 million.

“Stabilization of Nugget Casino likely proving most critical amongst various growth drivers,” Stantial wrote.


ECL Gaming acquires Northern Nevada’s Bully’s Sports Bar chain

ECL Gaming, which is owned by Ron Winchell, is acquiring the 11 Bully’s Sports Bar & Grill locations in Reno, Sparks and Carson City. A sales price was not disclosed and the deal is contingent on Nevada regulatory approval. 

The deal marks Las Vegas-based ECL Gaming’s initial entry into Northern Nevada. The company operates 35 taverns in Southern Nevada, including Winchell’s Pub & Grill, Jackpot Joanies and Lucky 7’s. 

The company also has six casinos in Kentucky and New Hampshire and two racetracks in Kentucky. Bully’s employs 300 workers.


Avelo Airlines to launch service between Burbank and Vegas

Avelo Airlines will offer nonstop service between Harry Reid International Airport and Hollywood Burbank Airport beginning May 3. Flights will run on Fridays and Sundays.

Burbank is a smaller, popular airport for Southern Nevada residents visiting Southern California attractions, including the Los Angeles area and the San Fernando Valley.


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