Mobile sportsbook apps a 'game changer' for bettors and bookies alike
4 Apr 2016
By Gary Trask
By Gary Trask
Over the last two years, however, Sevransky's time spent waiting in line at the betting counter or sitting behind the wheel of his car trying to get to the other end of the Strip to save a half-point has plummeted, thanks to the evolution of mobile sportsbook apps in Nevada.
"It's literally changed my life, and I don't say that as an exaggeration," said the 47-year-old, who moved to Vegas after graduating from the University of Michigan in 1998 to bet on sports as a professional. "All I can say is thank you Gaming Commission. Thank you sportsbook directors and thank you casino executives. You have saved me a ton of time, money and aggravation and, really, what's better than that?"
The convenience of mobile sportsbook apps isn't something that only bettors appreciate. The guys on the other side of the counter are just as pleased with the advancement in technology.
"It's a game-changer, for sure," said Jay Kornegay, vice president of race and sports operations at Westgate Las Vegas Resort & Casino, home of the world's largest sportsbook. "We're talking about providing value and convenience, two things that people really love. It's amazing to think that about six years ago, cell phones were actually not even allowed in sportsbooks. Now, we've done a 180. We encourage it. We want people to open an account."
While major operators William Hill US, CG Technology, Stations Casinos and Boyd Gaming have had mobile sportsbook apps available for nearly two years, another major player, MGM Resorts International, has yet to unveil an app, while Westgate and Wynn Las Vegas just introduced theirs in January — and the results have been very positive.
"We weren't the first to offer it, but from what we've heard so far, our customers are very comfortable using it. The response has exceeded expectations and it's made a huge impact on our numbers," said Kornegay. "We've always had one of the largest betting menus in town, and the fact that everything we offer at the book is available on the app is a big reason why it's been such a big hit. And we're not satisfied with the initial launch. We're already looking to enhance the product and make it an even bigger part of our operation."
"It's worked exactly as we had hoped," added John Avello, director of race and sports at the Wynn. "We've had zero issues and we've seen an increase in handle. We're a changing industry, and this has allowed us to keep up with it all. It's definitely been a huge positive for us."
A problem books are facing is that it seems many bettors are not aware that you don't have to be a Nevada resident to utilize the apps. As long as you are at least 21 years of age and within the state lines of Nevada (you are tracked by GPS and satellite) and can download it onto your phone, the app is completely functional.
For the sports betting fanatic visiting the city, the app not only saves time, but it also allows to shop for lines at various books without having to physically move. Yet during the first two days of March Madness, lines at the betting windows in Las Vegas books were so long that for most of the day it took an hour or more to place a bet. And many of the patrons Casino City spoke with were unaware that they could use the apps if they weren't a Nevada resident.
"We need to do a better job of educating the bettors," Kornegay admitted. "We're trying to get the word out and explain that this is such a great convenience and it's easy to use. We really think that once people try it, they won't go back to the old way of betting."
Kornegay's assessment appears to be spot-on if you consider how much of the handle the apps have become responsible for in Nevada. In 2015, 50% of race and sports wagers at William Hill US, which has more than 100 locations to open an account in Las Vegas and more than 300 to make a deposit, were taken via the mobile app. For CG Technology — which operates eight Las Vegas books, including The Cosmopolitan of Las Vegas, M Resort, Tropicana Las Vegas and The Venetian Las Vegas — that number is creeping toward an astounding 70%.
"We're still seeing more bets being taken over the counter, but the size of the wagers coming across the apps are much larger and that's why it's become such a huge percentage of the handle," explained Jason Simbal, CG Technology's vice president of risk management.
Simbal, like Kornegay, said he and his team are doing everything they can to entice guests to take the 10 minutes or so to open an account, including offering deposit bonuses.
"We have signage throughout our books, we've done radio ads and on busy weekends we have ambassadors walking around to inform everyone about the app," he said. "For days like during March Madness, it's a no-brainer because there are lines at the betting window that will be an hour long. That's a long time to stand in line to lose 50 bucks."
A no-brainer, indeed. But if you foresee a day when mobile apps make the sportsbooks obsolete, guess again. In recent months, casinos have made significant and exorbitant upgrades to their sportsbooks, making them a priority for the overall guest experience.
"We just put $13 million into our SuperBook. The technology in here is second to none and we're as busy as ever," Kornegay said. "We're in the midst of a sports betting boom, and the apps are simply enhancing the entire experience."
"The apps don't replace the sportsbook, they just augment the experience," pointed out Sevransky, who said he still spends a good amount of time in the sportsbooks, mostly for future bets and for the atmosphere. "There is still nothing like a Las Vegas sportsbook. It can't be replaced and I don't think it ever will."