Sports betting ruling: Las Vegas threat, or opportunity?


The Westgate Superbook is a couple thousand miles from the U.S. Supreme Court, but Ari and Michael were mulling over the high court's latest decision.

Sports betting could become legal. Everywhere.

“I don't see why not. It's fine. It's okay. I don't see nothing wrong with it,” sportsbook regular Michael Scardicchio told News 3.

“I think it's long overdue. I mean, I don't see why it was ever illegal, to be honest,” his friend, Ari Frank, added.

Monday, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled unconstitutional a 1992 law that confined legalized sports betting to Nevada and a handful of other states.

The big question here: Is this a threat or an opportunity?

For local companies that run sports books, they see this as a good day.

RELATED | Supreme Court makes sports betting a possibility nationwide

“A business that's on the legal side, largely been confined to the state of Nevada, is going to be spreading to other parts of the country, as it should,” says Joe Asher, the CEO of William Hill in the U.S., which operates 108 race and sports books in Nevada.

The decision allows Nevada operators to expand because they have the built-in expertise to do it.

“We view it as an opportunity. We've been preparing for this for quite a long time now,” says Jay Kornegay, the vice president of Race and Sports Operations at Westgate. “We’re looking to expand our brand and looking to operate in other jurisdictions, and that’s what we’re going to do.”

In Nevada, legal sports betting brings in millions. Last year, the "win" - the amount sportsbooks kept from gamblers - was $249 million, a small percentage of the state’s overall $11.6 billion gaming win in 2017.

Still, could nationwide legalization keep some of that $249 million away?

UNLV's Dave Schwartz says history has a lesson.

“I think if you look at the history of poker, as people started betting on poker, as people started betting on poker around the country more, and online more, it actually helped Nevada poker, and revenues about tripled,” Schwartz said.

And, the thinking goes, the spread of sports books could bring us new customers.

“For them to get the full experience, what do they have to do? They have to come to Las Vegas,” says Westgate’s Kornegay.

The biggest loser in all of this may be the nation’s estimated $150 billion illegal sports wagering market. Monday's decision allows states to get in on that action.

“Today’s ruling makes it possible for states and sovereign tribal nations to give Americans what they want: an open, transparent, and responsible market for sports betting,” said the American Gaming Association, the industry’s foremost trade group, in a statement.

States without a legalized gaming infrastructure now face the task of constructing one quickly.

“The Nevada Gaming Control Board is the gold standard for legal, regulated sports betting,” the GCB said today in a statement supporting the high court ruling. “In the coming months, as individual states decide whether or not to authorize legalized sports betting, and embark on their own regulatory frameworks, the Nevada Gaming Control Board looks forward to acting as a resource and sharing our model with other jurisdictions.”

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