Vegas. It is the world’s favorite gambling mecca and a huge tourism destination for both international and domestic travelers.
It’s one of those places that we’ve grown up within the movies, glamorized and revered, a glittering oasis in the Nevada desert. However, gambling practices are changing globally. What was once a very on-premise practice is now more diversified, with gambling now spilling out of casinos and onto our screens.
The rise of online gambling
Online gambling has been around as long as we have had the internet readily available. It has come a long way since it once lurked in text, on message boards, with rudimentary cyber-bookies doing deals. One of the first “internet gambling” types of businesses were basic sports betting websites. These businesses were set up in places where phone betting was legal (for instance, Antigua). They fronted with websites displaying odds, websites developed to promote to US audiences – and thus have incoming US bets placed over the phone.
Already there were casino games that you could purchase for use on your PC – without real money to be made, mind you – but then there was the power of the internet, where we could suddenly play across state and international borders. It was 1994 and the internet was still young, but already there was a hint of its intrinsic future in the world of gambling.
Now, of course, internet gambling is widespread across the world, even though many of its various forms are illegal in many jurisdictions. In some countries, it is illegal altogether, in others it is loosely or strictly regulated, and still others cobbled together in a mish-mash of laws, that even differ in whether the wording for games should include ‘No Deposit Bonus Codes’. However, in the US at least, with the repeal of PASPA now finalized, we are going to see some changes afoot in terms of the future of gambling.
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States are now allowed to set their own sports betting legislation
With the introduction of sports betting as a state matter, now every state in the US has the ability to introduce their own sports betting legislation – and this may well include online sports betting as well as on-premise sports betting at racetracks, casinos, or other betting establishments.
Sports betting has always been a big drawcard for Vegas. You can even stay in The Hardwood Suite at the Palms, with its full indoor basketball court. How will Vegas be affected when other states are allowed to have sports betting too?
Of course, now that PASPA has settled, it is likely to give rise to putting a closer eye to other types of online betting legislation. The UIGEA or Unlawful Internet Gambling Enforcement Act (2006) disallows accepting payments in bets or wagers using the internet. However, this is all but moot (as far as sports betting is concerned, at least) now that PASPA has been overturned.
We could well see a complete reform on online gambling rules as a whole on the horizon, after this initial sports betting spark. It’s definitely something to think about, and it’s definitely something for Vegas to think about.
How does online gambling reform have the ability to upend Vegas?
In the US, if you want to gamble, you go to Vegas. Well, sure, you could go to a handful of other spots, too, but for most, Vegas is it. There is something for everyone in Vegas and you don’t always have to spend the big bucks to have a good time. You can sit yourself in front of penny slots all day if you wish, or you can go to the $1000 tables – Vegas really does cater to all gambling tastes.
Not only does it have a dizzying casino gaming offering, it’s also home to some huge sports betting ventures, like the world’s largest race and sports SuperBook, the Westgate Superbook. The Westgate boasts the world’s largest indoor LED TV and over 400 seats.
Is one of the biggest drawcards in Vegas about to be its biggest loser? Vegas’s sports betting action is likely to take a hit from other states now offering their own sports betting services. No longer will people have to travel to Vegas to go on a sports betting binge – they will be able to potentially do it in their own state, and potentially even from their own living room.
And what happens if online gambling, in general, gets opened up? When people are able to bet anywhere and anytime, surely it will have an impact on revenues for Vegas casinos?
While this is no doubt true, Vegas has seen the writing on the wall for years. Online gambling has steadily grown globally over the past 20+ years, and the shift towards digital is massive.
Vegas has been changing
Although Vegas was once known specifically for gambling, its image has shifted over the years. The Vegas strip resorts now promote their luxurious suites, state of the art mega-clubs with EDM DJs, fine dining experiences, world-class shows, and stunning pools and grounds. Sure, if you want to gamble, it’s there, too – but gambling is now taking a back seat in Vegas.
While Vegas has always been about spending those dollars, instead of in the casinos, it’s now on everything else. In 2017, gaming revenue accounted for 42.4% of overall revenues, with 57.6% attributed to non-gaming revenues. This is a figure that has been steadily rising year on year.
Vegas is positioned as an escape, a holiday, a place to blow off steam while doing things in style. While fancy casinos were once the epitome of class and sophistication – think casinos in movies with well-dressed women dripping off the arms of a man hot on his luck at a table – tastes have changes, and other things now hold higher regard in terms of “what’s desirable”
So what is desirable? These days, it’s about poppin’ bottles in the club, rubbing shoulders with the rich and famous showing off your tan at the pool, feasting with friends in amazing restaurants, having the best hotel room. While gambling still is seen as a fun activity, it’s no longer a part of that super-glam repertoire – and Vegas knows it.
How will online gambling transform Vegas even more?
Vegas will always have gambling at its heart. You can never forget your past. However, it’s now more than ever an experiential playground for adults to escape to. You can now rent out the outrageous super-villas that were once only gifted to the biggest celebs. You can now visit huge spa suites for a girls’ weekend and indulge in luxe treatments all day with the price tag to match. Vegas has always sold an image, but the image that it’s selling has transformed.
Luckily for those in charge, they are clued into the trends in spends. When gambling was no longer generating the type of profits they needed, it was time to focus on something else. While gambling profits in the city are still moderately rising, there are now people coming to Vegas and skipping the casinos completely. With online gambling readily available customers might spend even less on the casino floors. Coming up with innovative luxury experiences to sell people instead is what is going to drive the dollars in Vegas if it wishes to keep its crown as one of the top holiday destinations in the world.