In a recent series of articles on the Tribal view of sports wagering, we learned that there’s no consensus amongst Tribes nationwide regarding the sports wagering opportunity. Some have open arms while others see it as a threat, not an opportunity. One great unifier? The desire for and enforcement of gaming exclusivity.
In advance of the discussion, “Tribal View: How Do Tribes See The Sports Betting Opportunity,” Sports Handle spoke with two of the panel’s speakers, Sheila Morago, Executive Director of the Oklahoma Indian Gaming Association, and Brian Wyman, Senior Vice President, Operations & Data Analytics for the Innovation Group.
The following interviews have been edited lightly for brevity and clarity.
Sports Handle (SH) What do you think is the biggest factor tribes are weighing in whether or not to embrace sports betting?
Sheila Morago (SM): I think it is the business decision of whether or not it is worth the investment. As we all know the profit margin is low and weighing that against opening up compacts is the big question. Is it worth the political battle to open up those compacts for sports betting?
Brian Wyman (BW): I think tribes are embracing sports betting, so long as they are included in the process. Aside from compact issues – and generally we hear that tribes don’t want to open up the compacts – the factors we’re hearing most about from tribal operators are:
- Market potential – How much is it actually worth?
- Integration – Does this make sense with our clientele? How can we best integrate it into the property (full Vegas-style sportsbook, kiosks, dedicated F&B, etc.)?
- Volatility – How do we manage risk and mitigate daily swings in the revenue stream?
- Partnerships – How do we navigate the partner landscape? Should we even be partnering or should we develop the expertise in house?
These are tricky questions, and the answers are unique to each tribal/casino circumstance. I really don’t think that tribes are at all reluctant to embrace sports betting. Rather, like all operators, they have a lot of difficult questions to consider and aren’t always sure where to look for the answers.
SH: In what way might sports betting upset existing tribal-state compacts?
SM: It will be different in every state. It ranges from having a compact with no sunset clause and not revenue sharing to explicit language that bars new forms of gaming with extensive penalties on both sides. Many compacts are up for renewal and you can be sure that sports betting will be a big part of those negotiations.
SH: Is there a possibility that sports betting could engage a separate demographic that otherwise might not patronize a casino?
BW: We’ve actually done some survey research on this. Sports betting definitely will engage a new demographic. Your prototypical slot player is a 55-year-old woman while your prototypical sports bettor is a 35-year-old man. It’s a far younger and more male demographic.
SH: Since PASPA was struck, are tribal gaming leaders in general more interested in the sports betting opportunity or as they’ve learned more, less interested?
SM: I would say a little of both. Again it all depends on their specific compacts and what they would have to do to get it approved.
SH: In which state (perhaps Connecticut, Minnesota, Oklahoma) is there the greatest interest amongst the tribes to move forward and integrate sports betting?
SM: Good question. I think the better question is which states have an easier path to get sports betting. Tribes are all interested in new forms of gaming but the path to get it is different everywhere. So I would think that the easier the path the more interest there would be.
BW: I think there’s interest in a lot of places. Connecticut, Minnesota, and Oklahoma are prominent in the news. New York appears to be moving, which will have implications for all tribes. The revenue potential in California is huge as well, and tribes are a big part of the gaming landscape there, but the question has to go to the voters in 2020.
SH: What are some newer ways operators can use data and analytics to enhance their operations and casino experiences?
BW: Two things come to mind. Gaming companies are blessed with a lot of clean and rich sources of data, but we are often resource-constrained when it comes time to analyze them. First, automation is really important right now. Operators should invest in getting core enterprise push-button reporting up and running so they can ask and answer their own questions quickly instead of waiting for their request to bubble up to the top of an analyst’s queue.
Second, loyalty and database marketing programs drive a lot of value, and with all of the data at our disposal, it’s possible to be really surgical in their design and implementation. As an industry, we often don’t invest enough up front in structuring these programs well.
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