Gaming Expansion Efforts Win Across the U.S.
While we anxiously await the winner of the presidential election and several Congressional races, ballot measures across the United States left no room for uncertainty about the appetite for gaming expansion. Below, The Innovation Group's Brian Wyman, senior vice president of operations and data analytics, breaks down these victories and their implications.
Colorado: Passed Amendment 77, allowing voters in Black Hawk, Central City, and Cripple Creek to remove the $100 bet limit and to authorize new types of casino games. With Colorado casino towns nearly an hour's drive from Denver, having a $100 bet limit, and offering no Asian games, it makes nearly as much sense for high rollers in that area to hop on a quick flight to Las Vegas as it does to drive up the mountain, particularly in inclement weather. With the removal of bet limits and expansion of games, look for Black Hawk's resorts to lead the way in renovation and revitalization of their high limit space, with a particular emphasis on Baccarat. Not only will the small-portfolio casinos look to capture the higher end player from Denver, those with a national loyalty program and presence - Caesars and Penn National, in particular - will want to leverage the attractiveness of a mountain getaway as a benefit for their out-of-market VIPs.
Louisiana: Voters in most of Louisiana's parishes passed a (parish-by-parish) ballot measure authorizing sports betting. Nearly all Louisiana parishes, including those housing the state's casinos, approved sports betting on Tuesday's ballot. This has seemed inevitable for some time, with Mississippi, Arkansas, and Tennessee having live sports betting, but the effort now returns to the legislature to develop a distribution strategy, regulations, and taxation. Expect this to be a slow process. Regardless, this should be a boon to operators in the sports-heavy state, where casinos have faced headwinds recently due to everything from smoking bans and gaming expansion in neighboring states to an outsized impact from COVID-19 and a seemingly never-ending string of disastrous hurricanes.
Maryland: Voted "yes" on Ballot Question 2, legalizing sports betting at racetracks, casinos, and RFK stadium. Surrounded by states (and a district) with sports betting, it was only a matter of time before Maryland, too, joined the club. Interestingly, Maryland racetracks throughout the state are located very near casinos, so a sports bettor may not have a geographic reason to choose the local racetrack or the local casino. Watch for an arms race to develop between casino and racetrack sports betting experiences in an effort to gain market share.
Nebraska: Voted "Yes" on Initiatives 429, 430, and 431, allowing gambling at racetracks in six cities. Racetracks in South Sioux City, Lincoln, Omaha, Columbus, Hastings, and Grand Island will be permitted to conduct casino-style gaming at their facilities. This is a blow to the Caesars and Penn National casinos in Council Bluffs, Iowa, just a stone's throw across the Missouri river from Omaha. Look for the Iowa side of the river to respond swiftly with renovations and aggressive marketing, and by leveraging sports betting, which is for now still a no-go in Nebraska. In tribal news, the Winnebago Tribe's economic development arm is the owner and operator of Atokad Park in South Sioux City, one of the tracks that will be allowed to offer gaming.
South Dakota: Passed Constitutional Amendment B, authorizing sports betting in the city of Deadwood. Deadwood, besides being a damn good HBO show, is a small former Gold Rush town in western South Dakota, famously turned into a gambling town in the late 1980s before regional gaming proliferated across the U.S. Sports betting will be legal in the town now, but more significantly this should open sports betting up to the many tribal casinos across the state.
Virginia: Voters in Danville, Bristol, Norfolk, and Portsmouth approved Casinos in ballot measures. In 2019, Virginia passed legislation to authorize five casinos in southern Virginia, in the cities named above as well as Richmond, pending local voter approval. Retail and mobile sports betting were also authorized. Casinos in these locations, per analysis conducted by The Innovation Group, would bring approximately $1B in gaming revenue and $260M in gaming tax to the commonwealth. Partnerships with major casino operators already have been announced, and development is likely to begin soon. With the state's wealth concentrated in the D.C. suburbs, keep an eye on the performance and public perception of these downstate casinos as they may drive a future decision about a northern Virginia casino and an attempt to repatriate the substantial casino spend from that area currently flowing into Maryland.