The Online Bet: Casino Operators Double Down on Digital Platforms
As was the case in other industries, last year was devastating to brick-and-mortar casino operators. As the pandemic forced physical locations to shut, gambling revenues plummeted – from $43.63 billion in 2019 to $29.98 billion in 2020, according to market research provider Statista. Online platforms, unsurprisingly, fared much better, particularly once collegiate and professional sporting competitions resumed.
Things are picking up this year, with market research firm IBISWorld calculating a 16% uptick so far in 2021 – much of which is fueled by online betting while many Americans continue to eschew brick-and-mortar casinos. Here are some of the largest online gambling and casino gaming companies to watch this year.
Sports betting is another growth area for the industry. A study by online gaming outlet PlayUSA that tracked the regulated sports betting market in the U.S. concluded that this coming football season could triple the estimated $7.5 billion bet on football during the 2020 campaign. Underscoring the popularity of sports betting, gambling platform FanDuel, a subsidiary Flutter Entertainment Plc (Tii:PDYPF), kicked off a national advertising campaign this month. The National Football League has partnered with these betting platforms, permitting NFL signage in marketing campaigns and allowing up to six sportsbooks to air commercials during games.
FanDuel’s major competitor DraftKings Inc. (Tii:DKNG), is also expanding its platform. The digital sports entertainment and gaming company recently brought its fantasy sports product to Arizona, making the Grand Canyon State the 44th to offer DraftKings Daily Fantasy Sports. DraftKings is even getting into the digital collectibles market, launching DraftKings Marketplace, an international NFT ecosystem. Introduced in mid-August, DraftKings offered digital collectibles featuring NFL quarterback Tom Brady and hockey great Wayne Gretzky.
Significant growth in the Asian markets combined with continued challenges in the U.S. prompted Las Vegas Sands Corp. (Tii:LVS) to begin selling off properties in Sin City to focus on the Asian markets. For Sands, the move makes sense. The casino operator generated about 90% of its revenue from its Asian properties before the pandemic. On the heels of a brutal 2020 in which Sands posted a $1.688 billion net loss and revenues plummeted more than 73% to $3.61 billion from $13.73 billion in 2019, the casino operator is looking at sports betting and other digital gambling options to boost revenues. Though a bit late to the game, the casino operator is preparing to enter the online gaming space, announcing it established a new digital gaming investment team.
Unlike Sands, MGM Resorts International (Tii:MGM) plans to continue its U.S. operations while expanding its global reach. Like others in its space, 2020 was a challenging year for MGM, which posted a 60% decline in consolidated net revenues compared to 2019. MGM is also placing its bets in the online space, ramping up technical and marketing efforts for BetMGM, its online betting platform. BetMGM, which launched in Wyoming on September 1, is now available in 14 U.S. markets. As a result of these efforts, management attributed improved second-quarter results partially to BetMGM’s strong performance as the number two operator nationwide.
The self-proclaimed global leader in gaming and hospitality, Caesars Entertainment Inc. (Tii:CZR) boasts more than 50 properties in the U.S. and abroad that operate under the Caesars, Harrah’s, Horseshoe, and Eldorado brands. As with MGM Resorts, Caesars is looking to benefit from increased betting with online platforms, expanding its online presence by launching Caesars Sportsbook in Colorado, Indiana, Iowa, Michigan, New Jersey, Tennessee, Virginia, and West Virginia. As the official casino sponsor and an official sports betting partner of the NFL, Caesar’s also looks to cash in on the rising popularity of online sports betting. Since the company’s $18 billion merger with Eldorado Resorts, Caesars has gone into expansion mode, acquiring international online betting company William Hill for about $3.7 billion.
While physical casinos – particularly in destination cities – are likely to continue for the foreseeable future, online betting appears to be capturing an increasing portion of the gambling pie. Although online betting is only legal in a handful of states, more are added to the pipeline regularly. This growth potential makes online gambling platforms a significant opportunity to complement physical casinos.