Casino operator Las Vegas Sands is belatedly tossing its hat into the US sports betting ring, upending the longstanding antagonism toward online gambling displayed by the company’s founder.
On Friday, Bloomberg quoted sources who claimed Sands president Rob Goldstein – now acting CEO/chairman after Sheldon Adelson went on medical leave – was having early talks with an unspecified number of prospective sports betting technology partners. Sands shares enjoyed a brief spike on the news but closed Friday down 0.4%.
Bloomberg didn’t identify any of Sands’ prospective partners, but suggested that the betting product that ultimately emerges could either be an existing platform with the Sands brand attached or a bespoke platform. Naturally, neither Sands nor Goldstein are saying anything to unmuddy these waters.
There is of course no reason to expend any effort trying to gain market share in the US sports betting market if you don’t have an online component. New Jersey, which surpassed Nevada last year to become America’s top betting state, derived 93.6% of November’s record $931.6m betting handle from its digital sportsbooks.
Sands has long offered sports betting at retail sportsbooks at its Venetian and Palazzo casinos in Las Vegas. The books are managed by William Hill US (now part of Sands rival Caesars Entertainment), which offers a mobile betting app in Nevada.
But that app bears no Sands branding, as Adelson has almost singlehandedly led the charge to prevent or delay the legalization of online gambling, regardless of its form. And while there is money to be made off online sports betting, it’s dwarfed by the money operators earn from online casinos (where such activity is permitted).
There’s also the small matter of market access, as Sands currently only has a US casino presence in Nevada (at least, for now). Online-only operators have obviously found ways into many US states but most states have a requirement to partner with a land-based gaming operator and there’s only so many online ‘skins’ to go around.
Sands does enjoy high brand recognition, but with a growing number of US states having already launched highly competitive betting markets, it’s anyone’s guess whether the brand would be enough to cut through the noise. Fortunately, Adelson is one of the world’s richest men, and he no longer needs to donate funds to keep Donald Trump in power, so he can afford a marketing blitz.