When you have Las Vegas within your borders, you’re entitled to believe that you’re the world’s premier destination when it comes to placing bets of any kind. People take long international flights to come to Las Vegas and place a bet in a casino, and it’s known all over the planet at the global gambling capital. For many years it was the only place in America where you could place a bet and not worry about the long arm of the law coming down on your shoulder. So why is it that it’s now slipped so far behind New Jersey when it comes to sports betting?
Nevada and its lawmakers weren’t especially concerned when the US Supreme Court opened the doors for every other state in the USA to offer sports betting to their citizens if they wished to do so. The Nevada monopoly on gambling was such that, perhaps arrogantly with the benefit of hindsight, nobody expected Nevada to be adversely affected. The state was the first in the country to offer sports betting, and had a better network and infrastructure to be able to offer it to customers than any other. It was thought that even if another state were ever able to catch up, it would take them years.
As we all now know, that hasn’t been the case. New Jersey hit the ground running with sports betting and has never slowed down, and it’s pulling in comfortably more than Nevada with every passing month. If it were just the case that Nevada’s betting levels were remaining static while New Jersey’s were forging ahead, that would be one thing, but that isn’t what’s happening. Less money is being spent in Nevada than ever before. This year, the total amount of money bet on the Super Bowl in Nevada was $154.7m. That’s down from 2018. In New Jersey, it’s thought that the figure was close to $270m. That isn’t just a defeat – that’s a complete humiliation.
Most experts are at a loss as to why this is happening, but that hasn’t stopped two or three theories from being kicked around. One of them is that people simply don’t need to go to Vegas to place their bets anymore, and so they aren’t doing so. The more gambling laws become relaxed, the less reason there is to take a trip away from a home city or state to go to Vegas and make an event of it. People can now place a stake on a betting terminal down the road, or a convenient tribal-owned casino not far from where they live. More crucially, in a lot of places, they can also place a bet using their computer or mobile phones, and some of the industry’s most respected voices are saying this is where Nevada – and Las Vegas in particular – is beginning to show its age.
Currently, if someone wants to register to place sports bets online in Nevada, they have to visit a designated retail sportsbook in person and sign up for the right to do so. In New Jersey, registration can be done online, and people can usually place a bet within minutes of completing the registration process. Compared to New Jersey, Las Vegas’s system feels archaic and needlessly obstructive. That isn’t the only area of online betting where Vegas is falling down either.
Online gambling isn’t illegal in Las Vegas. You can play online poker to your heart’s content. What you can’t do is play online slots, and that’s a real issue. Online slots are increasingly becoming the most popular casino games on websites like UKOnlineSlots.com, and yet you can’t play them in the state that’s most famous for gambling. We suspect that part of the reason for this is that the casinos of Vegas don’t want competition from online slots websites, but it poses a problem for Vegas in terms of attracting people into placing bets in the first place. In some cities and states, potential customers will come to a website for the online slots that they offer and then stay for the other casino games. Eventually, they’ll find their way to an online sportsbook, and the website has a customer for life.
As Nevada couldn’t accept registrations from citizens of New Jersey even if it wanted to, and New Jersey can’t directly steal customers from Nevada, the disparity in the way that online gamblers are treated can’t completely explain why New Jersey is currently on top of the pile when it comes to sports bets. It does, perhaps, explain why NJ has been able to rise so high so quickly, though. By being so open to people wanting to place bets, it’s more customer-friendly, and therefore it’s easier for people to place their bets and spend their money in the state. By forcing people to register in person and not allowing them to play online slots, Nevada may actually be leaving money on the table from people who might want to play spots, or might want to place a sports bet on the spur of the moment, but aren’t able to do so.
Las Vegas isn’t exactly in financial difficulty. It’s still the entertainment capital of the world, and it’s still making billions of dollars each year. It will, however, stick in the throat of many people involved in the city’s gambling industry that it’s currently getting the rough end of the stick from New Jersey, and so it’s likely that position won’t be tolerated for long. Vegas has survived for this long on a tradition of glitz, glamour, and timeless entertainment, but even the most timeless of places need the occasional new idea every now and then. Perhaps it’s time that someone with the power to do so took another look at the laws as they relate to online gambling, and give the question of whether those laws might be doing more harm than good some deep thought. We suspect the casinos of downtown Vegas would love to be able to offer their games to players through the internet. In 2020, there seems to be very little reason not to let them.