Things are changing dramatically in the sports betting world. Online sportsbooks and mobile wagering apps are sweeping the nation. With the launch of online sports betting in Maryland last week, what does that mean for physical sportsbooks?
Physical sportsbooks provide social interactions
Maryland online sportsbooks debuted on Nov. 23 with seven initial sportsbook apps launching on day one:
With this new age of wagering on sports from the comfort of your home, where does that leave physical sportsbooks? What happens to the experience of actually going to a sportsbook, watching games on a seemingly endless number of screens, and sitting in a giant recliner alongside fellow sports enthusiasts?
The answer to that lies in the basic appeal of these sportsbooks. The attraction of betting in person goes beyond the ability to wager on the games being played. It’s the social aspect of gambling on games that attracts bettors to casino sportsbooks.
This environment has the potential to create euphoria with so many people deeply invested in the outcome of events. That experience is not easily replicated without attending a game in person.
Food & drinks enhance the betting experience
At the MGM National Harbor, you can book a table at the MGM Sportsbook and Lounge. While there, order food and drinks while watching the games readily available to bet on. For many, that is far more enjoyable than staying at home and wagering on games from the couch.
At Live! Casino & Hotel Maryland, there’s a FanDuel Sportsbook conveniently next to Sports & Social. At S&S, they serve food and drinks and run promotions for sports wagering players. Their “social hour” is essentially their happy hour. From Monday through Thursday between 5 and 7 p.m., S&S features food and drink specials, including $4 domestic beers, $6 house wines and $5 call cocktails.
Several physical sportsbooks also offer betting promotions to attract players.
Even if Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan estimates that 80% to 90% of wagers will be made through digital sportsbooks, that does not mean they will take bettors directly from retail sportsbooks. People will always long for community and a place they feel comfortable among people who are there for the same reason.
Plus, players can now wager directly from their phones at these physical sportsbooks. That mean’s they’re no longer stuck wagering on a single retail book while at a casino. Players can use their mobile devices to compare odds from DraftKings MD, Caesars Sportsbook MD or any other Maryland sports betting app that’s currently live.
Effort underway to redesign retail sportsbooks
There is a new push to reimagine physical sportsbooks by several entities in the gaming industry. Jessica Feil, vice president of regulatory affairs and compliance at OpenBet, recently told Gaming Today that retail sportsbooks are looking to enhance the overall user experience.
“It depends on the property and their customers and what they are trying to accomplish with setting up this retail sportsbook. But really, we think that if you are trying to drive foot traffic into your property, this is a great way to do it. We have always heard from the Las Vegas sportsbooks that it is really more of an amenity than a gaming vertical. And I think that is true.”
She said sportsbooks would do well to further consider the social aspect.
“So, think of it as an amenity where you can create this sportsbook of the future – maybe more like an Apple Genius Bar than an old-world sportsbook that is going to get new consumers on your property that probably are not coming there to play other games – giving them an experience that they are looking for in a social way, and then expose them to the other products that you offer.”
Even with some states seeing as much as 95% or more of total sports bets coming from online wagering apps, there still seems to be an understanding in the industry that retail locations still remain useful — even more so if reinvented.