The reels are always spinning in the gambling industry, and “The Double Down” is here every Friday to catch you up on all of the week’s biggest news. Sports Handle’s “Get a Grip” rounds up everything on the sports betting side, and US Bets provides the best of the rest: brick-and-mortar happenings, online casino developments, poker headlines, and more. So pull up a chair, crunch the numbers, and slide forward another stack of chips.
March Madness, April Insanity
Las Vegas has ceded the title of “Sports Betting Capital of the U.S.” — first to New Jersey, and now to New York. But it remains America’s gambling capital, and it’s inching toward becoming the capital city of major neutral-site sporting events as well
The 2007 NBA All-Star Game in Sin City didn’t exactly go smoothly, but the NBA has stayed the course with Summer League in Vegas for nearly two decades. The NFL kicked it up a notch by holding both this year’s Pro Bowl and NFL Draft in Vegas, will take the Pro Bowl back there in 2023, and will bring its diamond to the desert in 2024 when Allegiant Stadium hosts Super Bowl LVIII.
And over Thanksgiving week came the news that the NCAA men’s basketball Final Four is coming to Las Vegas on April 1 and 3, 2028. Sure, it’s more than five years away. But still — the ultimate college sporting event is headed to the ultimate dangerous city for those around the age of 21.
The 2028 #MFinalFour will be played in Las Vegas, NV!
— NCAA Men's Final Four (@MFinalFour) November 22, 2022
I’m not pooh-pooh-ing the idea, mind you. We’re a gambling industry publication, after all. I support the Final Four in Vegas. Do I have some reservations, particularly as a parent of two kids who will theoretically be a college senior and a college freshman in the spring of 2028? Sure. It’s reasonable to be at least mildly concerned about what that long weekend in Las Vegas is going to look like.
But regardless of anyone’s individual feelings on the idea of bringing the semifinals and finals of March Madness to Vegas, objectively you have to recognize this as a remarkable sign of how the times have changed and are continuing to change.
Legal sports betting is available in more states than it isn’t. Of the 50 states, 44 of them have at least one casino. The bright lights of Las Vegas, the dinging bells and clinking coins, the open containers on the streets carried by shirtless dudes and nearly shirtless women — it’s all a lot more normalized than it ever used to be. The Vegas aesthetic is spreading. In fact, thanks to the damage humanity has done to our ecosystem, you can go just about anywhere in the country during the summer and feel like you’re walking around Vegas!
So, yeah, Vegas will be crawling with college kids the first weekend of April 2028 — some of whom will be there primarily to watch basketball, and some of whom will be there for all that Las Vegas has to offer outside of basketball. One hopes the town will properly brace itself and take every imaginable precaution so we aren’t left with a slew of articles comparing the ’28 NCAA Final Four to the ’07 NBA All-Star Game.
This week on Gamble On …
Every Thursday, US Bets drops a new episode of the Gamble On podcast, and this week’s not only tackled such vital questions as “Is a thumb a finger?” but also welcomed Gold Derby Digital Director Christopher Rosen to share his insights on Academy Awards odds and whether Steven Spielberg’s third Best Director Oscar is a sure thing:
"If there is a lock for a winner [in any major Oscars category], it would be Steven Spielberg." @GoldDerby's @chrisjrosen stopped by #GambleOn this week to break down where the early betting value on the Academy Awards can be found: https://t.co/vPp8kKS7hm pic.twitter.com/PpPHnEfrYc
— US Bets (@US_Bets) December 2, 2022
Get ‘em thinking about RG while they’re young
What’s a half-trillion bucks in the grand scheme?
Mobilizing on mobile casino
The sport of (Draft)kings
Ad hawk decision
PAC formed to bring casino to Cedar Rapids
Supporters for a casino in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, are preparing for a fight in 2024 with the formation of a political action committee led by Pacific Peninsula Entertainment Jonathan Swain.
According to the Cedar Rapids Gazette, the Cedar Rapids Development Group PAC contributed $47,750 to Republican and Democratic candidates for the period ending Oct. 8, prior to the midterm elections. Linn County was twice denied a casino license by the Iowa Racing and Gaming Commission in 2014 and 2017, with efforts to deny the license led by Elite Casino Resorts CEO Dan Kehl, who operates a casino in nearby Riverside.
Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds signed a bill in May imposing a two-year moratorium shortly after Linn County announced it would again seek a license. The moratorium had the support of Iowa Gaming Association President Wes Ehrecke, who oversees the organization representing the state’s 19 commercial casinos.
— Chris Altruda
Hellmuth vs. Koon heads-up for $1.6M
If you don’t have the means to play poker for millions of dollars, the next best thing is watching other people play poker for millions of dollars. Next Wednesday, Dec. 7, PokerGO will stream the richest heads-up showdown in the history of the network’s High Stakes Duel series, when Phil Hellmuth and Jason Koon compete for a $1.6 million winner-take-all prize.
The poker world doesn’t have many more recognizable stars than 16-time World Series of Poker bracelet winner Hellmuth, a polarizing figure who embraces his “Poker Brat” nickname. The lesser-known Koon has been highly respected among poker hardcores since he made his first World Poker Tour final table in 2010, and he finally won his first WSOP bracelet in 2021 in the $25K Heads-Up No-Limit Hold ’Em Championship, so he knows a thing or two about one-on-one freezeouts.
Hellmuth has had tremendous success on High Stakes Duel since it debuted in 2020. If he beats Koon, he has the option to walk away with his winnings and his third High Stakes Duel championship belt. If Koon wins, the series continues with a $3.2 million matchup.
Hellmuth vs. Koon, taking place in the PokerGO Studio in Las Vegas, streams at 5 p.m. PT Wednesday.
— Eric Raskin
More from around the gaming biz
CASINO INDUSTRY TAKES AIM AT TEXAS: Army of gambling lobbyists descends on Austin as casinos seek to crack Texas market [Houston Chronicle]
POKER IN THE NEWS IN TEXAS, TOO: Judge to Dallas: Leave poker business alone while appeal happens [The Dallas Morning News]
NOT GOING WITH THE FLO: Magic City Casino sale to Native American tribe on hold [South Florida Sun-Sentinel]
VIRGINIA GROUNDBREAKING DAYS AWAY: $400M Bristol casino to break ground Dec. 7 [Virginia Business]
Noteworthy to see 888 as the latest European operator (following Kindred) tempering its expectations for US sports and instead focus on #iGaming.
Recall that just 17 months ago 888 agreed to an exclusive partnership with ABG to use the Sports Illustrated brand in the U.S. pic.twitter.com/vz5Eqk5Zkm
— Chris Lynch (@ChrisLynchNJ) November 30, 2022
LUCKY EAGLE, INDEED: Slot machine player wins more than $1M at Kickapoo Lucky Eagle Casino Hotel [KENS5.com]
FITZ AND STARTS: Fitz Casino & Hotel announces plans for renovation [Action News 5]
DOWNTOWN UPSWING: Downtown Las Vegas sets gaming-win record at $90 million [CDC Gaming Reports]
HOME OF THE RAVE: Hotel EDC coming to Las Vegas Strip [Las Vegas Review-Journal]
Image: Blundell Design