With online poker and online sports betting both legalized and available to persons in Nevada, the focus is now on whether online casinos will be next on the list.
To some, it may seem rather odd that the epicenter of gambling, Las Vegas, does not allow residents or visitors to play online casino games legally. The reason is that it’s feared online casinos will have a damaging impact on the highly lucrative land-based industry, which reported total revenues of close to $22 billion in 2019.
Wouldn’t casinos make better profits online?
Of course, the cost of launching and maintaining a new online casino is a mere fraction compared to that of a land-based venue, so from the perspective of an operator, it seems like a great idea.
However, it’s not as black and white as it may appear. First of all, research carried out in 2018 by the UNLV’s Center for Gaming Research showed that on average, Las Vegas casino visitors spent $434.70 a day, but only $149.29 was on gambling. That means that other attractions – not related to gambling – generated $285.41 a day (approx. 65.5%).
Clearly, times have changed, and visitors no longer come to Las Vegas purely to gamble away their savings. For many, it is for the experience of being in Sin City, which is vibrant and full of life under its umbrella of neon lights. It’s subjective as to whether the aura and the energy of the world-famous Vegas Strip would change if online gambling were legalized in the state. Regardless as to whether you go there to gamble or not, the sights of half-empty casinos would, in our opinion, suck some of the life and soul out of the city.
The wider economy
Prior to Covid-19, Nevada casinos directly employed between 160,000 and 170,000 people. It’s fair to say that the number of employees that are indirectly connected to the industry is far higher than that. If a move to online casino gambling were to happen, what consequences would there be for the micro economy if the number of visitors to the Strip started to decline?
Many people, including the Nevada Gaming Policy Committee, believe that both land-based and online casinos can thrive in the Mecca of gambling. They cite the evolution of New Jersey’s successful online casino and sports betting sector and the limited effects it has had on Atlantic City casinos and resorts.
The new normal
No one knows what impact Covid-19 will have on Las Vegas in the future, with things like social distancing, maximum capacity of venues and other health and safety protocols being put in place. Could this be the catalyst for the online switch to be given the green light?
Interestingly, the regulatory framework has been in place since 2013, when the state legalized online poker. Therefore, it’s simply a matter of the Governor and his team authorizing it.