When Circa Sports opened for business at the Golden Gate Casino in June 2019, the small sportsbook took up only 1,300 square feet — tiny when compared to the company’s three-level, 1,000-seat flagship facility at Circa Casino Resort on the opposite side of the Fremont Street Experience that would open 16 months later.
Size wasn’t a concern.
Golden Gate owner Derek Stevens told ESPN’s David Purdum his newly launched Circa sports betting operation needed to make a statement in a crowded market. The sportsbook took in $800,000 in wagers on opening day because Stevens didn’t charge customers vigorish — a fee placed on wagers.
The result? Circa lost roughly $100,000 over 24 hours.
In the four years since launching, Circa Sports hasn’t changed its business plan.
The company still offers unlimited mobile and retail sportsbook wagering opportunities including at the company’s three downtown casinos, two satellite locations at casinos in Las Vegas and Henderson and the Circa sportsbook at Legends Bay in Sparks.
“We’re excited about where we’re positioned in Nevada,” said Mike Palm, vice president of gaming operations at Circa, D Las Vegas and Golden Gate. All three casinos are owned by a privately held company owned by Stevens and his brother, Greg.
“We’ve stuck with the business model that is all about the low hold/high volume approach and taking bets from everybody,” Palm said. “That, coupled with the great retail experience [at Circa] and the success we’ve built with our mobile app, we’ve been able to gain market share pretty steadily in the last four years.”
Circa has moved outside of Nevada with mobile sports betting in Colorado and Iowa and will soon open a sportsbook and mobile wagering in Illinois through Full House Resorts’ casino north of Chicago.
Unlike other states with legal sports betting, Nevada gaming regulators don’t break out the sports betting market share by individual companies, instead only providing overall totals.
Through May, Nevada sportsbooks this year have collected almost $3.6 billion in sports wagers — a decline of 9 percent from 2022, and revenue of $198 million, up 16.4 percent. Mobile sports betting accounts for almost 65 percent of all sports wagers.
Southern California-based advisory firm Eilers & Krejcik Gaming has been able to calculate through its own research Nevada’s sports betting landscape, which is dominated by Caesars Sportsbook and its William Hill U.S. subsidiary. The firm said Caesars captured 56.2 percent of the state’s sports betting revenue during the past three months, followed by BetMGM with 12.3 percent.
Image: Derek Stevens CEO of Circa Resort & Casino
In the last year, Eilers & Krejcik said Circa has been either Nevada’s third or fourth largest sports betting provider, alternating spots with the Red Rock Resorts-owned STN Sports. In the past three months, Circa has collected 10.8 percent of Nevada’s sports betting revenue.
But between May 2022 and May 2023, Circa accounted for 11.6 percent of Nevada sports betting revenue, trailing BetMGM by just 1.1 percent.
“Circa is playing something of a different game to most operators, with its high limit, low hold model versus the feature-rich single game parlay-heavy approach of [the] leading operators,” said Eilers & Krejcik analyst Chris Krafcik.
The other Nevada-specific sports betting dynamic is the absence of DraftKings and FanDuel, the nation’s two leading sports betting operators. Because the state requires in-person registration at a sportsbook to open a mobile account, the companies have shied away from Nevada.
Krafcik said the rule “provides a natural advantage for incumbents with larger retail footprints. That dynamic has clearly helped Caesars/William Hill maintain a commanding top-line lead.”
The lack of DraftKings and FanDuel, which Krafcik said could be “disruptors” in a state “vulnerable to disruption,” has allowed companies such as Circa to carve out their slice of the market.
Satellite locations at The Pass Casino in Henderson and the off-Strip Tuscany on East Flamingo Road allow Circa to acquire new online customers through sign-ups and serve as “deposit centers” for mobile accounts.
Palm said Tuscany might be second to Circa’s flagship sportsbook for mobile sports wagering deposits.
“Mobile business is obviously where it’s at. It’s a huge factor in what we do.” Palm said.
In an interview last September, Stevens said having a sportsbook at Legends Bay gave Circa a foothold in Northern Nevada and would attract business from Northern California — a state that does not have legal sports betting.
Next week, Circa is holding a sign-up effort at Legends Bay for its two professional football contests with a prize pool of $14 million. The casino didn’t open until Aug. 30 last year and Circa missed out on the early sign-ups for the football contests.
“Derek has been advertising in the San Francisco, Oakland and San Jose markets in trying to get our name out there,” Palm said. “At this point, it’s still an untapped market in Northern Nevada.”
Source: The Nevada Independent
Preview image: Courtesy of Circa Resort and Casino