In June, the Supreme Court of the United States announced it will hear New Jersey’s appeal challenging the Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act (PASPA), which bans sports betting outside Nevada. The case is a nail in the coffin to the failing federal sports betting ban that has allowed an unregulated, illegal market to swell to a conservatively estimated $150 billion annually.
Depending on the court’s ruling, in the not-too-distant future, states across the country could have the opportunity to decide whether sports betting is right for them—meaning a piece of Las Vegas could be closer to players across the country.
But what does this mean for Las Vegas—and for that matter, Nevada’s tourism industry? Could taking sports betting and legalizing it across the country give tourists less of a reason to visit the Strip?
As the nation’s premier travel and tourism destination, Las Vegas already offers legalized sports betting. The roughly $4.5 billion legal market within Nevada is one of many attractions that draws in tourists from across the world. During March Madness and the Super Bowl, where fans wager hundreds of millions of dollars—and billions more illegally—Nevada’s population swells as visitors come from all over the world to experience the Big Game and the tournament from a sports book. However, while they’re in town, they often experience all the other things the city offers.
What makes Las Vegas unique—and what continues to draw millions of travelers to the city each year—is the myriad of entertainment options for tourists and convention space for the business sector. In addition to sports betting and gaming, premier resorts in the city offer fine dining, world-class entertainment and shopping. Some of these resorts also have convention space large enough for some of the world’s top trade shows. Las Vegas has proven that there’s something in the city for everyone.
In fact, what was once a niche industry in the Nevada desert, gaming has flourished into a $240 billion-a-year industry that supports 1.7 million jobs across 40 states. And despite this growth, Nevada’s tourism numbers have not decreased.
According to the Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority, tourism in Las Vegas eclipsed 43 million people in 2016. This continues an upward trend over the last 10 years that visitor volume has increased. Even in 2008, at the height of the financial crisis, Las Vegas saw over 37 million people come to town—proving just how unique the city is.
The increase in visitors has also boosted gross gaming revenues. In 2016, according to the Center for Gaming Research at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas, Nevada statewide gross gaming revenue was over $11 billion, a 1 percent increase over the previous year. Since 2010, gaming numbers have grown year over year.
Hotel occupancy rates—the truest measure of whether visitors are staying for extended periods of time and experiencing the city—have risen each year since 2010, with a peak of 89 percent room occupancy in 2016. Judging by these numbers, there’s no reason to think they won’t continue to increase as gaming’s popularity grows.
If the court sides with New Jersey, it will open a new avenue for sports fans across the country to engage with the sports and teams they love. And research shows sports fans want to wager on games. Recently, AGA commissioned a national survey by Greenberg Quinlan Rosner (GQR) that found nearly six in 10 Americans—and 72 percent of avid sports fans—are in favor of ending the federal ban.
GQR also found that Americans are much more likely to watch, engage with and talk about sports when they bet on games. Further, the research concluded that a majority of Americans, regardless of education, income level, political party affiliation or geographical region, want to end the federal ban on sports betting.
It’s clear that Las Vegas offers so much
more than just gaming and sports betting; but if the court rules in New Jersey’s favor, legalized, nationwide sports betting will bring a piece of the Las Vegas Strip to casinos across the country, but that won’t stop millions of tourists from traveling to Nevada each year to experience everything else that makes Las Vegas a one-of-a-kind destination.