Scott Butera made his name in the gaming industry early on by working as a turnaround expert. His ability to refinance and reposition companies was on full display during his time with the Trump organization, the Tropicana Las Vegas, and Foxwoods. Then he pivoted to become commissioner of the Arena Football League for a few years.
Now with MGM, Butera is in charge of the company’s interactive efforts including sports betting, social casinos and iGaming. He met with GGB Publisher Roger Gros at his offices at Bellagio in December.
GGB: You’ve had such a varied career. What made you take on this challenge at MGM?
Butera: This is a really important job to me. I enjoyed being an operator, and I love the gaming business. But I also had a real passion for sports. My time with the Arena Football League allowed me to understand the business of sports. I began to realize that people are changing the way they consume sports. No longer do they just watch games or matches. They want to interact—to be part of the action. You could almost see the writing on the wall for sports betting.
So this was a great opportunity for me. I had a background in gaming and sports. I’ve always had tremendous respect for MGM. I’ve known Jim Murren for years. It’s a big company and we do things in scale. So rather than just look at sports betting, we want to have a really broad interactive platform and use sports betting as a portal to many other things.
What is MGM’s approach to sports betting?
Even before I got here, MGM had realized that the sports fan is a really meaningful customer for everything we do in the resort business. People who watch sports and engage in sports betting also go to hotels, they eat at our restaurants and bars, they play our table games and slots. It’s a robust customer base, so let’s create a platform that has sports betting, both retail and online, social “play for fun” gaming in states where online gaming isn’t legal and iGaming, and then tie that into our casinos and resorts. It’s about a five-year proposition.
For us, it’s about building the brand, building the platform. We’re not in a rush. We’re not paying huge bonuses or doing extensive advertising. Our approach is that there are no billboards for Ferraris.
Tell us about Roar, MGM’s partnership with GVC.
One of the things we didn’t have when I got here was a sports betting platform. We spent a lot of time deciding how to approach this. Rather than develop one ourselves (very risky) or buy a company that already had one (an expensive proposition), we decided to partner with GVC Holdings, which was the largest sports betting company at the time, based out of London. They have their own proprietary technology.
They have thousands of developers and 600 traders, so now we have that proprietary technology that few other companies have. It’s an important joint venture for us.
IGT helped develop a sports betting app in Nevada for MGM. Are you still working with them?
Not in sports betting, but we have a great relationship with IGT across the board. They’re one of our biggest partners. They did a great job in the sports world, but we couldn’t pass up this opportunity with GVC.
What has been MGM’s experience with online gaming in New Jersey?
We’ve been very successful in New Jersey, but it’s very competitive. They’ve done everything right, from a good regulatory process to a reasonable tax rate. But because they were the first and the best, everyone flocked there, and the competition is fierce. Now that we have our New Jersey app out, we’ve become more competitive.
We’ve always done well with iGaming in New Jersey, which is a great complement to sports betting. They go extremely well together. When they’re not betting on sports they’re playing casino games, either tables or slot games. It’s a great fit.