Las Vegas drive-throughs have long been embodied by a burger the East Coasters lust over or weddings for lusty couples.
Now they’re a means for Nevada sportsbooks like Circa Sports, South Point and William Hill to infuse business into retail shops darkened by casino shutdowns forced by the COVID-19 pandemic and hindered by archaic regulations.
And maybe, Circa Sports Operations Manager Jeff Benson hopes, the ‘valet’ service sprouting in Las Vegas will provide an impetus for the United States’ former lone bastion of legal sports betting to modernize — two years after the repeal of the Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act enabled the enterprise nationally.
While states such as Colorado, where Circa will soon launch its first extra-Nevada operation, Indiana, New Jersey and Pennsylvania, allow for online registration, Nevada requires it be conducted in-person at retail sportsbooks. With those shops shuttered, curbside service was born at a small collection of sportsbooks last week. Benson would like to see them become an obsolete innovation with Nevada joining the full digital domain.
“Given the technological advances of the modern-day times we’re living in, it certainly, makes sense that we go that route,” Benson told PlayUSA. “And I think, obviously the coronavirus situation has certainly maybe accelerated that, given the fact that there’s regulations and social distancing guidelines and all that kind of stuff in terms of being around other people and being in casinos.
“So, I think that will certainly spearhead some of these legislators or operating groups working together to come to an agreement of some sort similar to what has taken place, in New Jersey or Colorado, given how successful they have been with it. I can’t imagine that that would be something put in place by the end of the year, but here in the next couple of years, I think it really forces the gaming control board to take a hard look at it and see if there’s any improvements they can make on the process, given how well it’s gone in other jurisdictions.”
Thank you, please pull forward …
Business has been encouraging at Circa, Benson said, with 120 registrations and “well over six figures in deposits” in the first three days of implementation preceding the UFC 249 card last weekend. Circa opened its curbside service on May 7.
A William Hill spokesperson told the Las Vegas Review-Journal business was “steady at all five locations” preceding the bout, also, and the company is considering expanding service in the future, according to a spokesperson.
Lines were longer and slower at South Point, according to anecdotal reports on social media.
“We’ve done similar things in the sense that we’ve done special events or valet locations for Super Bowl betting stations, things like that,” Benson said. “So in that sort of sense, it gave us a little bit of a blueprint. For us, we just tried to focus on the speed and efficiency of the operation, making sure we had enough people, just making sure we were organized, and doing things that cut down the wait time for our guests.”
Benson estimated customers have usually been accommodated within 10 minutes, constituting a “big win for us in terms of maybe some of the logistical challenges given that the casino’s not open and we don’t currently don’t have a cage.”
And therefore, no cash. Amid an odd scene of facemasks and gloves and drive-through betting, an unexpected snag came in the form of making change.
“So if somebody did come up and they wanted to deposit $340, for example, and they only had $400, we didn’t have the ability to obviously make $60 worth of change,” Benson explained. “So, for us, it was quickly something where we were telling people, ‘exact deposits only’, things of that nature.”
And then there was the matter of older uncashed tickets.
“We provided that flexibility just by depositing that entire amount into their account or making them an account and then obviously deposit the entirety of those winnings or refunds from those physical tickets into the account,” Benson said, “given that we weren’t able for security and compliance reasons, able to take cash from the casino to the curb.”
Sports bettors rejoice! Starting Thursday, @southpointlv will allow bettors to drive up and deposit money to bet on upcoming sporting events. FOX5’s @dylankendricktv has the details.
BACKGROUND: https://t.co/07EZy29F2l pic.twitter.com/7X5Flznd1q
— FOX5 Las Vegas (@FOX5Vegas) May 6, 2020
What can patrons do at a curbside Las Vegas sportsbook?
Customers have three services available at Circa’s curbside:
- Registration and funding.
- Funding of existing accounts.
- Registration for other events such as its Circa Sports Million II or Circa Survivor contests.
(Services are similar at the William Hill and South Point).
“That has certainly been very, very helpful,” Benson said. “The reason that we’re doing the drive-through functionality is two-fold. First is because it allows new users to sign up and deposit, whereas with this remote fund funding, people who have never signed up for our app don’t have that luxury.
“And then the other thing is, Play+ functionality does come, in terms of the deposits, with a 3% service fee that is passed along to the consumer. And if you’re doing it, obviously curbside, there is no fee because it’s basically similar to if you were coming into the casino and depositing at the counter.
According to press releases, Circa’s curb will be open for business from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. PST daily. South Point’s location will run from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. PST. William Hill opened five locations for limited service preceding UFC 249.
“Ahead of the largest sporting events of the month, we wanted a safe way to meet the current demand from our customers,” CEO Joe Asher said in a press release.
William Hill offered a $65 bonus for bets for new and existing mobile customers.
Drive Thru @WilliamHillUS Mobile Sports Book Sign-ups & Deposits at 4 Nevada locations are open on 5/15 from 2pm-6pm & 5/16 from 10am-2pm.
For more details visit https://t.co/6e90N1bL81 pic.twitter.com/cOI2Von0qa
— William Hill Nevada (@WilliamHillNV) May 14, 2020
How this Las Vegas sportsbook project came together
Benson said his company’s valet service at Golden Gate Hotel & Casino on Fremont Street was enacted quickly from its germ as an idea he discussed with sportsbook director Matt Melcalf. They saw it formalized in three days by a compliance team and pitched to the Nevada Gaming Control Board.
Circa has kept its risk room and mobile app operating during the shutdown mandated by Gov. Steve Sisolak while numerous others have gone dormant in the state. Circa’s launched was enabled by a new online payment system it brought online last month.
Bet MGM, Caesars, Circa and William Hill are the online sportsbooks currently operating.
— Golden Gate Hotel & Casino (@GoldenGateVegas) May 7, 2020
“I kind of touched on the idea of doing curbside services once. A lot of these other restaurants started to do it, and I’ve seen how successful they were with it,” Benson said. “Then, obviously, there were a couple of other places, William Hill and South Point, who did curbside services as well.
“So, for us, it was just a combination of our management team coming up with this idea and giving our patrons another funding mechanism – especially new patrons given that there’s no remote registration here in Nevada. … It’s just something that given some of the antiquated sports betting laws here in the state and that remote registration isn’t possible.”