Having signed partnerships with Desert Diamond Casinos and Saginaw Chippewa Gaming Enterprises in recent months, David Bretnitz, Senior Director of Sales at Kambi, examines the scale of the sports betting opportunities for tribal operators in 2022 and how tribes can go about capitalizing on them.
Tribal gaming has been an institution of the wider US casino landscape for decades. Buoyed by the passage of the Indian Gaming Regulatory Act by Congress in 1988, the revenue obtained from gaming has long been used to fund vital tribal government operations such as schooling and health care. The years that followed turned tribal gaming into a significant revenue-producing industry, accounting for approximately 45% of all gaming revenue in the United States. Those revenues have grown year-on-year for the last decade, peaking at $35 billion in 2019 and nearly totaling that of commercial casinos.
According to the National Indian Gaming Commission, there were 574 federally recognized tribes at the start of 2022 in the United States, with a little under half that accounting for more than 500 tribal casinos, as many own and operate multiple properties. With the repeal of PASPA opening the doors to legalized sports betting in the US, these tribal casinos were faced with the opportunity of launching a completely new vertical for the first time.
Many have already taken advantage of the revenue benefits in states with legalized sports betting such as Seneca Gaming Corporation, Four Winds Casinos, Desert Diamond Casinos, and Soaring Eagle Casino and Resort. However, there are many more anticipating the arrival of sports betting regulation in states still to take the step of enacting legislation. California, for example, which is set to put sports betting legislation on the ballot in 2022, is home to 82 tribal casinos which brings in billions in gross gaming revenue each year. Oklahoma, a state with the most tribal casinos in the United States at 136, also recently introduced a bill that would legalize sports betting.
There are still plenty of hurdles to overcome and the legislation to be enacted remains unclear, but this shows that tribal-operated sports betting is only just getting started and that 2022 could be a big year for tribal gaming. With legalization creating huge revenue streams for tribal nations and the state if they can negotiate a fair and inclusive compact, previous experience tribes have already had with this process will prove invaluable and ultimately drive success.
The right sportsbook partner – the key to long-term success
There can be no doubting the potential sports betting offers to enhance tribal operators’ share of wallet in both the on-property and online arenas. Land-based sportsbooks have been proven to bring new demographics through the doors of the casino property, driving greater share of wallet and future-proofing tribes’ businesses by enabling the engagement of a new breed of customer. They also boast the potential to elevate every aspect of the casino floor, including gaming and entertainment, as well as food and beverage sales.
Broadly speaking, tribes have two options in front of them when it comes to launching sports betting. Firstly, they can partner with a B2C commercial operator and have a shared database for joint growth, operating under their chosen partner’s brand. It is an approach taken by the Little River Band of Ottawa Indians, which launched sports betting with Kambi partner Rush Street Interactive at the Little River Casino and benefitted not only from Kambi’s premium sports wagering technology, but also the experienced sportsbook marketing and operational expertise of the operator.
The second route is a partnership with a B2B sportsbook provider, which enables those tribes who want to harness the power of their brand to take full ownership of the sports betting value chain.
It should be emphasized that neither approach is necessarily the right or wrong way, each tribe will have different assets and requirements to consider before coming to a decision. At Kambi, we have supported tribes with both strategic routes and believe that neither option is the lesser of the two – both can prove successful depending on their fit with a particular tribe’s strategic approach.
However, if a tribe selects the avenue of partnering with a sportsbook provider to launch sports betting under its own brand, potential partners must ensure that the process is as consultative as possible – prioritizing an open dialogue that ensures the sportsbook fits seamlessly with the tribe’s established brand. The extensive differentiation capabilities offered by Kambi’s flexible integration means our partners can build a sportsbook that coalesces with their existing offering.
A core asset that tribal operators can take advantage of is the recognition and trust in their brands. Partnering with a B2B provider to launch online sports betting can empower the tribe to leverage that trust and harness the full power of the brand. At the same time, it can significantly boost the brand’s reach and widen the customer acquisition funnel. Furthermore, the right B2B partner can further enhance this by seamlessly integrating with any existing customer loyalty program the operator has in place.
The future of the tribal gaming industry has never looked brighter as we head into 2022. Tribal gaming enterprises are leading the way in new forms of gaming and technology and the Indian gaming community’s goal remains to provide best-in-class entertainment experiences to their patrons. They are constantly looking for new ways to differentiate and innovate and the advancement of technology will continue to influence the industry. For tribes looking to offer sports betting, the investment in market-leading technology should be at the top of their list.
For years, tribes have not only invested heavily in their properties, but also their people. As they move forward with sports betting, wherever they are in the process, they are in a strong position to build on their progress in 2022 and beyond. Having the right partnerships in place can be the first step on the road to long-term success.