Seneca Casino
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David Bretnitz

Tribal gaming enterprises have always been an integral part of the North American gaming industry and are among those leading the way with best-in-class entertainment experiences, writes David Bretnitz, Senior Director of Sales for Kambi. With the repeal of PASPA in 2018, a whole new vertical was introduced to tribes, creating a potential new opportunity to draw more business to support their communities. 

Tribes continue to explore new opportunities and innovations when it comes to capitalizing on new verticals, in this case, sports betting. Launching a sportsbook can be a complicated and sometimes lengthy process, particularly due to the regulatory intricacies involved, but sports betting has proven to be a must-have vertical for driving footfall and boosting customer interaction across all aspects of the casino. 

There are also enticing opportunities with regards to online sports betting particularly in the context of a possible amendment to a federal rule that, if passed, would grant tribes online access to offer sports betting in their state. This may, of course, alleviate many of the concerns about how a tribal operator might compete with a large commercial brand with national recognition. 

Ahead of the Indian Gaming Association Convention in San Diego at the end of March, Kambi released its inaugural Tribal Sports Betting Report featuring data from Kambi’s powerful network of tribal operators, which includes Mohegan Gaming and Entertainment, Desert Diamond Casinos, and Seneca Gaming Corporation, among others. 

One interesting trend found in the report is a general shift toward more online wagering among those betting with tribal operators. For example, Kambi saw that between 2018 and 2022, online turnover grew at a faster rate than on-property, with online surpassing retail for the first time in 2022 at 52% to 48%. The report also found that sports wagering from online channels has grown substantially from 2021, with the number of bets up 28% year-on-year, handle up 48%, and the number of online bettors up 46%.  

Figures represent growth in handle from 2019-2022
Figures represent growth from 2021-2022

With these figures in mind, the proposed federal rule change could present a significant opportunity for tribes in their respective states. With more than half of the US already regulating sports betting in some aspect, there are still states with a significant tribal gaming operator presence that have yet to do so, most notably Oklahoma and California where there is a combined total of more than 215 tribal casinos. 

However, while online sports betting is rising in popularity, there is still ample opportunity for tribal casinos to take advantage of sports betting in a retail space and, in turn, elevate the rest of the casino and boost revenue for table games, slots, restaurants and hospitality. For example, the importance of delivering sports betting within the casino through a high-performance kiosk of any land-based offering, with Kambi’s report revealing that bettors place approximately 4.5x more bets on kiosks than over the counter. 

Through the kiosk, tribal operators can bring online pace to the retail space by being more conducive to live betting at high volume, keeping lines shorter at the counter where larger wagers tend to be placed. Kambi’s Bring Your Own Device technology can also be leveraged, enabling bettors to construct bets anywhere from their mobile device, generating a QR code which can be scanned at either a kiosk or over the counter. 

Kambi will dive deeper into the path to on-property sportsbook success for tribes with a dedicated session during our 2023 Festival of Sportsbook. Even in the shadow of online sports betting in the US, you can hear how leading tribal gaming operators are building retail sportsbooks for long-term profits to remain competitive against online rivals.

Creating new experiences for Desert Diamond Casinos

In 2021, Kambi signed a partnership with Desert Diamond Casinos, an enterprise of Tohono O’odham Nation, to provide them with online and on-property sports betting solutions in Arizona. Today, Desert Diamond operates a Kambi sportsbook at three locations across the state and has seen the benefits that a quality retail offering can bring to the rest of their property. 

Mike Bean, CEO of Tohono O’odham Gaming Enterprise, said “The sportsbook has added a whole new level of casino experience for our guests that complements our existing slot machines, table games, restaurants and amenities.”

“We are proud of the personalized and professional sportsbook experience at Desert Diamond Casinos, thanks to Kambi’s state-of-the-art technology.”

While any kind of federal rule change is likely to take some time, that shouldn’t deter tribes from taking the necessary first steps to starting their own sportsbook. With the right approach, tribes can experience sportsbook success if they navigate all the options available to them and choose the route that best suits their individual strategy. With the right technology and partner in place, not only can tribal operators experience growth with their sportsbook, but also throughout the rest of their brand and property.