LAS VEGAS (KTNV) — It's a big weekend for football fans! Tomorrow is the first Saturday of the college football season, followed by the first NFL Sunday next weekend. And football means big business for Las Vegas sportsbooks.
Even when COVID-19 closed down casinos, sportsbooks were still taking bets online whenever pro sports were being played. Now that you can place your bets again in person, this season's handle could be huge.
"Football will always be king, whether it's college football Saturdays or NFL Sundays. I think people have that pent-up demand coming out of the pandemic," said Jeff Benson, the sportsbook operations manager at Circa Sports.
Recently, he's been preparing for the imminent onslaught of action during week one of the football season.
"It's really crazy. To have a standing room only, to have every seat sold out, and to have the crowd cheer and have, you know seven, eight, nine football games on at once. It's an experience unlike any other," said Benson.
Even at the peak of the pandemic, when sports finally returned, Benson says sports betting barely skipped a beat. He credits a few things, starting with the shrinking stigma surrounding the industry.
"There was definitely a stigma when I moved here 10 years ago, in terms of what gambling was. With the legalization across the country, I think it's just the education of the player. And as they start to learn in their home state, they feel more comfortable betting when they come out to Las Vegas," said Benson.
Mobile betting has also helped grow the sports betting industry, allowing bettors to place bets from anywhere in Nevada through an app.
"Typically, it's trending more towards app play. I would say, for us, we're somewhere between 75% and 80% app play, which is very synonymous with what you see in other places that have both retail and mobile components of their betting," said Benson.
Finally, in an industry traditionally dominated by middle-aged men, Benson says sportsbooks have benefited from different demographics driving additional interest.
"With the education of novice betters and as the public gets a better understanding of the industry, I would say you've definitely seen both a younger and older demographic and definitely more women take a liking to what we're doing," he said.
" We've certainly seen that in our football contests, you know, predominantly male, but certainly seen a little bit more of a female population come in and have interest in that," added Benson. "And I think football, more than anything, in general, draws both a male and female population."
The return of major football contests is also a big draw for bettors.
Circa, for example, has two contests during the NFL season, offering up a total of $10 million in prizes. But it's a steep price to participate at $1,000 dollars per entry.