Sports Betting Industry Poised to Emerge From COVID-19 Crisis Strong as Ever

In 2020, analysts projected sports betting would really take off. But COVID-19 spurred sporting event cancellations across the globe, leading to the fundamental problem that there can be no betting on major sports if no sports are being played. 

If NFL and college football seasons resume this fall, interest in sports wagering could kick up more than ever, on the heels of withdrawal. At the very least, sports betting fans are likely to show up in droves, in person and virtually, as they did pre-virus. By contrast, some industries might never be the same. 

READ MORE: What COVID-19 May Mean for Tribal Sports Betting in 2020 

If stocks are any indication, sports betting stands to revive stronger than ever. A surge in stock prices in companies like DraftKings and Penn National Gaming indicate that the sports betting industry is suited to emerge from the pandemic intact.

And like CBS Sports put it, if the NFL proceeds in 2020, “expect the world to watch like never before.” 

Below, Native Business chronicles the Tribal casinos that have introduced retail and online sports books since August 2018, when the Mississippi Band of Choctaw Indians made the first foray for Indian Country into the sports betting industry, and in some cases highlights the passage of legislation that opens doors for Tribes that endeavor to break into sports betting. 

  • August 30, 2018: Mississippi Band of Choctaw Indians becomes the first Tribal casino to offer sports betting outside of Nevada at Pearl River Resort Casino.
  • October 16, 2018: Tamaya Nation at Pueblo of Santa Ana in New Mexico launches sports betting on-premises at Santa Ana Star Casino and Hotel, ahead of the state legalizing it. 
  • February 2019: Just in time for Super Bowl Sunday 2019, Pearl River Resort launches mobile, on-premise sports betting via its app PRR Sports.
  • March 2019: The Pueblo of Pojoaque-owned Buffalo Thunder Casino and Resort in Santa Fe launches New Mexico’s second sports betting operation. Thunder Race Book made the Pueblo of Pojoaque the first Tribe to offer sports betting in addition to wagering on races.
  • July 20019: Patrons of the Inn of the Mountain Gods Resort & Casino in New Mexico debut sports betting lounge with twelve 43-inch television screens. The Mescalero Apache Tribe tapped the U.S. arm of William Hill, a betting and gaming company founded in 1934 in the UK, to launch this sportsbook ahead of the 2019 NFL season. This marked William Hill’s first Tribal agreement outside of Nevada.
  • August 2019: The Oneida Indian Nation launches three sportsbooks through a partnership with Caesars Entertainment. After debuting The Lounge with Caesars Sports at Turning Stone Resort Casino and Point Place Casino in New York on August 1, the Tribe opens its third sportsbook and the largest sportsbook in the state at nearly 9,000-square feet: The Lounge with Caesars Sports at Yellow Brick Road Casino, designed to accommodate more than 250 sports fans. The third sportsbook venue started taking bets in September, just in time for the NFL season opener.
  • August 2019: Visitors started placing an array of bets on professional and collegiate sports on August 27th at Chinook Winds Casino Sports Wagering Lounge — Oregon’s first sportsbook. The Siletz Tribe-owned Chinook Winds offers betting on collegiate sports, whereas the state’s lottery app does not include NCAA betting.
  • September 2019: Route 66 Casino Hotel, owned by the Pueblo of Laguna and Laguna Development Corporation, starts full-service sports betting at The Book. The 13,000-square-foot space features 74 televisions and a bar and grill. The project cost $3.4 million to complete.
  • September 2019: The Unibet Sportsbook at Mohegan Sun Pocono soft-launches in September, becoming the 11th Pennsylvania retail sportsbook to open. 
  • September 2019: On the heels of Oregon legalizing sports betting in August 2019, Chinook Winds, run by the Siletz Tribe, launches the state’s first sportsbook in September 2019.
  • October 2019: While the Quapaw Nation doesn’t offer sports betting at its casinos in Oklahoma, patrons can place bets on sporting events at its Saracen Casino Annex in Pine Bluff, Arkansas. On September 30th, the Arkansas Racing Commission approves sports betting at Saracen Casino Resort, and by October 1st at 8 a.m., the casino annex — a smaller version of the forthcoming $350 million Saracen Casino Resort — was taking wagers.
  • November 2019: Pueblo of Isleta-owned Sports Book at Isleta Resort & Casino debuts its full-time sports betting facility — complete with 50 televisions, a lounge area, four betting kiosks, a full-service bar, and a new food court next door. The sportsbook, entertainment and food court build-out collectively cost $4.5 million.
  • December 2019: Mohegan Sun Pocono launches online sports betting across Pennsylvania, accessible on mobile apps found at pa.unibet.com and on mohegansunpocono.com.
  • December 2019: Seneca Buffalo Creek Casino launches sports betting on December 13th, and Seneca Gaming Corp. subsequently makes sportsbooks available at its Niagara Falls and Salamanca casinos in New York State in December 2019.
  • March 2020: Washington Gov. Jay Inslee on March 26 signs a bill allowing sports betting exclusively at Tribal casinos in Washington state. Washington State permits wagers on professional and college sports; bets on Washington state collegiate teams are prohibited. 
  • March 2020: A bill paves the way for the Poarch Band of Creek Indians to run five Class III gaming facilities in Alabama, while granting Tribal exclusivity over sports betting. 
  • March 2020: The Grand Traverse Band of Ottawa and Chippewa Indians in Michigan enters into a long-term partnership with London-based bookmaker William Hill to bring sports betting to Northern Michigan gaming attractions. 
  • March 2020: Little Traverse Bay Bands of Odawa Indians Gaming Authority in Michigan enters into a partnership with global iGaming leader The Stars Group.
  • March 2020: Lac Vieux Desert Band of Lake Superior Chippewa Indians inks a 20-year agreement with PointsBet to offer an online and mobile PointsBet-branded sportsbook. 
  • June 2020: Bay Mills Resort and Casino partners with a major sports betting website DraftKings to bring retail, online and mobile wagering to Michigan. 
  • June 2020: Sky Ute SportsBook becomes the first Tribal casino to debut a mobile sportsbook in Colorado, making Sky Ute Casino Resort the first Tribal casino nationwide to create a mobile sportsbook that accepts mobile bets statewide. The app is the product of a partnership between the Southern Ute Indian Tribe and Las Vegas-based USBookmaking. 
  • June 2020: The Confederated Tribes of Grand Ronde in Oregon joins the league of operators that offer mobile and retail sports betting through a partnership with ROAR Digital, the joint venture between MGM Resorts International and GVC Holdings.
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