Nevada Latest to Report March Handle Freefall

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US legal gambling godfather Nevada is out with its March sportsbook figures and to absolutely nobody's surprise, they reflect the intense effect of the COVID-19 global sports shutdown. The Nevada Gaming Control Board (NGCB) released its numbers for March Wednesday that showed dramatic drops in handle and revenues with a warning that April's figures will be much worse.

Nevada is following the trend of major downturn in the legal betting industry. Other bet-friendly states beat Nevada out with their own set of March revenues figures which made this week’s reports out of the Silver State much less of a shock. The Strip in Vegas was shuttered March 12, March Madness was canceled and the lack of marketable, sellable, real-time sports predictably tanked profits and created the smallest win for the State’s sports betting industry since 1993.

A deeper dive into the numbers

Nevada sports betting handle dropped 76% for March year over year, from a record $597 million in March 2019 to just $141.1 million last month. Revenues for March were reported at a disappointing $1.5 million after all of the Super Bowl bets were paid off. Revenues in March 2019 were a staggering $32.52 million, over 20 times what it was last month.

The biggest reason for the "numbers cliff-dive" was the cancellation of the NCAA Men's Basketball tournament. In March 2019, basketball and March Madness specifically was responsible for $495 million of Nevada's $597 million handle. The NCAA Tournament is a massive revenue earner for sportsbooks year-after-year and acts as the single biggest event for bookies other than the Super Bowl.

The drop-off from February is equally eye-opening. March's handle dropped 71% from $491.7 million to that $141.1 million mark from month-to-month. Momentum had been on Nevada's side before COVID-19 and with March Madness on the horizon, last month was expected to approach a record in terms of handle and revenues.

And now for a little bit of good news

It is no secret that the future of the legal sports betting industry in the US is its development and embrace of mobile wagers. Nevada's challengers for the most bet-friendly states in the US have relied heavily on their mobile platforms that consistently make up 85%-90% of their monthly total handles. Nevada, meanwhile, has still been stuck relying on good old brick-and-mortar betting to swell their revenues.

Nevada didn't even differentiate between their mobile and retail handles before February. In the only month that mobile stats were taken, Nevada had just 49% of its overall bets come via mobile means.

But Nevada's mobile handle climbed to 63% of March’s total - a record for the state and an indication that the internet could finally be ready to account for a bigger piece of the pie. What stood in the way of Nevada's mobile providers from not garnering a bigger share of the market was Nevada's antiquated provision that bettors register, in-person, at a retail facility. Those facilities were shackled in mid-March preventing bettors that hadn’t previously registered at a retail casino from getting in on any action.

What's next

... is anybody's guess. Governor Steve Sisolak's stay-at-home order has been extended but there is a "Roadmap to Recovery" that will be laid out next week. If it were up to the mayor of Las Vegas, everything would be back to normal starting… yesterday!

Nevada is in a tricky situation. Their economy relies on the opposites of social distancing - from the planes that 99% of visitors to the strip arrive on, to the expansive casino floors that pack 'em in 365 days per year. Las Vegas just happens to be a place that social distancing seems like an impossibility.


April’s numbers are going to be bad. At least in March, sportsbooks had half a month of real sports to draw from. April had none!

For Nevada, their lack of an up-to-date registration system for mobile betting will also accentuate the losses. The state was able to attract NO new bettors during the lockdown.

COVID-19 is turning out to be a mess that nobody has an idea of how to clean up, particularly for a state that relies on tourism, crowded facilities, and SPORTS. July 1989’s $54.9 million in bets for a single month for Nevada is a record low. April has a chance of setting a new standard!

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