Exclusive video interview with Circa Sports CEO

Derek Stevens: "We're very excited about putting a sportsbook inside the first new casino in Northern Nevada in over 20 years"

Reading time 6:04 min

The last few months have been full of exciting new developments for sports betting brand Circa Sports. The company, which first gained notoriety in its home market of Nevada through the operation of what has been labeled "the world's largest sportsbook" at the flagship Circa Resort & Casino in Downtown Las Vegas, is rapidly expanding in both the retail and mobile space with offerings in new markets.

While the last two years saw the brand launch in Iowa and Colorado, through its mobile app, Circa's newest and ambitious plans will see the operator open its first brick-and-mortar sportsbook in a new state, through a partnership with Full House Resorts for its upcoming American Place Casino in Waukegan, Illinois. Additionally, Circa is also eyeing expansion within its home market through a new sports betting amenity at Legends Bay Casino in Sparks, the first casino in the area in over 20 years.

"The excitement level for us is huge. This is the first time that we've opened up a brick-and-mortar sportsbook in Northern Nevada, so it opens up a whole new market for us," Circa Sports CEO Derek Stevens tells Yogonet in an exclusive video interview in regards to the Legends Bay Casino sportsbook. "For us, this is a great, great opportunity to be part of something new."

In conversation with Yogonet, the executive also discusses the opportunities offered by the Iowa market, plus Circa's ambitions for the online betting space. Additionally, Stevens talks about the brand's plans for the upcoming football season, including its largest pro football betting contests yet.

Circa Sports has now become a well-known name in sports betting in the US, but its first steps were taken in its home market of Las Vegas, including the operation of the world's largest sportsbook at Circa’s flagship resort. Some three years after launch, how would you assess the brand’s present and the impact it had in Nevada?

We were excited when we launched Circa Sports a few years ago. It's been a great, great first few years in Las Vegas and then the whole state of Nevada. We were then able to take Circa Sports and launched it in the state of Colorado. We subsequently launched in the state of Iowa. And then near the end of the year, we'll launch Circa Sports in the state of Illinois. It's been a good ramp-up for us over the last few years.

A lot of attention was brought by the world’s largest sportsbook at Circa Resort. Specifically, how would you assess the impact this one-of-its-kind amenity had on the company?

It's been great. The world's largest sportsbook has been a huge attraction. If you're a sports fan, or if you're a sports bettor, it's a great place to come and watch a game. And with sports on almost around the clock, it keeps people coming into the building all the time, so it's been a great attraction for our overall property.

We have seen both Nevada and Las Vegas post record-setting revenue figures as of late. But at the same time, there are some growing concerns in regards to the economy and inflation. Would you say these factors have affected Circa’s operations, or have visitation levels remained strong as of late?

Visitation has been pretty good. But clearly, the higher cost of gasoline prices has impacted some of the drive-in market a bit. There's a little bit of concern with regards to inflation and whether or not there's a recession on the horizon, but so far, I would say that there's been so much pent-up demand for travel, and so much pent-up demand to come here, that Las Vegas has been a little bit special. Las Vegas has been able to weather the storm a little bit better than maybe some other areas.

This is quite a moment for the brand in terms of expansion. It’ll make its Northern Nevada debut later this month by operating the book at the brand new Legends Bay Casino in Sparks. What are your expectations for this launch?

The excitement level for us is huge. This is the first time that we've opened up a brick-and-mortar sportsbook in Northern Nevada, so it opens up a whole new market for Circa Sports. So we're naturally excited about that. But we're also excited about being able to put a sportsbook inside the first new casino that's been built in Northern Nevada in over 20 years.

For us, this is a great, great opportunity to be part of something new. And we're very excited about having the opportunity to provide greater access to people that live in the Reno-Sparks area.

Rendering for the upcoming Circa sportsbook at Legends Bay Casino

In addition to the novelty of being the first new Northern Nevada casino in decades, Legends Bay is also set to benefit from the Outlets at Legends retail development. What impact could this new sportsbook have in the area, and what do you forecast in terms of a customer base there?

I think you're going to see people get to Sparks. You're going to see a community. It's one of the fastest-growing communities in the United States. The new Legends Bay Mall, and all of the new housing developments, I think are really, really amazing. The new casino opening up is going to add another amenity.

And in this area, in the last ten years, there's been tremendous growth with new manufacturing plants from Switch and from Tesla, and other tech companies. I think what you're going to see is a demographic that's highly educated and affluent, and people that have moved there recently blend with the people that have lived in the Reno-Sparks area for quite a while.

A further expansion opportunity for Circa Sports has been announced for Illinois, where the brand is opening a permanent sportsbook at the American Place Casino in Waukegan. This is the first time the company will be introducing a physical book to a new state, which I imagine is very exciting for Circa. How are you approaching this project?

I think the one thing you're going to see in the state of Illinois –and this is in the greater Chicago area specifically– is a new product. And we're excited about building out a new physical sportsbook in Waukegan, this northern suburb of Chicago. It'll be two-phased because the initial casino will be a temporary casino, so we'll have a temporary sportsbook on this property first. And then when the permanent casino gets built, we plan on building out a rather substantial sportsbook for this area.

American Place, Full House's upcoming casino in Waukegan

This opening will also include a mobile product launch. What are Circa’s targets for the online segment of sports betting?

We think that the state of Illinois is a great market, based on population, but also based on just the general demographic of being a great, great sports state. You have a number of universities, you've got multiple professional sports teams… And the people of Chicago, and then throughout the state of Illinois, are great sports fans. We think that the combination of a state with a high population, as well as a great sports background, lends itself to a good environment to make this investment.

In terms of mobile betting, Circa is currently present in Nevada, Colorado, and Iowa. Has the company achieved the results you were expecting for these markets? And going forward, what does the brand have in store for the upcoming football season?

We're very happy with our results in the State of Nevada, our results in Iowa, and in Colorado. We're growing. I mean, we've only been open in Iowa now for nine months, Colorado for a year and a half. And we're very excited about football season coming in because that's really when business starts to jump up in the sports betting sector here in the United States. September is a very big month for new signups and new growth as far as what we plan for our sportsbook for the rest of this year. 

We're very focused on our football contests, the Circa Sports Million and the Circa Survivor. This year we're guaranteeing $12 million in prizes, so that's up from last year, when we guaranteed 10 million. Bumping it to $12 million is a big step for us. And the number of people that like to play in these American football contests is huge. We've been very happy with the number of sign-ups while we still have three and a half weeks left to go before the football season begins.

The football contests are something we're very much known for. We run the largest football contests in the country. And as we upped our guarantee this year up to $12 million, it's something that helps with getting the brand out there. It also helps drive quite a bit of business to our Las Vegas casino.

Watch the full video interview with Derek Stevens on our YouTube channel.

Rodrigo Capeans
by Rodrigo Capeans
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