The current year has been one marked by expansion for Las Vegas-based sports betting operator Circa Sports. From debuting operations in Illinois in September to receiving the go-ahead to launch in Kentucky (at a yet-to-be-determined date) and breaking records with its pro football contests, the brand has gone bigger than ever.
To discuss these latest developments and what to expect going forward, Yogonet held an exclusive video interview with Derek Stevens, Circa Sports CEO. In the conversation, Stevens also talks about his expectations for the inaugural F1 race in Las Vegas and the great momentum American sports are currently experiencing.
Circa is now live in Illinois, both with a mobile product and a brick-and-mortar sportsbook. What are your main takeaways from these first few weeks of operation?
We've been up for just a little over a month, and we're really happy with the number of new accounts that have downloaded our product and have funded the app. And we're really happy with the brick-and-mortar sportsbook in Waukegan, at American Place Casino.
There are a couple of things that really stand out. Some of them are longer-term and others are more short-term in nature. With the Chicago Blackhawks being the team that had the number one overall draft pick, the amount of bets on the rookie Connor Bedard has blown me away. People love to bet on any prop with him. Shots on goal, shots per period... "Will he have a point? Will he score a goal?"
There's been a tremendous amount of volume on betting on the Chicago Blackhawks and on props involving Connor Bedard. That's a bit short-term. We opened right when the Blackhawks season started and the whole city of Chicago, all the hockey fans are so excited that that this young man is going to be the new face of the franchise for decades to come. That's been a lot of fun to watch.
What about on a longer-term basis?
I'm a little surprised at the volume of parlay bets. There's been a much higher percentage of parlay betting in our Illinois market than what we've seen in other markets that we're in. With us using a low-hold model and paying true odds on parlays, I'm pretty excited about the fact that bettors will come to realize that the best payouts you're ever going to get on parlays are going to be with Circa Sports.
I think it's important for people watching to understand what it means to pay out true odds. Many times it's useful to just try a $10, five-team parlay with one sportsbook and try out a $10, the exact same five-team parlay with the same odds with another sportsbook. They do calculate differently, and with us using the low hold model, we pay true odds and that'll have a big, big impact when you hit those parlays.
Circa sportsbook in Illinois
Turning to the physical sportsbook in particular, how is it enhancing the guest experience at American Place Casino?
It's a sportsbook operation where you're guaranteed to get to watch all the games that you want to watch. Nowadays, in the United States, it's not that easy to be able to watch all the games because there are so many different streaming options available and it's so diversified. It's very difficult for an individual to have ESPN Plus, to have Paramount Plus, Peacock, YouTube TV...
What we're seeing is that with all the streaming platforms that are now coming out, the access to individual games may be higher. No one's getting to see as many games as they used to, because no one's buying all of the different services. What we're doing at our physical sportsbooks is that we really focus on active content management and we make sure the games are on. This sportsbook is a great location to go and watch games you want to see.
Up next, Circa is set to launch in Kentucky, the brand's fifth state. What can you tell us about the opportunities this new market unlocks for Circa?
There's no launch date set yet, but what I can tell you is that we are going to do Kentucky a little bit differently than what we've done in other jurisdictions. We will open our Circa Sports Kentucky mobile app first, and then we are going to build a retail sportsbook a bit further down the road. That's going to happen towards the end of 2024.
The retail book will be located right on the Kentucky-Tennessee border. We're very excited about the growth potential. There's going to be a tremendous amount of wagering action coming out of Kentucky because it's such a hotbed of sports for baseball, for basketball, for football. Kentucky's going to be a great state for wagering.
Kentucky is a fairly new market, having launched in September this year. What are your impressions so far, from what you have seen in regards to numbers and trends?
It's very early, but we have very high expectations for Kentucky. People who visit Kentucky, who live in Kentucky, and who grew up in Kentucky - they've got sports wagering in their blood. It's the home of Churchill Downs and the Kentucky Derby. Thoroughbred racing is inherent within the entire state. College basketball between the University of Kentucky and Louisville and Western Kentucky has been tremendous.
This is a state that has gambling in its culture. We really think that Kentucky is going to be a preeminent state. Also, they've got a very good regulatory environment, so we think Kentucky's going to be one of the lead states in the country on a per capita basis.
Turning our attention to Las Vegas, where Circa is based, the city is gearing up for the inaugural edition of the F1 race this weekend. What's your take on the significance of this event for Vegas?
This was signed up as a ten-year deal. The first year is always a little bit more of an investment in time, money and disruption. So for the last six months around Vegas, there's been quite a bit of impact with pouring all new roads and the initial setup. So the first year is always a little bit more disruptive than future years. I can also tell you the excitement level is very high.
From a Vegas casino perspective and a local perspective, we all know there are going to be a lot of parties and a lot of events, but there's a lot of unknown. We're all going to be learning this year and we know that we're going to make it bigger and better the following year.
What opportunities does it open for Circa?
Circa is the most sports-orientated hotel casino resort in all of Las Vegas. We've got a lot of F1 events coming on. We're doing a great Red Bull party, taking over Stadium Swim one day. There are a handful of different events that happen throughout the week.
Do you also expect this level of excitement for Super Bowl in Las Vegas next year?
Oh yeah. Another really international event. Both F1 and Super Bowl are far bigger than the typical weekend events in Las Vegas. These are international events with worldwide audiences. So between F1 and and Super Bowl in February, the number of individuals around the world that will see Las Vegas, watch Las Vegas and hear about Las Vegas is just over the top. It's tremendous.
Circa geared up for this year's NFL season by breaking its own warranty records for its popular contests and further improving the experience at the Circa Resort sportsbook, billed as the world's largest. How is the NFL season impacting operations?
It's been a great football season thus far. NFL continues to make all the right moves and it's terrific. The season's had a number of ups and downs. It's got a few Cinderella stories. It's got a few injuries that have hurt a few teams, creating some volatility. But the demand to watch American football has really been amazing, both at the college level as well as at the pro level.
All sports in the States have really seen good strength, from NHL to NBA and college basketball. We've just recently finished up baseball's best season with the World Series. American sports are really thriving at this point.