September 13, 2021 Sports Betting

Sportsbook Smart

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With its one-year anniversary coming up in October, there’s a lot to celebrate at Circa in Downtown Las Vegas, especially its renowned sportsbook. Property sports director Matt Metcalf sits with Ezra Amacher about successes so far and opportunities to keep learning and building on its reputation.

The sportsbook at Circa Resort & Casino is approaching its one-year anniversary in October, but for the thousands of guests who will visit the three-story structure for the first time this fall, it might as well be brand new.

Every day, Circa Sports director Matt Metcalf watches people walk up to the sportsbook’s 78-million-pixel high-definition screen and stand in awe of what’s front of them.

“Many customers take to Twitter in the form of pictures to share with their followers what a spectacle this place truly is,” Metcalf says.

Most of the customers who spread the Circa Sports gospel on Twitter are minnows in the sports betting space, but occasionally a well-pocketed shark can’t help but share their Circa experience on social media, too, leading to a feeding frenzy of attention for  the sportsbook.

On a UFC weekend in July, that shark just so happened to be the greatest prizefighter of his generation, Floyd Mayweather. “Pretty Boy” Floyd hit big on a Dustin Poirier wager and couldn’t help but share his winning Circa ticket to his 27m Instagram and 8m Twitter followers. Whatever Circa Sports spends on its marketing budget can hardly compete with an organic endorsement like what Mayweather provided.

“I would imagine Floyd visits us for the same reasons most of our customers do: great service, an amazing casino product, and our ability to accept large wagers that other casinos may not be able to,” Metcalf says.

In its first year of business since launching the Downtown Las Vegas sportsbook, Circa Sports has developed into a trusted brand for both tourists and serious sports bettors because of its customer service and ability to accept the same limits on its mobile app as at the counter. And those limits are generously high for Vegas standards. Whereas Strip sportsbooks often cater to the casual bettor who might only be in town for a weekend, Circa Sports attracts the ‘sharps,’ the guys and gals who study lines religiously.

Many of those customers tend to be local, which explains why Circa Sports has been so aggressive expanding its brand across the Las Vegas region. Since last fall, Circa CEO and owner Derek Stevens has opened sportsbooks at off-Strip Tuscany Suites & Casino and The Pass Casino in Henderson, along with Stevens-owned Golden Gate and The D in Downtown.

“We are looking to make doing business at Circa Sports as convenient as possible for all residents of Southern Nevada, no matter what part of the valley they live,” Metcalf says. “Not everyone has the time in their busy schedule to make it Downtown so we are excited to be adding new locations for residents to visit no matter where they live.”

Circa Sports isn’t stopping with Nevada either. Last July the operator entered Colorado through a 15-year market access deal with Century Casinos. Colorado is in many ways an ideal market for Circa Sports’ mobile app. The Centennial State consistently generates 98 to 99% of its handle via mobile wagers and includes a good variety of professional and college sports teams.

“Colorado was a great first step for Circa Sports in terms of US expansion,” Metcalf says. “Colorado has done everything they can to create a thriving competitive landscape for the sports betting industry, which benefits companies such as ourselves with a slightly different business model from our competitors. The people of Colorado have embraced sports betting, and their enthusiasm for their hometown teams has led to a perfect environment for the growth of sports wagering.”

Colorado also provides an ideal model market ahead of the operator’s planned launch in Iowa ahead of football season. While Circa Sports will certainly capitalize on football’s popularity in regional markets, the real money is to be had in Las Vegas, where the Raiders are expected to play in front of a full-capacity crowd at Allegiant Stadium this fall. The sportsbook at Circa Resort stands to significantly benefit from home games, as does the rest of the rest of the property.

“Having an NFL team in Las Vegas is great for all business not just the sports betting and casino businesses,” Metcalf says. “Obviously, we have seen a major uptick in our business when these teams play, and we’re excited to give fans a great place to watch the games whether it’s at our bars, sportsbook or at the one-of-a-kind Stadium Swim.”

Even amid the Covid-19 pandemic, Circa Resort became one of the places to be in Las Vegas in 2020 for NFL weekends, a credit to the fun house environment designed by Stevens. It helps that Stevens himself is a gregarious individual who seems to relish a forward-facing position, rather than stand in the background as is common among contemporary casino owners. For Metcalf and the Circa Sports staff, working with a hands-on owner like Stevens makes all the difference when building a brand.

“Derek being the face of the Circa Sports brand has been incredible,” Metcalf says. “His ability to relate to and understand his customers is phenomenal. We have taken Derek’s vision of customer service and run with it here at Circa Sports and I think it’s been our key to success. When he speaks about the brand, his passion and overall love for the business comes through and I really can’t think of any better advertisement you could have for a company than that.”

Stevens’ joyful approach to managing Circa Sports is particularly important during the pandemic, when “everyone is under stress no matter who you are in these times,” as Metcalf puts it.

Covid has made us have to think harder, be more nimble as operators, and has forced us to cut down on excuses, adds Metcalf. “But we have a duty as a sportsbook to provide an amazing wagering experience that can help take peoples’ minds off things when they log on to our app or walk into our sportsbook,” he says. “Whether you’re a professional sports bettor or a tourist here to make a couple bets on your hometown team, we take pride in having created a product that can meet your expectations every time you interact with the Circa Sports brand.”

As with any operator, Circa Sports does have its hiccups, like a highly publicized mess-up in July when Metcalf mistakenly set a high over/under for a WNBA All-Star matchup with Team USA. Metcalf didn’t realize the WNBA All-Star team’s opponent when setting the total, leading him to think far more points would be scored than what occurred. The total plummeted 53 points in a matter of hours, in what Metcalf told ESPN was a horrific error. Like the athletes he analyzes, Metcalf had to learn from his mistake on the fly and then quickly move on.

“We make mistakes every day. Whether it’s the occasional mis-post of a final score, double booking a reservation in the sportsbook, or writing the wrong ticket, mistakes are going to happen,” he says.“The thing I tell our team is that we must treat these mistakes as opportunities. Every time we make a mistake, it’s an excuse to interact a little more authentically with the guest and show them a little more of who we are and what makes us different. In the end I can guarantee that we are all in on making this the most enjoyable and best sportsbook product to interact with.”

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