Boyd Gaming Corp. joins mobile wagering trend

Bob Scucci can recall an era when Nevada’s race and sports books displayed signs banning cellular telephones.

If the signs were still in place today, the casinos would be giving away a growing chunk of revenue.

Scucci, the director of race and sports for Boyd Gaming Corp., said the company’s recent launch of its mobile wagering application could bring more gamblers into the fold. The application allows customers in Nevada to bet on college and professional games and events outside of the sports book setting.

Boyd is the latest company to join the mobile wagering trend, following sports book operators William Hill and Cantor Gaming and locals gaming rival Station Casinos.

“We’re trying to grow the market,” said Scucci, who has spent almost 23 years and the race and sports book industry. “We see this as an opportunity to attract new customers.”

The application — B Connected Sports — is available as a mobile app on iOS devices through the iTunes Store and on Android devices at BConnectedSports.com. The application is offered through the company’s B Connected player loyalty program.

Scucci said the application was released after “a large amount of customer testing feedback.”

Mobile wagers are still a small piece of the overall sports betting puzzle, Scucci said. But he expects that figure to increase.

He said players favorite types of bets were included as part of the app, such as parlay bets.

Customers can initially enroll at the six Boyd Gaming sports book locations — The Orleans, Gold Coast, Suncoast, Sam’s Town, Fremont and California Hotel. After placing a balance on their account, customers can wager through the app at their convenience.

Winnings will be credited to the account and can be cashed out at any Boyd Gaming sports book.

Scucci said mobile sports wagering is attractive to a growing audience of customers who have become accustomed to using mobile devices for various activities, such as shopping.

Union Gaming Group analyst Robert Shore said as additional casinos offer mobile wagering capabilities, the total amount wagered on sports could increase in the Nevada, especially in the locals market.

Race and sports book betting accounts for 2 percent of Nevada’s total gaming revenue, but the numbers are still healthy.

“Overall revenue from race and sports books in the state has posted relatively strong growth year-over-year in recent months, albeit versus easy seasonal comparisons,” Shore said in a note to investors. “Nevertheless, this owes mainly to increased access through mobile venues.”

With rival Station Casinos offering mobile sports wagering, Boyd Gaming needed to join the party.

“Modernization and broader implementation of technology all contribute to this effort to enhance customers’ experience, as well as augment Boyd’s position as we await a more meaningful turnaround in the locals market,” Shore said.

Scucci said the mobile devices make sports wagering easier. But they don’t take away from the experience of watching games inside a race and sports book.

“Someone who might be intimated about betting at a window might not with a mobile device,” Scucci said.

Shore said Boyd Gaming has been looking at changing out its restaurants and offering different amenities in it locals properties in order to grow non-gaming spending by customers. Adding mobile sports wagering is one way to add another dimension to the gaming side of the business.

“Our discussion with locals market management affirmed an increased focus on optimizing the cash flow contribution from non-gaming assets reflective of a paradigm of shifting demographics and where and how customers are choosing to spend amidst ongoing economic recovery in the area,” Shore said.

Scucci said he had grown accustomed to telling gamblers they would be violating state gaming regulations by using their cellular telephones within the sports books’ customer areas. Before the Internet, cell phones were banned from sports books so that wagering lines couldn’t be transmitted across state lines.

He’s glad that aspect of the business had changed.

“I got used to telling people to turn off their phones,” Scucci said. “There were times I was in a grocery store, saw someone using a phone, and told them they couldn’t do that.”

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