Victor Salerno is a 40-year veteran of the race and sports book industry in the state of Nevada. Mr. Salerno was the Chairman of the Board and Chief Executive Officer of American Wagering, Inc., until the company was sold to William Hill in July 2012. He is the President of U.S. Bookmaking and U.S. Fantasy.
Mr. Salerno is a legend in the race and sports book industry and is credited with initiating projects that grew Nevada sports wagering to its current success and popularity. His many accomplishments include the first computerized book making systems (CBS), first sports bookmaking network hub operation in Nevada. He also pioneered the development and use of self-service race & sports book kiosks.
I was able to get some time with him prior to the G2E. He is participating in a panel on Sports Betting and he agreed to answer several questions.
1) New Jersey just edged Nevada in Sports Betting handle in the month of August. What would you attribute that to?
There are a few considerations. First and most importantly, New Jersey has nearly three times the population of Nevada. Although Las Vegas enjoys a tremendous number of visitors, most of them are here to enjoy a mini-vacation and sports betting is not their primary concern. Also, New Jersey’s revenue numbers are inflated by promotional play, which is a huge number. Finally, the online sign-up process for mobile sports betting accounts makes it much more convenient for players. Nevada requires an in-person visit to the casinos to open a mobile account.
2) In-Play wagering is creating a great deal of excitement. Do you think it will surpass pre-match betting?
We see the appetite for in-play wagering to be a growing phenomenon. It has already surpassed half-time wagering and is growing substantially stronger from a percentage of overall revenue when compared to pre-match. We see no impediments for in-play to become the dominant preference of sports bettors. In-play is available for almost the entire game, which provides a multitude of betting opportunities. We are very excited about in-play’s growth potential.
3) What is the ideal tax rate for a sports betting operator to have a in a new jurisdiction?
A tax rate of 8% or less is most preferable. It is important to realize that legal sports betting must provide competitive odds to knock out the illegal bookies who, in many cases offer better betting odds than most of the New Jersey operators. The higher the tax, the more likely an operator will move off of the traditional 11/10 relationship which is maintained by the Nevada casino operators. We are seeing a lot of outrageous betting lines coming out of New Jersey. These lines are not good values for sports bettors.
4) Las Vegas is the gold standard for sports betting. What makes it so appealing?
Actually, Las Vegas is no longer the gold standard. New Jersey, for example has a more enlightened approach with online account sign-ups and online account funding. Nevada has a protectionism approach for the big casino operators who have invested heavily in bricks & mortar. This also applies to online poker and i-gaming, where Nevada has no interest in joining the rest of the world.