After Deal With UNLV, Could A DraftKings Sportsbook In Nevada Be In The Cards?

Written By Marc Meltzer on November 2, 2020 - Last Updated on November 11, 2020

At long last, DraftKings is on its way to Nevada. Kind of.

Last week, DraftKings announced a multi-year agreement to become a primary sponsor of the Center for Gaming Innovation at UNLV.

Partnering with gaming companies is nothing new for UNLV. The university holds numerous other sponsorships with gaming companies and casino operators with properties throughout Nevada. The only other UNLV sponsor not operating in Nevada is Rush Street Gaming.

While DraftKings isn’t licensed to operate its sportsbook or daily fantasy sports site in Nevada, the deal could signal what’s to come.

DraftKings Gaming Innovation Studio

The deal includes the opening of the new DraftKings Gaming Innovation Studio at UNLV. DraftKings now has access to local talent from the university and strengthens the company’s ties to the Las Vegas community.

“We’re excited to be working with the University of Nevada, Las Vegas, and its highly regarded International Gaming Institute to further innovate global online gaming,” said Paul Liberman, co-founder and COO of DraftKings.

“Both DraftKings and UNLV are on the leading edge of developing the next wave of technology within the international gaming industry. Through this agreement, DraftKings not only has access to the latest ideas coming out of the Gaming Innovation Studio, but it also allows us to deepen our relationship with the Las Vegas community.”

Working with UNLV brings DraftKings closer to the Las Vegas market.

DraftKings expands in Las Vegas

Though DraftKings isn’t operating in Nevada, the company is increasing the size of its footprint in the state. In January 2020, DraftKings opened a 300-person office in Las Vegas. This agreement with UNLV will give DraftKings direct access to young local talent and to innovations created at the university.

The deal isn’t purely for access to possible employees in the future or new technology, however. There’s a marketing angle to this deal.

Visitors to UNLV can expect to see new DraftKings Gaming Innovation Studio signage as well as DraftKings branding throughout the Stan Fulton Building.

For UNLV, DraftKings adds another name to a long list of partners:

  • Boyd Gaming
  • Caesars Entertainment
  • Dotty’s
  • IGT
  • Konami
  • Las Vegas Sands (The Venetian and The Palazzo)
  • MGM Resorts
  • Mohegan Sun (recently licensed to operate the casino at Virgin)
  • Penn National Gaming
  • Resorts World
  • Scientific Games
  • Station Casinos
  • Wynn Resorts

Will DraftKings open a Nevada sportsbook?

In the ever-changing landscape of sports betting in Nevada, this UNLV deal is the latest piece in a puzzle that could show DraftKings entering the Silver State.

Last year, DraftKings signed a multi-year, multi-state agreement with Caesars Entertainment. This doesn’t mean that DraftKings has an easy entry to operate in Nevada. Things are different for Caesars today.

Caesars has since merged with Eldorado Resorts. Eldorado owned part of sportsbook operator William Hill. After the merger was completed, the newly formed version of Caesars Entertainment purchased the remaining ownership stake in William Hill.

Caesars Sportsbooks by William Hill is now the official operator for the company after the deal was approved by the Nevada Gaming Control Board. Shortly after, William Hill received approval to purchase the assets of and operate CG Technology sportsbooks.

What does this have to do with DraftKings?

DraftKings, meanwhile, has been quiet about its deal and any other possible partners in the future. The company hasn’t seemed in a rush to open up shop in Nevada. Plus, it operates mostly online and mobile sports betting elsewhere and relies mostly on remote account registration, which is not available in Nevada… yet.

The Nevada Gaming Control Board had scheduled a workshop this week to possibly allow mobile sportsbook registration. That session has since been canceled but is expected to be rescheduled for a later date.

DraftKings might decide to look for another partner in Nevada. The company could theoretically work out a new deal with Resorts World Las Vegas, which remains on schedule to open in summer 2021.

Similarly, the company could wait for a new operator to enter Las Vegas. For example, Hard Rock International could become the next casino operator to enter the Las Vegas market.

The timing of the DraftKings announcement could be a coincidence. Or a signal of things to come.

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Marc Meltzer

Marc grew up on the mean streets of the South Bronx. He's the rare combination of Yankees and Jets fan which explains his often contrarian point of view. Marc is a freelance writer and social media consultant. Writing about steak, booze, gambling and Las Vegas is a tough job but somebody has to do it.

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