Home NewsCasino Fremont Street has been revitalized by a man.

Fremont Street has been revitalized by a man.

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The Rat Pack was synonymous with Downtown Las Vegas in the past, but today’s Fremont Street is quite different. Derek Stevens is an outsider in the industry who has played a major role in revitalising this area. He brings a new sports betting and casino experience.

Circa Sports’ Derek Stevens is an outsider in the gambling industry. In his home state of Michigan, he built a successful business selling auto parts before moving to the gambling industry and purchasing the Golden Gate Casino in 2008. He is honest when he talks about his attraction to the city.

He says bluntly, “I came to Vegas because there is no state income tax.” I run an investment fund, so this was very helpful.

Derek Stevens poses with Vegas Vickie, a symbol of “Old Vegas”.

But, he continues, “I am more an operator.” This is someone who enjoys challenges, and he acquired a casino at the beginning of the Great Recession. Stevens fell “in love” with downtown Las Vegas during that time renovating and expanding The Golden Gate.

He adds, “I’m an avid fan of music and entertainment in downtown Vegas and I really push the Fremont Street Experience with more and better concerts.” I thought that it was a great way to bring people into downtown Vegas.

In 2011, he added Fitzgeralds to his portfolio. It’s not a familiar name, but the D – Stevens nickname for Detroit and the city where he grew up – is the new building.

Stevens, who was the first person to be named after a casino in Sin City when Bill’s Gamblin’ Hall and Saloon was opened (named after Bill Harrah), is now one of only two individuals to receive a casino name.


Downtown’s first new building in 40 years

Stevens and Greg continued to grow the D and Golden Gate business.

He says, “We had the opportunity to buy the Las Vegas Club and the Glitter Gulch and Mermaids. Then we bought a few other downtown buildings.” Then we decided to build and expand a new property.

Circa Resort & Casino is the first new-build property in downtown Las Vegas for 40 years

Circa Resort & Casino, while bearing his name, may also be considered his masterpiece. It opened in 2020, towering over the D. This was the first casino-hotel construction in Fremont Street since 1980.

Stevens says that Circa was the first project he had ever designed from scratch. “There were some key elements we wanted to include,” Stevens explains.

We wanted to create destinations venues and destination experiences, which is how the largest sportsbook in the world evolved. Stadium Swim is how Stadium Swim developed. This is how Legacy Club developed.

Stadium Swim is the place to go if you want a large screen over a swimming pool. To get to the top, you’ll have to take Las Vegas’ largest escalator. You can enjoy panoramic views of the city from The Legacy Club. The property also displays Fremont Street’s history; Vegas Vickie is a neon light that once dominated the Glitter Gulch.


Building better

Circa boasts that its sportsbook has the largest betting area in the entire world. The sportsbook has a three-storey building, a screen of 78m pixels and can accommodate up to 1,000 spectators.

Stevens is a sports enthusiast and bettors himself. The development presented an opportunity for him to create something better.

He says, “I have always believed that people will come if you design something sports fans like.”

The odds are very competitive and the pricing is also. The thrill of betting and watching in a venue that is similar to a concert or cinema auditorium will be a big draw for the newbie.

Stevens says, “We created a new model.” Circa Sports does not shy away from professional sports bettors. It uses the information they provide and, in his opinion, it is a two-way relationship.

It’s nice to have a lot of people who make over a million bucks a year. Circa Sports is a great place to make money. I enjoy having many people who earn six-figures because it helps create the market and brings us more customers.

Circa has even brought the sports viewing experience into its pool

The on-property Megabook is only the beginning. Stevens founded Circa Sports before Circa Resort & Casino even opened. Circa Sports placed its first wagers in 2019 at Golden Gate.


Blending Smartphones and Spectacular Events

The venture runs the sportsbooks in Stevens’ Vegas hotels, along with off-property book in Nevada as well as mobile books in Colorado and Iowa. Circa has designed an experience which can be used on both the biggest screens in Las Vegas and a smaller counterpart that is carried by a player.

Stevens states, “You need mobile in order to be competitive.” Stevens cites the changes in consumer behavior and growth in in-game betting, but adds that retail remains an important component. The world’s biggest sportsbook is a boon to our mobile business.

Mobile marketing is a great way to reach beyond Nevada. It takes some time to choose where to launch for someone who moved to Nevada because there was no income tax. The tax rate on sports betting can range from very low to extremely high.

Stevens, Circa Sports CEO says that the strategy for Circa Sports to expand its market is based on the size and regulatory structure of the markets as well as the business model.

We run, for example, a business with fewer hold percentages. He explains that our business model would not work in some states. For example, it wouldn’t be able to work in Tennessee because the state has a mandatory holding percentage. For us, we look at the way our business model works within each jurisdiction.

“We felt good about Colorado, felt good about Iowa. “We feel good about getting to Illinois.” We wouldn’t like to live in Tennessee, or New York. “Insane taxes don’t fit with low-hold models.


Circa Sportsbook coming to Illinois

Expansion plans do not end at devices. The full, in-person experience is being exported across the US.

Circa launches mobile betting and on-site wagering in Illinois in partnership with Full House Resorts. American Place, Waukegan is the first retailer sportsbook of the operator outside Nevada.

Stevens says that this new state is a “new jurisdiction” for them, but the combination of mobile and retail is what makes them excited. They plan to start in Illinois in Q1 2023, and will then look for other opportunities.

Circa Sports at Circa Resort & Casino

He says, “We would love to expand into more states.” There are big states out there like Michigan, Ohio or New Jersey.

He adds that sports betting is still in its infancy, and it will “grow tremendously”.

He adds: “I think that the existing sportsbooks, as well as new ones can flourish in this market.” There’s a lot of growth potential for all sportsbooks, because the market is going to expand significantly.


Is betting recession proof?

He is full of optimism, but a recession that seems to be looming could quickly change the mood. He says, “I am old enough to have seen many recessions in this country.”

I would suggest that when faced with a situation such as what is happening in the United States, where interest rates are rising and macroeconomic concerns, inflationary fears, you should protect your balance-sheet.

Make sure you have enough cash and cash-flow to be able weather any storm.

In 2008, the reduced price of land facilitated the purchase of a casino by Mr. Henson.

Circa is a property which would not look out of the place on The Strip.

Some pollsters speculated that he might have turned to statewide issues. He was even mentioned as a possible wildcard candidate in 2022 for the Nevada Governor’s seat, but it never happened.

His final words suggest that he is thinking ahead to what may come: “Remember that when a recession hits, the best opportunities can also come at that time.

We’re trying our best to be prepared for any future growth, if that should happen.

Circa Sports is the source of all images.

Tom Donoghue Photographie

Circa Resort & Casino exterior image: Ryan Gobuty

Stadium Swim image: Rum Tongue

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