1-on-1 With Derek Stevens: Circa Sports CEO Projects ‘Biggest Six-Month Period We’ve Ever Seen’

Written By Chris Sheridan on June 29, 2020

When Las Vegas was set to reopen on June 4, there was no one more optimistic and/or grateful than Derek Stevens, CEO of Circa Sports and owner of the Golden Gate Hotel.

“I told all of my employees, not only are we going to open, but we are going to open on the first minute,” Stevens said.

To make the moment even more special, Stevens first bought 1,000 airline tickets from five US airlines and culled customers from 28 US cities – giving away the flights over the course of two hours. The demand was so great, he bought 1,000 more and added five more US cities, and those were gone in the space of 20 minutes.

“It was good for Vegas, it was good for my employees and it was good for the airlines … and I certainly got to meet a whole lot of people,” Stevens said Friday.

If there is a successor to the legendary Benny Binion, who would take any bet from any person who walked inside of Binion’s Casino on Fremont Street, it just might be Stevens, who is now taking numerous $100,000 app-based bets from his customer base and has taken quite a number of half-million dollar wagers on sporting events over the past couple of years.

And as far as being bullish on the future of sports gambling, let’s just say that Stevens is sinking a whole ton of money into the growth of that sector of the US sports economy while expecting a monster second half of 2020 now that professional sports is mounting a comeback.

He predicts a boom in sports gambling in a majority of the 50 states.

“There is so much pent-up demand, and baseball’s 60-game sprint is really going to be exciting,” Stevens said. “Certainly it’s going to be the busiest six-month period we’ve ever seen, and with the way that states’ economies have been over the past four months, there hasn’t been a city or state that hasn’t been impacted. So states now have to get creative to hit their budgets. Cost-cutting is one thing, but no state can cost-cut their way out of this. It is time for them to look at revenue enhancement.”

‘World’s largest sportsbook’ coming to Vegas

Revenue enhancement was certainly what Stevens had in mind when he designed the sportsbook for Circa Sports, which will open Oct. 1 with the world’s largest TV screen. It will have three floors, stadium seating and feature will also feature a multi-level pool that will double as an events center. There will be six different pools, a 125-foot TV and a capacity of 4,000 people.

The sportsbook is also set to launch its mobile betting app in Colorado, its first state outside of Nevada, in July as well.

“We’ll be bringing something unique to the Colorado market, and the payout in our pools – especially in golf and on NASCAR – will be the biggest in the business,” Stevens said. “We are also looking at getting into other states, but the regulatory atmosphere has to be right,” he added, mentioning Illinois and Montana as two states where the regulatory atmosphere is too tight for him to be interested at the present time.

The pent-up demand for sports gambling, well-chronicled on this site with our reports on ping-pong, soccer and Korean baseball betting, is what Stevens is banking on to make the second half of 2020 a lucrative six months for his company and other sportsbooks.

No more guilt when it comes to sports betting

Gamblers have not had regular action in a while, whether on casino games or on sports that they are familiar with, and a ton of money is still sitting in wallets and bank accounts waiting to be spent. The past 26 months since PASPA was overturned by the Supreme Court have made sports gambling a non-taboo activity, and Stevens is counting on that lack of a stigma to continue to make sports gambling one of the country’s top growth industries.

“When the sports gambling apps became available, action just exploded,” he said. “People no longer feel guilty making a $20 bet on a game, and the networks are always previewing games by noting what the line is. Michigan – Ohio State is previewed with a 7-point line, and everybody quickly has an opinion on whether that line is what it should be.

“It enhances people’s enjoyment of sports.”

‘Where the pros play’

Stevens said he met hundreds upon hundreds of people after paying for their flights to and from Las Vegas when the city reopened for gambling, and he seems to enjoy being a part of the culture of Fremont Street, which is in the same city but is a world away from the fanciness of The Strip. Downtown Vegas has always drawn a – shall we say – less cosmopolitan crowd than what is found on The Strip, and his properties (which include the Golden Gate Casino, one of the oldest buildings in Vegas) are now anchors for the downtown area.

Taking just about any bet that walks through the door makes him somewhat of an old-school owner, which is just fine by Stevens, who exudes optimism. At a time when some states, most notable New Jersey, keep maximum bets artificially low, Stevens is an outlier when it comes to saying OK to just about any wager.

There aren’t many like him these days, which is a bonus for Circa Sports.

We take our motto very seriously: “Where the pros play.”

Soon, those pros are going to be making those bets in front of the world’s largest TV screen, and perhaps watching the action from a three-level indoor grandstand or one of six pools.

Just goes to show you, Vegas is unlike any other city in America. And people like Stevens are what makes it such a special place.

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