Cantor Gaming’s aggressive, innovative style is changing the face of Las Vegas sports books
By Buzz Daly
Since launching in Nevada in March 2009, when it began operating the race and sports book at the newly built M Resort and Casino, Cantor has been sailing past older, bigger and well-established competitors.
The Art of War by Sun Tzu, one of the oldest and most revered books on military strategy, has also influenced modern business tactics by emphasizing the importance of positioning and quick appropriate responses to changing conditions. I’m not sure if management at Cantor Gaming is among the book’s disciples, but the company’s approach to expanding its share of the Las Vegas sports-betting business is so aggressive and effective, it just might consider the marketplace a sort of battleground.
Since launching in Nevada in March 2009, when it began operating the race and sports book at the newly built M Resort and Casino, Cantor has been sailing past older, bigger and well-established competitors. Emphasizing an approach that focuses on earning profits via high handle and reduced hold, the company made a quick, favorable impression upon bettors.
To put its rapid ascent into perspective, during Cantor’s first three years in Vegas, the company assumed control of sports-book operations at five major casinos in addition to the M: Hard Rock, Cosmopolitan, Venetian, Palazzo and Tropicana. In February, a seventh property was added to their list—the Palms, where a new book is under construction. CEO Lee Amaitis said the company booked about 10 percent of the $85 million in action on the 2011 Super Bowl handled by the state’s 186 licensed books.
As a subsidiary of global financial services firm Cantor Fitzgerald, which claims to process over $500 billion in transactions every day in the world’s capital markets, Cantor Gaming uses sophisticated technology in managing risk for its high-end bookmaking activities. By offering some of the industry’s highest limits to bettors who routinely risk five and six figures, while also appealing to casual and recreational players, Cantor services players across all income brackets.
Now the company has added two new perks for bettors which have further distinguished Cantor from their competitors. For starters, it has launched a new daily wagering prop that lets customers create their own fantasy basketball teams. Bettors compete against a Cantor team by selecting their own squad from the remaining pool of players. Once an opposing team has been selected, Cantor will offer a point spread and bettors can wager on either their own or Cantor’s team to win against the line.
Called “Cantor 5,” this wager is a unique and fun concept that appeals not only to regular bettors, but brings in a whole new market of hoops aficionados. As an enthusiast who plays fantasy baseball and football, I know the idea of instant gratification for one’s efforts is most enticing.
Mike Colbert, Cantor race and sports risk director, noted that Cantor 5 will be available through the NBA finals in June, and will start up again with the 2012 NFL season. He called the wager “among the most creative and ground-breaking events ever in sports betting…we really pride ourselves on being industry leaders and doing new things. I think it’s a revolutionary product that’s going to blow people away. It’s fantasy with real money.”
I asked him “why not offer it for baseball,” and he replied that baseball just isn’t that popular a betting sport with the public. It doesn’t attract enough volume to justify all the effort involved in posting the bet, Colbert added.
In another exclusive initiative which gives customers a fast and convenient way to be in action, Cantor now accepts most major credit cards to fund race and sports wagering accounts. Debit cards are also taken. Players who wish to open a Cantor account or fund an existing one by tapping a credit card can be serviced at the betting counter, generally the position to the far right.
These customer-friendly innovations have been the company’s hallmark. It successfully juggles the tricky challenge of making a profit by satisfying wise guys and sharps who come to the counter with fistfuls of Benjamins, as well as the rest of us.
Cantor’s wagering lines are acknowledged to be among the sharpest anywhere, and it shares them with many of the state’s sports books.
Cantor was also the first to succeed with in-running wagering. Previous attempts by other companies to popularize the concept had failed, because the products offered were not sophisticated enough or user friendly. In-running accommodates bettors who want action during an event. As points are scored, interceptions are made, etc., new bets are offered with fresh odds.
Cantor’s ability to quickly handicap and post new bets, as well as the large variety offered, makes in-running action an exciting and very popular alternative to simply betting before the event gets underway. As the customer base grows, not only are more options per game offered, but the menu of games increases. Instead of just a few games per day, the feature is generally available for the entire schedule.
If catering to bettors in a crowded sports book isn’t enough, Cantor also offers Android-compatible mobile sports wagering which lets it take action from cell phones and tablets. This has brought in a new generation of younger, tech savvy customers who are avid users of the latest communication devices.
The influence of Cantor Gaming’s aggressive modus operandi on the traditionally low handle, modest-profit sports-betting industry should not be underestimated. Despite all the excitement generated at raucous, crowded sports books, they are not darlings of the corporate folks who monitor the bottom line. At the end of the day, sports books earned $140 million for Nevada casinos in 2011—not especially impressive when measured against the total of $10.7 billion in revenues taken in by the casinos during the year.
Casino accountants deal with hard figures, and the relatively tiny amount of revenue won by the books reflects their status in the casino hierarchy. The larger financial impact of all the traffic created by legal bet shops is intangible and off-handedly acknowledged, but not really factored in.
Ideally, Cantor’s success will ratchet up interest among casino bosses, some of whom perceive their sports books to be an amenity rather than a significant profit center. If the books are more profitable and attract more customers to their properties, perhaps the suits will become appreciative of the additional money these patrons spend throughout the casino. The net result could be a win-win for all concerned.