Pilot Heidi Kennedy
Head of Casino Operations
Head of Casino Operations
The Nevada Gaming Control Board has released the statistics from sports betting in the state for the month of May. As the NBA and NHL finish their seasons the month is traditionally poor for sports betting handle, but a strong month for MLB kept Nevada’s handle dip to just 3.5% from April compared to a 10.8% average drop for legal sports betting markets in the USA.
It is expected for total handle to drop off during the warmer months, but in spite of the holes in the sports calendar, Nevada sportsbooks posted strong numbers for the month of May. The Nevada Gaming Control Board issued their report for May, showing a $562 million handle for the month. This was a 3.5% drop from the $582.5 million handled in April, already a major victory considering the decrease in marquee sporting events. In addition, the books fared well against the public, boosting their rate to 4.8% compared to the 4.4% hold in April, meaning their nearly $27 million in revenue actually exceeded the April total of $25.4 million.
Baseball topped the list of sports for the first time in 2022, with the $245 million in handle making up nearly half of the total wagers. The number represents more than a 30% increase over the April baseball handle, and the books did relatively well, holding 4.9%. The large baseball handle made it the second-best month ever in terms of baseball handle in the state, only surpassed by August of 2021. The growth for baseball flies in the face of stereotypes about declining interest in the game and the associated wagering on it. With fewer games on the slate, basketball handle dropped by 27.8%, but the books did even better against basketball bettors as they generated a 5.4% hold. NHL showed a surprising increase at Nevada’s top bookmakers, with the handle checking in 14% above last May’s total when the Golden Knights made a deep playoff run.
In spite of generating more revenue on less bets in May compared to April, Nevada’s hold sits well below the national average. May was the sixth consecutive month with a hold below 5%, in stark contrast to the national average hold that sits at 7.1%. Nevada sports bettors are clearly at less of a disadvantage than the average bettor, with the state’s extensive history of legalized gambling being a likely culprit for the increased volume of sharp bettors at online sports betting sites.
Legal sports betting has been available for a long time in Nevada, but mobile wagers are a recent addition. Bets taken online accounted for 71% of the May handle, and online bettors did even better against the house than their retail counterparts, losing just 4.1%. Even with a hold sitting just over half of the national average, the number still represents a gain for the house as the online hold was at just 2.6% for the first four months of 2022. NHL bettors have proven especially sharp, actually beating the house in December and January and losing just 2.5% in May.
As the calendar enters the time of year where baseball is the only major sport operating, it will be at the center of the sports betting market. The strong numbers for May show that the sport is still plenty popular in spite of most sportsbooks giving significantly more attention to the NFL and NBA.
The newly-expanded MLB playoffs are designed to ensure that more teams are in contention down the stretch, and are sure to make for exciting action and more fan engagement as the races heat up. More playoff games are likely to drive increased interest even as the sport again has to share the spotlight with the NFL and NBA. The beginning of football season is right around the corner, but at least in Nevada the sportsbooks will be plenty of busy taking baseball bets.