Downtown Las Vegas Visionary Derek Stevens Betting Big on Sports Betting

Posted on: July 2, 2020, 03:33h. 

Last updated on: July 3, 2020, 09:21h.

Derek Stevens — co-owner of the D Las Vegas and Golden Gate — isn’t afraid to bet big. In 2017 and 2018, he bet $11,000 on each of the 32 games in the first round of the NCAA Men’s March Madness basketball tournament, plus another $25,000 on his beloved Michigan Wolverines to go all the way.

Derek Stevens downtown Las Vegas Circa
Derek Stevens, pictured here last month at the topping-off of Circa Las Vegas, sees many opportunities with sports betting in Nevada, Colorado, and elsewhere in the country. (Image: Michael Quine/Las Vegas Review-Journal)

In 2019, Stevens announced downtown Las Vegas’ first from-the-ground-up casino resort in decades. Circa Resort and Casino  is set to open this October and measures 1.2 million square feet and stands 35 floors tall, with 777 rooms and suites, and features a pool amphitheater and what Stevens is billing as the “world’s largest sportsbook.”

Stevens chatted with this week. He shared why he believes sports betting presents the gaming industry with a significant revenue opportunity and explained his optimism on the future of the Fremont Street area.

Sports Viewing Evolution 

“If you look at sports betting over the last 20 years, it’s become very clear that this is a significant growth opportunity market,” Stevens said. “I’ve thought this for a long, long time.”

In addition to legal sports betting expanding across the nation since the Supreme Court repealed the federal ban in May of 2018, Stevens says the increase in sports betting can be attributed to technological advances in television.

“The product you watch on television is so much better,” Stevens explained. “If you watch ESPN Classic, and I think we’ve all been watching more old games over the past few months, the video footage was lousy.”

The enhancements on watching games on television has made it that much better, and watching games has become more fun. And you enjoy them even more when you have a little action on the game,” he added.

Circa will offer fans what Stevens claimed is the ultimate sports viewing experience. The indoor sportsbook is a three-story venue with capacity to accommodate 1,000 people. The outdoor amphitheater can accommodate 4,000 people, has six pools on three levels, and a 40-foot high-definition screen with 14 million pixels.

Colorado Launch

Circa Sports, Steven’s sportsbook company that operates at the D, Golden Gate, and soon Circa, as well as everywhere throughout Nevada via mobile, launched online in Colorado this week.

Unlike in Nevada, where in-person registration is first required to set up a mobile sports betting account, Coloradans are able to register on their phone or computer.

Stevens said Colorado’s regulations were “optimal” for Circa Sports’ first expansion outside of Nevada. Licenses cost $125,000, and sports betting win is taxed at 10 percent. By comparison, Pennsylvania charges sports betting operators a $10 million upfront fee and tax revenue at 36 percent.

Stevens says Circa Sports will focus on Colorado for the rest of 2020 before “going into other states down the road.”

The Face of Vegas 

Derek Stevens has become synonymous with downtown Las Vegas. His vigor and commitment to Fremont Street showed again last month when he paid for more than 2,000 flights for visitors to return to his casinos following the coronavirus closures.

My personality is my personality, and I’m gonna let it rip,” Stevens answered when asked whether he minds being the face of downtown.

Stevens said the downtown area began to change when Steve Wynn moved to the Strip and began building The Mirage. “From the middle ’80s to around 2006, there really wasn’t a lot of capital coming into downtown Las Vegas,” he stated.

Stevens hasn’t revealed the total investment for Circa. But rumors have floated around town that it’s in the neighborhood of $1 billion.