ZenSports Acquires Option to Buy Nevada Casino, Sets Stage for First US Sports Betting Exchange

Posted on: August 6, 2020, 09:53h. 

Last updated on: August 7, 2020, 09:49h.

The goal to get a sports betting exchange in the US took one pretty significant step toward becoming a reality on Wednesday. That’s when ZenSports, an American company that runs an international online exchange, announced a deal with Strategic Gaming Management (SGM).

Under an agreement with Strategic Gaming Management, ZenSports may soon take over the sportsbook at Baldini’s Sports Casino in Sparks, Nev., and offer the first US-based sports betting exchange. (Image: Reno Gazette-Journal)

Through the deal, ZenSports acquired an option to buy the Big Wheel Casino in Lovelock, Nev., which is about 100 miles northeast of Reno. It also has an additional option of operating the sportsbook at Baldini’s Sports Casino in Sparks. SGM owns both casinos.

The ZenSports betting exchange allows individuals to create a bet and establish a limit for their wager. From there, another bettor could agree to take on the entire bet or several could take a portion. Instead of juice, the exchange takes a small commission off bets that is up to 90 percent less than what traditional sportsbooks take.

The ability to purchase a casino gives ZenSports the opportunity to get a license for its sports betting exchange. Back in March, co-founder Mark Thomas told Casino.org that in order to get into an American market, the company needed to either partner with or own a casino.

The option on Big Wheel runs through December 2023, Thomas said.

We hope to get licensed and have our tech certified in Nevada within the next 6-9 months,” Thomas told Casino.org in an email. “Once that happens, we’ll exercise the option.”

The ZenSports app, available for iOS and Android, is available in the US, where the company offers fantasy sports games.

Not Just Nevada

Under the plan, ZenSports would take over the Baldini’s sportsbook operations, and that app would be discontinued. Thomas told Casino.org that it remains to be seen whether ZenSports will offer a traditional sportsbook to go with the betting exchange.

Within sports betting social media circles, exchanges have been touted as something the US market needs, although there are questions and concerns about whether one state would really be sufficient for an exchange.

Thomas has no qualms about whether the granddaddy of the sports betting states is big enough.

There was $5.3 billion wagered on sports in Nevada last year, with close to 50 percent of that wagered via mobile,” Thomas told Casino.org. “We expect to be able to gain a solid percentage of that business.”

Nevada may not be the only state where ZenSports soon has a presence.

Thomas told Casino.org that ZenSports is working with another company as part of a joint venture for a new casino in Cripple Creek, Colo. That would enable ZenSports to gain licensure in a second state, one that has attracted several operators since sports betting became legal there in May.

Decentralized Approach

While the betting exchange component may draw the most attention, Thomas is quick to point out there are other aspects of ZenSports’ approach that differ significantly from others in the sports betting marketplace.

A couple of those focus on decentralization.

While ZenSports does allow betting with US dollars, it also takes bitcoin and promotes the use of SPORTS, the company’s own proprietary cryptocurrency. Thomas said using SPORTS means customers avoid having a financial institution decline a transaction, and the overwhelming majority of ZenSports patrons use the tokens, which also include a rewards program attached to it.

The decentralized nature of ZenSports also carries over into conflict resolution, too. Thomas said the company is not the bookmaker, and it lets the marketplace resolve conflicts to ensure all bettors, regardless of how much they wager, act in good faith.

ZenSports Evolution

ZenSports launched in its current format in March 2019. Thomas initially created a mobile app for people looking to play recreational sports with others. But the Supreme Court overturning PASPA led the company to create an exchange via blockchain technology.

The company has had a partnership with Baldini’s for more than a year, with Strategic Gaming Management (SGM) CEO Grant Lincoln, who serves as Baldini’s CEO, invested in ZenSports and serving as an advisor.

“ZenSports is proving to be a force in the mobile and peer-to-peer sports betting world,” said Lincoln, a former CEO of Century Gaming. “We’re excited to help give them an opportunity to expand into the Nevada market and make ZenSports a household name here.”