Wildwood Casino Already On Rebound After Collapse Of Saratoga Deal

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Wildwood Casino is moving forward with plans to launch mobile and retail sportsbook platforms in Colorado after Saratoga Harness Racing Inc. and American Gaming Group, LLC opted to terminate Saratoga’s proposed acquisition of the Cripple Creek property May 20.

Located more than 9,500 feet above sea level in close proximity to Pikes Peak, Wildwood bills itself as the highest casino in the world. Weeks before the deal with Saratoga Gaming collapsed, Wildwood Casino secured a separate partnership with Las Vegas-based ISI Race & Sports (ISI) to provide hardware, software and marketing services for the casino’s sportsbook operations.

Both Wildwood and Saratoga Gaming cited the detrimental economic impact of the COVID-19 pandemic as the main deal breaker in the failed acquisition attempt. Sports betting in Colorado and the casino industry as a whole have been hit hard by the spread of the coronavirus.

“Even though Wildwood’s acquisition by Saratoga did not happen, that agreement is still in place,” Wildwood Casino General Manager Matt Andrighetti told COBets. “We’re moving forward getting the online app running literally right now.”

Amelco brings intrigue

Despite the continued retail casino shutdown, Wildwood Casino is making progress with its mobile sportsbook app, BetWildwood. Through its partnership with ISI, Wildwood has enlisted London-based Amelco to provide bespoke trading and sportsbook solutions from a technology standpoint. Across the Atlantic, Amelco has distinguished itself by powering the technological solutions for industry stalwarts such as Flutter, GVC and The Stars Group.

It is important to note that Amelco will white label the software for the mobile app under the BetWildwood brand, Andrighetti said. In industry parlance, white labeling transpires when a third party manufactures a product but relabels the product under the brand of its partner, in this case BetWildwood. By working hand-in-hand with ISI and Amelco, Wildwood will be able to tailor the app to its local customer base.

“Amelco is willing to work with us to tweak it as we need it,” Andrighetti said. “We want to offer a good product above anything else.”

At present, six digital sportsbooks — BetMonarch, BetMGM, BetRiversDraftKingsFanDuel, and FoxBet — are live with mobile sports betting offerings in Colorado. Several others, most notably Smarkets USA, intend to launch in the coming weeks. Saratoga Casino Black Hawk, which has a sportsbook partnership with Betfred, has tentative plans to launch in the fall.

Ahead of the May 1 launch of legalized sports betting in Colorado, all 33 licensed, non-tribal casinos across the state received a master license to accept wagers on sports.

Response to COVID-19

Although retail casinos remain closed for the moment, non-essential businesses throughout Colorado are gradually receiving the green light to reopen through a phased approach from the governor’s office. Earlier this week, Gov. Jared Polis announced a measure that will allow restaurants to offer dine-in services after weeks of being limited to takeout only. Under the guidelines, indoor dining capacity will be capped at 50% of a restaurant’s occupancy code limit.

Upon the reopening of Wildwood Casino, Andrighetti emphasized that the casino will be extremely cognizant of how it manages large crowds to protect the safety of its patrons. In terms of new health and safety practices, Wildwood will have on-demand cleaning crews mobilized throughout the casino to clean surfaces upon the request of customers. The casino is also examining various UV light technologies for potential air filtration improvements to safeguard customers from the virus.

Andrighetti views traffic flow at the sportsbook in a similar fashion as other operations inside the casino, from the restaurants that are on the property, to the banks of slot machines and the table games around the venue. If regulations are passed that limit foot traffic inside a sportsbook to 50% of total occupancy, the casino will adjust accordingly, he said. With television screens scattered throughout the property, and the ability to set up additional self-service kiosks, Wildwood Casino has alternative options for customers to engage in sports betting outside the physical sportsbook.

“For the time being, we’re going to have to be responsible about mitigating the spread of this,” Andrighetti said.

In a twist of fate, Andrighetti believes the sportsbook can capitalize from the lengthy slowdown in global sports. A gradual transition back to live sports, he says, gives Wildwood an opportunity to offer a “soft-opening” of sports betting to nascent customers with less experience than the hardened player. It also allows new sportsbook tellers to become accustomed to the customer-service needs of disparate types of sports bettors, before longer lines appear for the start of football season.

Unlike many Colorado books that are looking to engage customers from all corners of the state, Wildwood is intently focused on serving local bettors near Cripple Creek. Wildwood Casino is located approximately 44 miles from Colorado Springs, home of the U.S. Air Force Academy. Though Wildwood will offer a full wagering menu of pro sports, offerings on Air Force football and basketball could be of particular interest in the area.

Wildwood Casino has not set a definitive timetable for the launch of its mobile and retail sportsbooks.

“We’re not chasing all over, everywhere, our idea is to offer a good product to our local customers,” Andrighetti said.

 

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Matt is a veteran writer with a specific focus on the emerging sports gambling market. During Matt's two decade career in journalism, he has written for the New York Times, Forbes, The Guardian, Reuters and CBSSports.com among others. In his spare time, Matt is an avid reader, a weekend tennis player and a frequent embarrassment to the sport of running.

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