Nevada legislators impact sports wagering

Apr 16, 2013 3:08 AM

The ongoing political theater in Carson City may impact sports and race book wagering opportunities throughout Nevada.

There are several interesting storylines as legislators continue their work on bills that may open the door to big money sports wagering by private groups and repeal provisions that currently ban race book rebates.

Then there’s the David vs. Goliath battle that has restricted gaming locations (those with no more than 15 machines) battling the biggest resort companies over the use of sports book kiosks, which bring some of the features of full service books into neighborhood taverns and restaurants.

The big companies, speaking through the Nevada Resort Association and R&R Partners, call it unfair competition by small businessmen who have invested a small fraction of what it takes to build and operate the kind of major resort that creates thousands of jobs.

Which brings us to the underlying question: How much gaming should a restricted location be allowed to have?

Golden Gaming, owned by Blake Sartini, brother in law of the Fertitti brothers who operate Station Casinos, has dozens of bars with kiosks operated by William Hill. Cantor Gaming has also gotten into the kiosk business. Hill and Cantor are both the off-spring of UK-based gaming giants. Neither was a significant factor in race and sports wagering a half-dozen years ago.

Yes, times are definitely changing.

Sartini wants to continue expanding his use of kiosks as opportunities arise.

The Fertitta brothers and other major resort owners are probably wondering how things got so out of hand. They would very much prefer restricted locations remain, well…restricted.

The state’s race books appear likely to once again offer rebates after Oct. 1. They were banned during the late 1990s due to pressure from California tracks.

Former Gaming Control Board Chairman Mark Liparelli says the sports book enhancement described as “entity wagering” is a good idea that may triple the industry’s annual handle, pushing it over $10 billion during the next few years as it adds millions in taxable revenues to the win posted by Nevada’s legal bookies.

“I’m generally supportive,” Lipparelli told Gaming Today last week. Lipparelli and former SGCB member Randy Sayre both say it can be properly regulated, the key being the “transparency” of the entity whose participating members would be known to the Board.

Cantor Gaming CEO Lee Amaitis told Judiciary Committee members, “Legal entity wagering would further exploit the only form of gambling on which Nevada has a monopoly.”

Sayre said, “There is no way of knowing how long Nevada’s monopoly may remain in place,” but as long as Nevada’s books have the field to themselves it makes sense to take advantage of an idea that has “great potential to favorably impact the state.”

Sayre believes Amaitis was being conservative with his speculation about the potential for increasing Nevada’s handle to $10 billion or more.

A Las Vegas gaming attorney who was not a party to the discussions before the Judiciary Committee agreed with Sayre’s assessment. “No one can do more than guess about how much is wagered illegally, but when those good guesses are measured against real numbers as we run into them, the good guesses turn out to be conservative.”

Former Control Board chairman Steve DuCharme called Senate Bill 346 an “interesting new wrinkle” with potential he could appreciate. The concept also had him remembering his days at the Board when policing messenger betting was a big concern. This was the practice of a bettor making wagers for individuals whose identities would not be known.

Senate Bill 346, sponsored by Republican Greg Brower of Reno, moves it all out of the shadows to a brightly lit center stage area, if you will, with details of the private groups and their members known to the Control Board.

Current SGCB Chairman A. G. Burnett sounded uncertain about how they might be regulated. “I’m not sure how we would audit them. I think we could probably expect some push back (from some of the groups.)”

The legislators whose voices have been heard so far are clearly intrigued by the possibility that SB 346 offers for tapping into the billions in sports wagering dollars not now available to Nevada books.

Phil Hevener has been writing about the Nevada gaming business for more than 30 years. He can be reached at [email protected].

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