Gaming regulators add more nonsense to pile of rules

Apr 24, 2018 3:00 AM

The Nevada Gaming Commission has approved additional changes to various regulations this past week, and while very well intended, ultimately just added to the existing pile of “gotcha” rules.

Both the Nevada Gaming Control Board and the Commission have broad latitude to decide when to enforce gaming regulations and when not to, as well as the level of penalties, if any, for those gaming operations found in violation or have staff that have been found violating regulations without the knowledge of the gaming operator.

The two principle changes were adding drugs to the existing regulations against allowing casino patrons gambling while drunk and adding wagers by team coaches and players to suspicious wagering reporting regulations.

Like many other regulations though, the real burden of these new regulations will be put on front line employees who are generally reliant on tips to make their living. With that in mind, let’s look at the operational realities starting with the requirement to make suspicious activity reports on wagers by coaches and athletes.

There are over 460,000 college athletes and over 5,000 professional athletes in the U.S., and globally we could probably multiply those numbers by at least five. Now I have met people with some pretty phenomenal memories but have yet to meet anyone who could remember that many people or even have the time to try and memorize that many names.

How many people that actually follow sports extremely closely for a living could even tell you the name of the assistant strength coach of any college or professional team? So how is a frontline employee booking a cash bet over the counter going to be able to recognize that the bet is coming from a third string player or a minor coach of a relatively small college, let alone know when a coach or athlete is using a third party to bet for them?

On the other hand, frontline employees have a different problem in identifying when a patron is drug impaired. Most drugs are not going to be taken in public, though various marijuana derivatives can now be vaped. And as most drugs are not instantaneous, what level of attention are the frontline employees to pay to the gamblers and what line must be crossed for the gambler to be pulled up?

Sadly, it will be a wavering line, subject to the proverbial “20/20 hindsight” and ultimately, in my opinion, place disproportionate burden on the frontline employee and beg even more questions as to what should be done if the frontline employee believes the gambler is under the influence of something stronger than the drugs the state considers legal.

While I am not a fan of adding more judgement call burdens to frontline employees or seeing more “gotcha” rules, I am curious and fascinated that the regulations for requiring the reporting of wagers by coaches and athletes did not include team owners, college athletic directors, league officials, sports promoters or probably the ones the regulators should be most concerned about – the linemakers.

Obviously, coaches and athletes can have a direct influence on a game as well as insider information but at varying degrees so could the others listed, except for linemakers who pose a different issue. Linemakers are generally paid to try and handicap a sporting event and make recommendations as to what the line and spread should be. While they make well informed estimations and prognostications they usually make them well ahead of the game and continually adjust them as new information comes up.

But what if the linemaker gets information he knows will significantly move a betting line and makes a bet for himself before letting his sportbook clients know? Where is their tracking and accountability? I know of no sportsbook manager who wants to see their linemaker or a member of the linemaker’s staff show up to make a sports bet, yet the regulators in my opinion completely whiffed on that aspect in their new regulations.

Frankly, I would have rather seen the regulations more clearly defined for the benefit of the frontline employees and the regulatory time spent on setting up regulations to support our local gaming companies for the eventual day when the federal ban on sports wagering is finally overturned.

For instance, if California approved sports wagering but did not require the reporting on wagers by athletes and coaches, could Nevada sportsbooks operate in California and pool bets with Nevada where the reporting is required? Whose rules and regulations would dominate?

While I agree with the general intent of these new regulations, ultimately I see them, as codified, just as additional burdens on the frontline staff rather than truly materially resolving or accomplishing anything that could not otherwise be dealt with inside existing regulations or be so easily circumvented.

Sometimes less is really more.