Nevada sportsbooks, NGCB meeting to discuss changes

Jul 31, 2018 3:00 AM

The time has come for action. That’s what I’m told. Nevada bookmakers can no longer afford the luxury of taking lots of time to consider updating their business models.

They don’t want to run the risk of becoming faces in the crowd, so to speak, as bookmaking spreads across the country. For instance, Boyd Gaming will open a book at two of its Mississippi casinos, the IP Casino on the Gulf Coast and Sam’s Town Tunica, in August and will have another opportunity in Pennsylvania at Valley Forge Casino in King of Prussia later this year. Books have also opened in some Atlantic City resorts and at the Meadowlands race track in northern Jersey.

This flurry of activity explains why operators are due to meet this week with the Gaming Control Board to discuss possible improvements. It’s a matter of the state maintaining its uniqueness.

There is no telling how many attractive opportunities will be created as state lawmakers get to work on the issue. Some of them will fumble in their rush to take advantage of a form of gambling that was once Nevada’s alone. There is already evidence of this in the not surprising demand of some professional leagues for royalties or what has been labeled as “integrity fees.”

I don’t believe Nevada businesses have ever paid such a fee to any of the professional leagues. Don’t look for anything helpful to come from Congress, a body that does not seem to have time for anything other than partisan bickering.

Which means it’s all up to the states. Back when internet gaming was a hot issue the hope of most major companies was that Congress would create rules that would apply in all participating states. It never happened and so earlier this year Nevada, Delaware and New Jersey agreed to pool their revenue.

I’m guessing companies operating multiple casinos in multiple states – companies such as Caesars, MGM and Boyd – might strive for something like this but it is an issue that will not be decided quickly.

There are other issues such as an understanding of individual markets, what they will or will not support. I don’t intend to offer answers that have already been discovered by the locally-based bookies that have been at this business for years.

“I’ve made my share of mistakes,” grins veteran Las Vegas bookmaker Vic Salerno who has been in business for 40 years, a span earning him a reputation as an innovator that includes his introduction of computers and the creation of a mobile app, both being ideas that have since been introduced at other books.

Nevada regulators have usually been quick to respond to the gaming industry’s need for updated rules since the idea is to keep Nevada sportsbooks ahead of the up and coming competition in other states as legal wagering is permitted elsewhere because the U.S. Supreme Court threw out restrictions that had made legal sports wagering on individual games unique to Nevada.

“It’s about time,” one bookmaker said of the discussion this week that will probably bring an expansion of the menu available to customers looking for something new.

Salerno, chairman of U.S. Bookmaking, is anxious to take advantage of the opportunities that may be available. “We’ve got to become more aggressive,” he said.

Jimmy Vaccaro, spokesman and oddsmaker for all occasions at Michael Gaughan’s South Point Casino, would like to see state officials allow wagering on political races. “Overseas (European books), they react to our presidential election the way we do Super Bowl Sunday while we don’t pay attention to what they do.”

An interesting idea. If you can bet on the outcome of a football game, why not a presidential election?

Other bookmakers would be happy if the Control Board and Gaming Commission allow wagering on events such as the Emmys, Oscars and other such events.

Vaccaro remembers two years ago the South Point posted odds on the Hillary Clinton vs. Donald Trump race. “I told the people wanting to bet it that I was sorry but we could not take their money. Our numbers were just for entertainment purposes.”

The time has come, he says, to revisit that thinking.