Is it a sports bet or slot wager?

Aug 14, 2018 3:00 AM

Many of the jurisdictions that followed Atlantic City into the world of legalized gaming did so on the premise that casino-style gaming would promote tourism, create jobs and of course throw tax dollars into the respective state’s treasury. Sounds good and makes sense so why not.

No surprise, the formulae worked, employment increased, communities flourished and gambling that to be considered a sin morphed into entertainment. All was right with the world except for the occasional grumbling and wishing that the casinos could have sports wagering.

Then the world changed and the Supreme Court, rightly in my opinion, struck down the federal government’s intrusive ban on sports wagering. Champagne corks popped in casinos across the country, till the realization set in on the question of “how are we going to do this.”

State rules, gaming regulations and tax structures are generally very different. Then there are the differences in vision of each gaming operator for how sports wagering should be permitted and operated. For simple standalone casinos, they faced the question of “should we operate ourselves or should we partner with an experienced operator.”

For national gaming operators the idea of increasing the size of their wagering population was instantly appealing and the sugarplum fairies started painting pictures of billions of dollars in profits, expanded marketing data bases, and maybe online and mobile gaming opportunities would create a flow of new gaming dollars to their regional casinos.

But should sports wagering be the gateway to mobile and online gaming on action other than sports? When is a sports bet a sports bet or just a slot machine with different images and themes? Should gambling be allowed outside a casino? Would online and mobile wagering be contrary to the original sales pitch about creating jobs to get the casinos in the first place? When should gambling be allowed on or off the footprint of the casino resort?

If we were talking just about sports wagering, I would take the position that who cares how or where you get the bet down as long as it was a legal wager. But while helping a friend review a proposed contract for sports betting services, it became very clear that the prospective sportsbook partner expected to be able to take wagers at the counter, on a smart phone and online, which made sense but what they considered a sport wager made me scratch my head and wonder again about the notion of when is a bet a sports wager or slot machine wager.

One of the areas the prospective sportsbook partners had included in their definition of sports wagering was the notion that simulated sporting events would also be offered, exclusively by the way, through the sports wagering system on and off property and through mobile and online wagering systems.

Think about that. If you owned or ran a casino, would you want a new business partner to effectively be able to offer slot wagering away from the casino and then share the money with them?

While simulated sports might be the same in theme as live sports, the reality is the results are determined by a random number generator and can be concluded quickly and restarted as often and frequently as may be desired.

So, where would the line be drawn? A slot machine is effectively a device where a bet is made then a random number generator determines the outcome and pays or does not pay accordingly. In simulated sports a bet is made then a random number generator determines the outcome and pays accordingly.

Get my point? What is the difference, theme and style of game? If the reels on a slot machine were changed from “7s,” “bells” and “cherries” to team “helmets,” “jerseys” and “footballs” would that make a slot machine a simulate sports wager?

I recognize I am being extreme, and somewhat silly, in my comparison but my point is simple: Where should a casino or for that fact regulators draw the line on what is a sports bet and where should it be made? After all, if the sports bets can be made anywhere online or on a smart mobile phone, should it matter that sports wagering should be only licensed through a casino?

If we do not care where the bet is made, why not let Buffalo Wild Wings who announced their desire to participate in sports wagering in their sports theme bars? Would it be fair to them if I as a patron of their establishment, stayed at one of their bars and watched games all day while betting through my cellphone and they got nothing for my time there other than the revenue from a pile of wings and a beverage or two?

As an individual I am fully supportive of sports wagering and believe if you want to bet on any proposition and there is someone out there, human or casino, that wants the other side of that proposition, let it fly.

However, from a casino operator’s perspective, I would prefer you and your friends or family in my casino, maybe betting on slots or tables in between sporting events. To that point operators and regulators should really decide how they want sports betting to fit into the scheme of job creation, job protection, definition of sports betting, and where and how those bets should be taken.

As a customer and sports bettor, just get me as many options to get a bet down as soon as possible and let me enjoy the action. For my friends looking to add a sportsbook operator to their casino operations, make certain you really know what you are signing!