The Nevada race and sports industry is poised to enter a new phase that is expected to expand its customer base through high-tech telephone betting.
Already approved by Nevada’s Gaming Control Board, the new system utilizes a global positioning system (GPS) to accurately verify that a caller is located within Nevada’s borders.
"This system will empower casinos to enable their patrons to bet while they’re anywhere in Nevada, and from outside the state once interstate race wagering is approved later this summer," said Germano Di Mambro, CEO of Porticus Technology, Inc, which won approval for its cellular phone-based system earlier this year.
Nevada bettors currently must use a cumbersome pager system that verifies the player is inside Nevada before allowing them to place a wager over the phone.
"The beeper system hasn’t worked as many casinos simply shut them down and players never liked them," Di Mambro said.
The Porticus system uses cutting-edge Nextel cell phones — which will be available to race and sports bettors at a reduced cost or no charge whatsoever — that will interface with the sports book in one of three ways.
"Our system allows for ”˜straight through betting’ for the customer," Di Mambro said. "The customer first sets up a phone account, as they do now, and immediately receives his GPS cell phone.
"When the customer is ready to make a phone bet or simply access the book’s betting information, he places a call that is allowed to go through if the signal has the right coordinates," Di Mambro said, adding that two years ago the technology to fix a caller’s location did not exist.
Di Mambro said that the cell phone system will be capable of analyzing the caller’s voice print if regulators ever decide that the phone system must be able to positively identify the caller.
The call that comes into the race and sports book will be handled in one of three ways:
1. The call would come directly to the teller window (bypassing the casino’s switchboard), where the teller/ticket writer would be able to process the caller’s action.
2. The call would be directed to a call center, either in-house or outside, that would process the caller’s requests. When there are a lot of calls to process, such as just before post time, the call center would take the burden away from the "live" tellers.
3. The third alternative is a completely automated, interactive voice response system. This would be similar to power companies and pharmacies, which allow callers to access menus and make selections by pushing their phone buttons.
Porticus officials said they have had discussions with half a dozen Las Vegas casinos about the GPS system, which is hoped to be in place by the start of the NFL preseason games.
"They’ve been waiting for this and working at it for four years," Di Mambro said.
Di Mambro said by July 1, a couple of Las Vegas properties will "soft launch" the GPS phone system. The names of the sports books will be released when they’ve firmed up the deals.
The initial GPS phone bet system will allow customers in Nevada (residents and visitors alike) to bet sports (up to the current $2,200 per day limit) and races (unlimited pari-mutuel bets).
Sources close to the Gaming Control Board say regulators are just weeks away from finalizing a body of regulations that will govern interstate account wagering for Nevada casinos.
The Nevada legislature two years ago enacted a law that would allow for interstate wagering from states that already allow for account wagering.
"We think offering pari-mutuel betting to customers outside of Nevada will be huge for the casinos," Di Mambro said. "For instance, a hotel can offer other incentives such as comp boxing events, shows, suites, air transportation and other benefits.
"Plus, we plan to dovetail our bet system with all the casino loyalty programs so bettors can get credit every time they make a wager," he said.
Porticus officials have also met with Vic Salerno, president of American Wagering and Computerized Bookmaking Systems (CBS).