'Game on' for Cantor Gaming at M Resort

Mar 3, 2009 5:10 PM
by Mark Mayer |

The M Resort will be called many things this opening week, but likely not "test tube baby."

"We really are that when it comes down to paving the way for in-game wagering," said Lee Amaitis, CEO for Cantor Gaming, which operates M’s race and sports book. "I heard comments some six to nine months ago that our product would never get approved. Now we will be making wagers all day."

M is a unique operation to say the least. Marnell owns the casino resort, Cantor runs the sports book and Las Vegas Sports Consultants is the service provider.

"The ideal position for us would have been as a service provider rather than operator," said Amaitis, a Brooklyn native who began in the horse racing business before branching out into financial services and then Cantor. "Economics of the deal did not make that happen. We pitched the idea to Marnell and they went with it.

"True, we are off the Strip," he said. "They’ve yelled at us about pulling people away from Green Valley Ranch and South Point, but you have to open up somewhere. This site (three miles south of South Point) proved the perfect venue with the least amount of resistance."

While the book is plush (two 103-foot mega-screens, a VIP lounge, bar, deli restaurant, adjacent poker room) the big story is whether in-game wagering catches on. Other sports books in Las Vegas have tried it without success.

"We’ve been applying our ideas to mobile gaming and in-running wagering for some time," Amaitis said. "Finally we got to a place where we can showcase products. Nevada has become Missouri – a show me state. Well, now we have the laboratory where we can."

In-game wagering on a mobile hand-held device is actually still a few months away with a target date prior to the May 2 Kentucky Derby. But bettors will be able to make in-game wagers inside the sports book while sitting at their seats.

"Cantor Gaming has developed technology for ages to the financial services industry," Amaitis said. "We were the first to roll out the electronic training platform for U.S. Treasury securities. We partnered with Nextel to put foreign exchange execution on blackberrys. We had a bookmaking business in the UK and made it mobile. It took a while to be accepted there, but it was. Las Vegas became a natural step."

And here’s the stat Amaitis pulls out to doubters of his product.

"Last year’s Wimbledon men’s final in the UK (Rafael Nadal vs Roger Federer) turned $90 million in four hours just betting the serves," Amaitis said. "That’s more business than most race and sports books here do in a year.

"It’s ridiculous that the Super Bowl handle in Las Vegas was down 12 percent," he said. "More business on the Super Bowl was done in the UK. They were betting Pittsburgh 8-1 in the wee hours of the morning when they were up 11 points."

Amaitis disputed the perceived conflict of interest regarding LVSC, which supplies both data and lines to Nevada books but now Cantor-owned.

"We bought LVSC to be a data providing system that can have in-running wagering," he said. "I gave the technology to LVSC, not M. I separated church and state. And, Cantor has given clout to LVSC to be a better data provider for everyone. If LVSC says the line is 6 and Lou D’Amico (M’s race and sports supervisor) says it’s 5, then it’s 5."

Amaitis said that baseball would provide the perfect laboratory to feature in-game wagering as a setup to the football season.

"You can do so many things in a baseball game," he said. "I think it will enhance baseball betting and allow us to see what we need to do to improve the product when football arrives."

Even though in-game wagering is restricted to M, Amaitis left the door wide open to other Las Vegas sports books adopting his system.

"This really is not about being competitive with other books, but about showing them how to enhance their product," he said. "In-game wagering can trigger other casinos to come seek us out. Cantor’s whole process is providing services. We’re not restricted to M."

Make no mistake, there will still be the traditional counter wagering at M. Just that there’s also another choice.

"There’s plenty of room for the counter and mobile," Amaitis said. "Account wagering in Nevada needs to be embraced, not discouraged. I can make my bet while playing blackjack instead of going to the window. By 2010, a different way of wagering will be in Nevada."

I’ll take aspirin and LA Clips!

A first for a race and sports books – a pharmacy.

"In my 30 some years in the business, I’ve never worked at a property that had a pharmacy," quipped Lou D’Amico, director of race and sports operations at M Resort. "Talk about a place you can feel comfortable in, this is it."

Aside from the breakthrough in-game wagering, the book will have 50 race seats, 45 sports seats, a spacious VIP lounge, a nearby deli and a buffet that will feature live studio cooking shows.

Mike Colbert came over from the Plaza and a short stint at Lucky’s to reunite with D’Amico as race and sports manager.

"We will take a very fair limit and make sure our customers find us the pre-eminent place to bet in Nevada," Colbert said. "We want to take race and sports wagering to levels never seen. We are sitting on something very big."