New state rules crimp phone betting

Jun 12, 2001 10:51 AM

Sports phone wagering in Nevada is about to get more complicated.

The state Gaming Control Board has mandated that sports books allowing phone wagering must adopt a new approved system effective June 17.

"You call, then [the sports book] calls you back on a beeper that only works on a 25-mile radius," a source said. "They give you a PIN number. You would then call back, put in your PIN number and make your wager."

Good luck trying to make a bet at post time.

Gaming regulators want to make sure no one outside the state can make a phone wager into a Nevada casino. They are being especially vigilant about enforcing this law because of outside the state can make a phone wager into a Nevada casino. They are being especially vigilant about enforcing this law because of pressure in Washington by some politicians to ban college betting in Nevada.

"It was determined the current system is now defeatable," says Keith Copher, the board’s chief of enforcement. "Someone from another state has the opportunity to invade the phone system."

Every March, state gaming regulators review phone wagering. They determined that sports books must switch to at least one of two new systems developed. A third choice could also be available shortly.

The board believes these systems are more effective in preventing out-of-state gamblers from wagering in Nevada.

Only a few sports books have phone accounts. Some, including Station Casinos and The Mirage, use an automated system. But being fully automated like The Mirage’s popular Tele-Bet isn’t necessarily the answer. The key is having software that can detect where the call originates.

Sources say Tele-Bet, for instance, didn’t meet regulators’ stringent requirements.

"I can’t comment on anything yet," says Robert Walker, race and sports book director for MGM Mirage. "But nothing has been resolved yet. Obviously we’re investigating all the latest technology out there."

To comply with the board, sports books with phone systems have been doing call-backs. "We’ve always had a callback system," says Joe Lupo, race and sports book director at the Stardust. "That’s been a requirement. One out of every 10 calls had to be called back. But we found out recently the phone system didn’t meet the requirements. We’re looking at other options right now. Whether we can come up with something, I’m not sure.

These latest phone restrictions can’t help business. There may even come a time when placing your bets directly with a phone clerk becomes a thing of the past. If there’s a positive, it’s that this is occurring during baseball, the slow part of the season for bookmakers.

"We’re definitely going to go to an automated system," says Bert Osborne, director of sports for Coast Resorts. "I guess they have to do it. We can’t get around it."

Earlier, the state Gaming Commission mandated Nevada sports books limit phone bettors to $2,200 on college wagers in a 24-hour period.

"I think it’s a little bit of overkill," says Vic Salerno, president of American Wagering Inc. and head of the Leroy’s sports book chain.

"I can understand where the Gaming Board is coming from," he adds. "But if you look at the reality of it, a $2,200 bet limit per day isn’t very large in our world."

The potential cost to the customer will be prohibitive, he says.

"When you can only bet $2,200 a day, it doesn’t make sense, when in five minutes you can be betting on the Internet, where they don’t care who you are or where you are. So I don’t think anybody is really going to bother coming to Nevada with our limits. I think that was stifled a year ago."