New regs squelch telephone betting

Aug 7, 2001 4:45 AM

It’s not often you find gambler and bookmaker on the same side. But that’s clearly the case when it comes to phone wagering in Nevada.

Those Nevada sports books offering phone account wagering, and there are not too many of them anymore, all had to switch to a beeper system at the end of July.

This was in accordance with new guidelines set forth by the Gaming Control Board, which wants to make sure no person can break the law by making a phone wager from outside the state.

The gaming regulators believe they are doing their job, especially with all the increased scrutiny coming from Washington and the NCAA on legalized college wagering in Nevada.

Unfortunately the results have been extra cost for the hotel, disgruntled bettors and, so far, fewer customers.

“Definitely we had to incur a cost,” said Joe Lupo, race and sports book director at the Stardust. “We had to buy the beepers, and then we get a maintenance cost for the beeper.

“I definitely envision a lot less phone accounts.”

Early indications are that is already happening. Jeff Stoneback, sports book manager at the Excalibur, last week said only about 10 percent of his phone customers have picked up their beeper.

Bert Osborne, race and sports book director for the Coast Resort properties, said phone business was down 35-40 percent during the first Sunday of the new phone system.

“Old guys are dropping it,” Osborne said. “They just don’t understand it.”

Three systems are being used. The MGM/Mirage Tele-bet uses one system. Station Casinos uses another system, while the Stardust, Mandalay Bay properties, Coast Resort properties and Stratosphere all use the same system.

Each system requires a beeper, where you have to put in your account number, access code and then wait to get beeped. Once that happens, you can finally make your wager.

All the phone account systems, with the exception of Station Casinos, require a bettor to put down a $30 deposit in order to get the beeper. Station’s offers their beeper free if you maintain at least $100 in your account.

Fred Crespi, race and sports book director at Sunset Station, couldn’t have been nicer and more patient in explaining how this new system worked when I picked up my beeper.

Same with the ladies at the Golden Nugget, when I went there for my Tele-bet account. But this still doesn’t mask the fact this system is a pain.

It defeats the purpose of having phones, which were set up to give the bettor a quick, easy-to-use method of wagering.

“I’m sure we’re going to lose some customers,” Stoneback said. “No. 1 people don’t want to put the money up for the beeper, and No. 2 it’s not as simple as picking up a phone and making a bet.

“It’s a little bit of a procedure to get the bet in. If you’re calling right at post time, you’re not going to get a bet in, which a lot of people like to do.”

The true test will come when football fully gets going. One thing’s for sure, halftime phone handle on Monday night football is going to sink since it’s only about 12 minutes long.

“Most of the people are understanding,” Lupo said. “They realize there’s not a whole lot we can do.”

That doesn’t mean they’re happy. Gaming feels justified in ordering this because they were able to successfully make wagers from out-of-state while conducting tests. The question here is Gaming being too heavy-handed? They’ve already instituted a daily $2,200 phone betting limit.

It’s hard to believe an out-of-state gambler would invest so much to beat the system when he’s limited to this little. We’re talking gamblers here, not World War II code breakers.

Said one long-time Las Vegas professional bettor who wished to remain anonymous, “I’m sick of the Gestapo tactics of Gaming. Most of the wise guys (professional bettors) have already left. They (Gaming) won’t be satisfied until Vegas is a ghost town.”

Recreational bettors don’t want the hassle, and professional gamblers feel hamstrung because of the low daily limit and the possibility of getting shut out at post and when numbers move.

Something good may come out of this, though. If Gaming is satisfied that this system is full proof in preventing out-of-state wagers, they could lift the $2,200 limit. There would be no reason, after all, to have that anymore.

“I’ve lost a ton of business with the $2,200 (limit),” Osborne said.

Bookmakers and bettors can only hope.

“I guess it’s something we have to take the good with the bad,” Stoneback said. “It’s more of a process to get a bet in, but if that’s what it takes to get a higher limit, it’s worth it.”

Maybe Gaming will realize the extreme this has gone to, if during their next open meeting someone walks in wearing eight different beepers.