Ex-Vegas bookie revived in Curacao

October 30, 2001 3:27 AM
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Mark Dufty is one of the few people who can accurately compare bookmaking in Las Vegas with booking offshore, since he’s done both.

Dufty has been booking offshore the past six years, first in the Bahamas and for the last three years in the West Indian island of Curacao.

There are a few misperceptions some might have about offshore betting and booking that Dufty would like to clear up. His office isn’t the beach, and he’s not making line adjustments while sipping a Mai Tai.

True, offshore bookmaking is far less corporate than Vegas, but Dufty says the competition is fierce and he works long hours. Not that he’s complaining.

“It’s a whole new life,” he said. “I truly enjoy living in the islands. I love the weather, and the small town atmosphere. It’s really become a part of me.”

Dufty was a bookmaker in Las Vegas for 13 years. He was a sports book supervisor at the Frontier, and later served as sports book manager and right hand man to Bob Gregorka at the Sands during the late 1980s and early ’90s. Back then the Sands, now defunct, was one of the more publicized sports books because of Gregorka’s aggressive bookmaking. Dufty was his chief oddsmaker and lieutenant.

Now Dufty is the manager of Aces Gold. He’s been there about a year. Before, he was the general manager for Seven Palms sports book, also in Curacao.

“The big difference is offshore deals much higher limits,” Dufty said, “and takes much bigger action. They deal to all comers, from the little guy to the sharpest of the sharps, all over the world.

“It’s something Vegas did at one time, but has clearly gotten away from. I’m not knocking Vegas. It’s my hometown. But as far as being just a bookmaker and being able to deal aggressively, offshore is certainly the venue.”

Both have advantages and disadvantages. Nevada sports books are tightly regulated by the state Gaming Control Board. People who bet in Nevada know they’re going to get paid. That hasn’t always been the case with some offshore books.

“The offshore industry might have a little tainted reputation in some people’s minds,” Dufty said. “They might think it’s renegade. But it’s not. These are big companies that deal huge money.

“The majority are licensed in the country they operate. Legitimate countries. We’re part of the Netherlands Antilles. Holland is a pretty big country, and a first world European nation.

“It’s all very professionally run businesses. Are there some (sports books) that get in over their heads? Are there some shysters who get in and create something in places that aren’t as heavily regulated and maybe take advantage of customers? Are there legitimate businesses that just go under because of any number of reasons? Absolutely, just like any other businesses in the world.”

Offshore bookmakers have to deal with things Vegas bookmakers don’t have to worry about such as paying bonuses to attract customers, putting up exotic ”˜props’ that Nevada bookmakers aren’t allowed to take action on such as the Academy Awards and aggressively moving the line in order to get buy back on a number if they need it. They also have to keep track of money transfers and different payment methods.

In Nevada there is no sports betting on credit. The major competition among sports books in Vegas is on parlay cards. The corporate bosses in Nevada don’t need to rely on sports wagering to make their profit. They have the far more lucrative table games and slot machines.

Many of the offshore books don’t have a casino to back them up. They have to survive alone. Often the owner backs the operation using his own funds.

It’s almost a given that if a Nevada sports book with a fairly decent betting limit offers an original number, chances are good they’ll attract business. That doesn’t always happen offshore because several books could keep moving their number in an effort to get needed extra handle.

Because of the Internet, people wagering offshore can bet at any hour. That’s not the case in Vegas, where only a few books stay open in the wee hours of the morning, and then only during football weekends.

“Everybody has to have a gimmick,” Dufty said about the cut-throat competition that goes on offshore. “It’s kind of the nature of the beast. With supply and demand, there’s competition.

“There are just too many gimmicks, bonuses and giveaways, which have hurt the industry as a whole.”

CURACAO INFO
Money: U.S. currency is accepted everywhere.
Location: 38 miles long, 2 to 7.5 miles wide.
Climate: Mid 80’s average temp. Tropics. Sunny.
Population: 150,000. All nationalities.
Language: Dutch, English, Spanish.