Wiseguy: Gaming restrictions are killing Vegas

Mar 5, 2002 7:14 AM

EDITOR’S NOTE: The GamingToday staff interviewed a “wiseguy” for an insider’s view of sports betting. The source wished to remain anonymous to protect his reputation as one of the shrewdest bettors in Las Vegas. In return, he provided some insights into some of the industry’s shortcomings.

GT: How did you get involved in betting?

X: I came from back East 13 years ago. Was betting there and decided to do it legally. I got in it by accident. Went to work for some bookmakers and fell in love with the business. I had a knack for it.

GT: What is the biggest bet you ever made?

X: I am a conservative gambler. The biggest bet I ever lost was this past Super Bowl. I bet the Rams on the money line.

GT: What is your favorite sport to bet?

X: I concentrated on NFL, college basketball and hockey.  I came to Vegas with very little money after the Stock Market crash of 1988. I found baseball not to be a lucrative venue. Took the summers off.

GT: Can you make a living on gambling?

X: It’s very difficult to make a good living, but many people still do win. However, it is extremely hard because the Internet is the big difference. Everyone has the same information. The lines are very good. No advantages.

GT: What percentage do you bet in Vegas compared to out of the country?

X:  I bet 10 percent maximum locally compared to what I play five years ago. I have Island ­­accounts that someone else guarantees. I was robbed by Sports Market, which declared bankruptcy. Everyone who played at their Internet site, Aces Gold, was also robbed.

GT: Would you like to see Internet betting go away?

X: Don’t know anything about it. Ideally, if the gaming commission understood sports betting at all, Vegas would be the best place to bet. Here, you get your money. In other countries, scam operations exist.

GT: What is the major problem with the gaming industry in Las Vegas?

X: The people who work for gaming are not familiar with sports betting. They may know about roulette or baccarat, but they have no clue about sports betting. They must think that gamblers have a big edge over sports book.

GT: Where do you feel the gaming industry is most ­­ignorant?

X: Gaming thinks that money comes into Vegas from Island bookmakers and the East Coast. The reality is no money is laid off in Vegas. Gaming makes rules like getting rid of messenger bettors. I never used one. The majority of my wagers are made over the phone Also, it’s easier to go to Arizona Charlie’s than the Mirage to make a bet. You don’t have to deal with the corporates. There are no bookmakers left in Las Vegas. The corporates have eliminated them.

GT: Where are the wise­­guys today?

X: You could count the wise­­guys with both hands before. Now they don’t exist. When I was back East, as a kid, they would call me from New York and give me open orders. The big movers would go 17-1 in a given day. They were so much better than linesmaker. In those days you could play high in Vegas. Scotty Schettler and Jimmy ­­Vaccaro would cover you. Now, you can’t bet. The lines are phenomenal. Wiseguys won’t play. There’s not a big enough edge.

GT: What do you think about guys like Lem Banker?

X: Lem is good for sports because he is colorful and gives selections. I don’t know him enough to trust, but I would be tempted to go the other way. He did well in the old days.

GT: Why has Vegas gone downhill?

X: Vegas is now the worst place to bet sports. It used to be the best. That’s why I moved here. Sports betting is a Catch 22. Offshore betting is against the law in Nevada because they want you to bet here. But it’s legal everywhere else. Yet here, they won’t let you bet. They put limits on wagers. That’s insulting to me.

GT: What would pose a threat to gaming in Vegas?

X: If California legalizes betting, you’ll see how many people decide not to bet here. There is no atmosphere like Vegas. The irony is that when the books should be taking higher limits, they take less. There’s no Benny Binion. Nobody wants to gamble.

GT: How would you change the system?

X: Books just want horse bettors. They just want to take the percentage. I would make sports books pari-mutuel. Just change the odds. To get anything by gaming is like pulling teeth.  You should let people gamble, or just not have it.

GT: Are there preferred places to bet online?

X: All the big players lost a tremendous amount of money, at least $5 million. One well-known service puts people’s lines on screen and charges $500 a month. They are not to be trusted.

GT: Where do sports services go wrong?

X: They publicize a particular offshore service until the bitter end without warning anyone of trouble. Two places went down with nobody getting paid. This odds service legitimizes a business without being a watchdog. I have a beef with them. I was a sucker. I hate thieves. I called up. Had $20,000 in my account. They ripped me off.

GT: Where does offshore betting fail?

X: The better the numbers, the less chance you have to get paid. They got in trouble in basketball. Ran ­­Super Bowl at 14½ with no juice. They never took a winning bet. That was a black mark on offshore betting.

GT: Is gaming better or worse than past years?

X: There are 300 books that take bets in Costa Rica. Some 80-90 percent went down intending to steal money. They wound up winning, so they became legitimate. They didn’t need to steal because the lines were so good. There were all kinds of incentives, but it was intended to be a scam.

GT: Did you prefer a gaming operation like Sport of Kings?

X: It’s a terrible thing what happened to Sport of Kings. The problem was it was funded by a guy who beat them out of money.

GT: Who were the best bookies in Vegas?

X: Scotty Schettler was always the most upstanding of the bookies I knew. Rich Baccilleri at MGM was very good. You walk in, they make their own numbers and they thank you for the business. They treat you like a human being and not a wiseguy.

GT: How reliable are sports services?

X: I do respect the Sports Reporter, based in the East. They are a legitimate sheet. I don’t listen to touts.

GT: How does the future look for gaming?

X: The future is pretty dim here unless someone sees the light. As long as sportsbooks are open, managers need to let them be run properly. Why chase people away from betting?  This is the best time in history for betting. Instead, nobody is winning.