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Sports betting emerging in global market

May 28, 2002 7:54 AM

While Nevada struggles to determine its niche in the world of global gaming, the international sports betting market is alive, well and in a tremendous growth mode.

That’s the message from Australian bookmaker, Mark Reid, a fourth generation bookie whose company, Mark Reid’s Darwin All Sports, is one of the most respected and established wagering operations in the world.

"America is in denial of the emerging worldwide sports wagering market," Reid told GamingToday in an exclusive interview. "In the U.S., the emphasis is on ”˜gaming,’ as in casino gaming, but not on ”˜wagering.’ In fact, betting on sports appears to be an endangered species in the States."

Last year, Nevada legislators passed enabling legislation that could allow state licensees to expand their operations to the global market via the Internet. But regulators so far have been stymied by federal legislation that bans taking sports bets across state lines.

Reid said the conservative climate in the United States is similar to the atmosphere of Prohibition.

"The U.S. is decades behind Australia in its legislation dealing with global wagering," Reid said. "But we’re in a different economy, a different market."

Indeed, sports wagering "down under" bears little resemblance to sports betting here.

Reid said most of his customers place bets from Asian countries.

"Asians love to bet on European soccer," Reid said. "In Jakarta (Indonesia), you could bet on 16 live games a week. The European Cup has completed, but the World Cup will be huge."

Other hotbed markets include Bangkok and Hong Kong. "In some cities, the highest rated TV show is soccer," he said.

Other sports that have a large Asian following are American baseball and basketball.

"In Taiwan, they love baseball and basketball," Reid said. "Regardless of the sport, they want to see it on TV and bet on it."

Horse racing has also become a prominent component of the international betting market, Reid said. "There’s tremendous interest right now in American horse racing," he said. "In fact, we are interviewing three people from Las Vegas next week, for positions involving maintaining horse racing data bases."

Reid’s All Sports includes a betting parlor located at Fannie Bay Race Course in Darwin (Northern Territory) and a walk-in shop in Melbourne. But most of the action comes via the Internet (Iasbet.com) or telephone accounts.

"We have a heritage of legalized bookmaking," Reid said. "Our family has been licensed for four generations, beginning in the United Kingdom."

Reid said Australia has six states and two territories, and they all have their own licensing requirements. In order to operate, bookmakers must post a bond and adhere to strict regulations, unlike the offshore operations that have sprung up in the Caribbean and elsewhere over the past few years.

In addition, Australian bookmakers must put wagers into a trust fund, and don’t co-mingle bets with working capital. Reid said some sports betting operations have given "off shore" establishments a tarnished image.

"I’ve known Caribbean bookmakers who collected lots of post-up money, but spent it all on marketing," he said. "Once they had a losing month it was all over."

Eventually, Reid expects the U.S. will recognize the worldwide market and find a way to tap into it. "The Brits finally did so, and now they’re moving ahead. I don’t expect the Yanks to be far behind."