Bookies look for pari-mutuel quick fix

Jul 30, 2002 9:39 AM

Nevada’s horseracing industry has proposed a five-point wish list to revive pari-mutuel betting here.

Battered by offshore books and a surging California market, Silver State pari-mutuel action has slumped in the past five years. To get back in the race the Nevada Pari-Mutuel Association proposes:

”” Upgrading and expanding the use of electronic devices to facilitate wagering.

”” Restoring comps, rebates and other incentives.

”” Launching interstate betting pools.

”” Adding greyhound racing to pari-mutuel offerings.

”” Establishing account wagering programs similar to the highly successful program recently enacted in California.

"The (Nevada) industry is in decline due to electronic competition,’’ legal expert Tony Cabot of Lionel Sawyer and Collins told the Nevada Gaming Commission last week. "Regulation changes are necessary to bring back vitality.’’

Roughly a dozen states offer account wagering, but not Nevada. This prohibition has caused the state’s pari-mutuel growth to "stagnate,’’ said John Sullivan of Las Vegas ­­Disseminators.  California’s new Advance Deposit Wagering system generated a handle of $66 million through July. Some 14,000 accounts have been opened there, including nearly 10,000 through Magna Entertainment’s Xpressbet service.

Similarly, Nevada’s ban on rebates and pari-mutuel greyhound action has boosted traffic at offshore books, which offer both. The offshore race handle is estimated at $500 million to $1 billion. Nevada’s pari-mutuel action totaled $81 million last year.

Commission Chairman Peter Bernhard expressed concern over the industry’s situation. "One of our purposes is to make sure that we keep our industry competitive with what people are doing in other jurisdictions,’’ he said.

But there is no word when ”” or if ”” regulators will take action on any of the association’s agenda.

In other action:

”” MGM Grand’s international gaming salon, the first in the state, was approved. The hotel estimated that 75 percent of the exclusive Mansion Casino’s play will come from the Far East while 5 to 10 percent would come from Europe. Some 80 percent of the play is expected to come from new customers. MGM will open the three-room salon as soon as technology links are completed with gaming control’s offices downtown.

”” The Hard Rock agreed to pay a $100,000 fine for permitting sex acts at a nightclub. Before levying the fine, the commission expressed concern that upper management of the resort was not sufficiently engaged in cracking down on lewd behavior.

Commissioner Art Marshall even suggested a $1 million fine but, after discussion, the panelists unanimously approved the $100,000 penalty, with a stern warning that surveillance will be stepped up.

”” Regulators are monitoring a glitch involving some IGT and Bally progressive slots. Illinois shut down some 500 machines after the two manufacturers failed to install new chips. But Nevada regulators said no penalties were pending here, and company spokesmen confirmed that corrective orders for a program adjustment had been issued. There have been no reports of jackpot disputes.

"It was not a significant problem,’’ said one gaming official. "There have been no complaints. To shut down the games would only hurt the casinos and the players."

Goldman Sachs analysts apparently agreed, calling the chip dust-up "a non-issue."