Nevada books shun Olympics wagering

August 06, 2002 8:41 AM


Through foresight, luck or good legislation, Las Vegas books have avoided sports that rely on subjective judging, which could open the possibility of a fix.

"New regulations bar amateur sports — other than sanctioned college events — from being wagered in Nevada," said John Harper, an oddsmaker for Las Vegas Sports Consultants.

"Oddsmakers abide by the state law not to take action on high school sports, the Little League World Series, the Olympics and anything involving amateurs," Harper stated.

Harper’s comments were in response to a story that broke worldwide last week alleging that a Russian mob figure conspired with several judges to fix the figure skating competition at the recent Winter Olympics in Salt Lake City.

"In Nevada, we avoid booking any events decided by judges," Harper said. "We never put any lines on figure skating. That’s more of a selection process, just like boxing, and Miss Universe. Lines may appear offshore, but they didn’t come from us. I want to make that abundantly clear."

John Avello, the race and sports director at Bally’s/Paris Las Vegas, echoed Harper’s view.

"When Las Vegas sports books decided to book UNLV and Nevada collegiate events, it was done with the assertion that there would be no booking of amateur athletic events," Avello said. "The Olympics fell under the agreement. And, we have no problem with this. People would rather watch the Olympics than bet on them."

That’s not to stay that Olympic lines weren’t set in Vegas prior to passage of the state law two years ago.

"We booked hockey for the Winter Games ever since the USA-Russia matchup in 1980," Harper said. "We also had lines for basketball, speed skating and track and field. I remember putting odds out on Daley Thompson in 1984 when the decathlon received a lot of attention. A lot of events were booked simply because the events were held in Los Angeles."

Harper admitted that the action was light and that Olympic sports are great to watch without gambling being involved.

"The public is not really interested in betting the Olympics," he said. "The events are just not conducive to wagering, mostly due to time problems. As for figure skating in particular, we never involve ourselves in sports where subjective judging can decide the outcome.

"There’s always controversy in figure skating," Harper continued. "Some people like the classical style that’s typical of the pairs and ice dancing competitions. They resent the bouncy, up-tempo music of the West.

Avello likes to book events for "entertainment purposes only" such as the Emmy Awards, and TV reality shows.

"I like to dabble in the fun stuff," Avello said. "But under no circumstances are bets ever taken on those events. It’s against the law and we are one with the Gaming Control Board on this matter."

That’s not to say that off-shore follows the code.

"They do their own thing," Avello said. "That’s not my concern."