Betting controversy isn’t new for bookies

September 10, 2002 9:09 AM
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   Last week’s flap over whether Nevada sports books should have paid off on the Wisconsin-UNLV game isn’t the first time obscure rules have been cited to determine action or no action on a bet. The same thing happened 22 years ago, and GT had the story! More on that later.

   In case you missed it, the game, in which Wisconsin was winning easily (and covering its spread!) was stopped 7 minutes and 41 seconds before the final gun because of a power outage at Sam Boyd Stadium.

   All bets on the game were refunded because, according to bookies, a statewide rule requires football games to last 55 minutes before it becomes “official.”

   Several bookmakers in Las Vegas said they would have rather paid off the bets — many of which were from Wisconsin fans who traveled to see the game — but that regulations wouldn’t permit it.

   “The cost in money would have easily covered our cost in bad public relations,” said one Strip sports director.

   While many bettors inferred that the “55-minute” rule is a Nevada Gaming regulation, it isn’t.

   “The 55-minute rule represents the rule governing the payment of wagers adopted by that particular casino,” said one sports supervisor who asked for anonymity. “These rules are sent to and approved by regulators and kept on file. They are not issued, nor endorsed by the Nevada Gaming Commission.”

   About 22 years ago, the same issue developed. The Hall of Fame Game played between the Green Bay Packers and San Diego Chargers was halted because of an electrical storm with just 5 minutes and 29 seconds to play.

   Most of the bookmakers at the time cited the 55-minute rule in declaring “unofficial game,” which necessitated returning the players bets.

   But two casinos, the Union Plaza and the Sam’s Town sportsbook, cited a different rule — the three quarter rule — and subsequently paid off the winning tickets.

   At the time, Ray Lenzi of the Stardust complained about the differing rules.

   “This kind of thing makes the whole bookmaking industry in Las Vegas look bad,” Lenzi told Sports Form, GamingToday’s predecessor. It makes it appear as if we don’t know what we are doing. We should all get together, meet someplace, and decide a uniform payoff rule.”

   Added Sonny Reizner, then of the Castaways, “The point is, we’ve got a lot of disgruntled people now,” he told Sports Form. “If those rules aren’t posted, the player gets confused. We’ve all got to have one rule and abide by it.”

   The managers of the two “rogue” sports books that paid off the bets, stood their ground. Asked if they had any intention of changing their three quarter rule, Johnny Quinn of the Union Plaza and Norm Post of Sam’s Town, emphatically told the Sport Form, “No!”

   “It’s nice those guys had that kind of freedom to honor their own rules,” said the Strip supervisor. “But we have our rules and we’re stuck with them, good or bad.”

   The problem is the rules are usually good for the house, and typically bad for the player.