Cell phone ban under review

March 25, 2008 6:00 PM
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by Kevin Stott | You see it more than any scores on the tickers at your local sports book:

…GAMING REGULATIONS PROHIBIT CELLULAR PHONES IN THE RACE AND SPORTS AREA…

And yet it may be the hardest thing to enforce with different casinos taking different postures on really making a decent effort to enforce the archaic regulation and various definitions of what constitutes their own "race and sports area."

Originally designed to stop transmission of sports betting lines from casinos to outside parties across state lines as well as local runners shopping for the best line, the regulation now seems like a major nuisance to both the casinos and the bettors using their cell phones within the defined race and sports area. It reads as follows:

22.135 Use of communications devices prohibited. Except for the use of a mobile communications device used as part of a mobile gaming system, [A] a book shall not allow a person to use a communications device within the premises of the book. The premises of the book shall be considered any area where race book or sports pool wagers are accepted. A person who is found to be using a communications device within a book’s premises must be advised to immediately discontinue use of the device or be escorted off those premises. Communications devices include, but are not limited to, paging devices, cellular telephones, radios and computers that are being used to transmit or receive information.

What do you think the percentage of cell phone users actually transmitting betting lines to another party in this day and age? And what about the ability to do so via laptop computer or text messaging? So one guy could be emailing line updates silently on his PC/tablet and go unnoticed while another guy answers a call from his wife on his cell to pick up some bread and milk on the way home and then gets harassed by casino security … Talk about a choppy grey area.

But fear not, cell phone users, for the Nevada Gaming Commission agreed on Jan. 24 to take on the cell phone ban in sports books as one of four regulation projects to be examined; hopefully, this means the rule to prohibiting cell phone use in race and sports books may finally be on the road to rescission.

Randall Sayre, a member of the Nevada State Gaming Control Board, said public workshops will be held in the coming months to start a dialogue that may ultimately lead to the repeal of 22.135 – the law that says cell phones, personal computers, pagers and the like may not be used in the race and sports book area.

"I’ve got specific dates set for internal to get subject matter experts, because there’s a number of regulations out there okay – this 22.135 is only one of many that we’re looking at and rethinking," said Sayre. "I’ve got some internal dates set this month and then I’ll probably go public with the workshops in May. But I haven’t got the exact dates yet."

Sayre said anyone who is interested can attend the workshops.

"The notification will go out on the Internet (www.gaming.nv.gov) so that any interested party can come testify," he said. "And then there will be notices (sent out) to any non-restricted licensee that’s got a race and sports book. Anybody’s that got something to add is clearly welcome."

Sayre, who admitted the regulation is hard to enforce for the casinos in the one state where betting on sports is actually legal, said there are two channels his board is looking at to try and fix the problem.

"Actually what we’ve got is two proposals," he said. "One of them is to erase (22.) 135 completely, make it go away. Just repeal 22.135. And there is a proposal, that in the absence of an absolute repeal, picking up some language that more closely addresses the actual federal language in terms of the use of a communications device for interstate wagering."

Either way, it seems some long overdue progress will finally be made on an issue that’s been a nuisance for sports bettors, the sports books, casino security and the state’s Gaming Commission for quite awhile. And odds are pretty good that cell phone use will continue to grow in popularity.

"The issue is, ‘Is there a prohibition out there on a specific conduct that has actually got a regulatory benefit?’" Sayre said. "I’m clearly going to listen to reasonable dialogue as to ‘What are you actually preventing here?’

"Technology has moved forward. And anyone of us can get absolute current odds by pushing a few strokes of the keys. And so one has to ask themselves as we move forward in life here, whether or not some of this stuff is overly burdened or whether it serves some kind of regulatory function – and I’m open to debate on both sides of that. Clearly that’s going to be my role in this, to listen to it all."

And by listening to all sides in this issue, Sayre, who added that "the state of Nevada is not the only venue wherein an illegal bookie can lay off a bet," believes that there may just be some progress on the regulation on the horizon.

"I’m in the middle right now," he said when asked how he sees it all playing out. "From a philosophical perspective, I don’t think that there should be regulations in place that are, No. 1, unenforceable, or No. 2, don’t serve any valid regulatory purpose. So I’m open for input on this subject."