Nevada targets inter-state horse action

Jan 21, 2003 7:04 AM

   Interstate horse betting will be off and running if the Nevada Legislature gives its approval this year.

Following California’s lead, the Nevada Pari-Mutuel Association is lobbying hard for a state-of-the-art account wagering system that could boost the state’s betting handle by as much as $200 million.

"To be competitive, we need this,’’ says Patty Jones, head of the Silver State’s pari-mutuel group.

John Sullivan of Las Vegas Disseminators calls expansion across state lines a "significant" step for Nevada. It’s also significant for his firm, which will serve as the exclusive tote company.

California has seen sharp increases in its betting handle since it legalized account wagers. The state uses Magna’s Express Bet, You-Bet and TVG for phone and computer-based bets.

Much of the gain has come at Nevada’s expense, with the state’s average annual handle of $500 million dipping to $470 million last year. Sullivan estimates that installation of interstate account wagering could hike revenue by as much as 40 percent statewide — while bolstering other gaming and non-gaming activity along the way.

"Nevada has a unique advantage,’’ Sullivan said. "As a destination resort, Las Vegas’ casinos will be able to extend their services and offer comps and other incentives [to interstate bettors].’’

Because the federal wire act exempts horse racing from its interstate betting prohibitions, several states appear to be in play. Depending on one’s definition, as few as 12 states or as many as 35 would be open for business to Nevada.

"Technology is the key,’’ Sullivan notes. "You have to know where the bets are coming from.’’

Tony Cabot, an attorney with Lionel Sawyer and Collins and a specialist in Internet gaming law, has been retained by the pari-mutuel association.

  "The industry will move forward aggressively on account wagering at the 2003 Legislature,’’ Cabot said. "Nevada revenues have been hit hard by California’s account wagering.’’

In addition to the political parlay, the association is vetting software and equipment vendors.

"The state has been stagnant on technology for the last five or six years,’’ Sullivan says. "Now there will be a strong need for border control and verification.’’