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LVSC, VI victims of NCAA-CBS relationship

Mar 4, 2003 5:22 AM

The sale of Vegas Insider and Las Vegas Sports Consultants by Sportsline.com is of special interest since the company used to send my paychecks.

When Mark Mariani speaks, industry people listen, The Sportsline.com president rarely approaches the media directly, so setting the record straight on the sale outweighed an aversion to publicity. Mariani wanted to nip the rumor mill in the bud, stating that no group has stepped forward as a possible buyer, though a few companies have expressed interest.

It is fairly safe to say Vegas Insider and LVSC will be run by a U.S.-based firm before the start of the football season ”” probably within three to six months. Sportsline.com runs Vegas Insider, which oversees LVSC. In turn, Sportsline.com answers to CBS Sports.

And, that’s why the sale had to be made.

CBS Sports could not have any link to gambling. Yet, there was Sportsline operating two high profile gaming entities. Why? Well, it did made good business sense.

CBS Sports is involved in March Madness, aka the NCAA men’s basketball tournament. The event brings in millions of dollars to the NCAA, the network and Las Vegas. The creation of Sportline allowed CBS to have the best of both worlds. The problem was that gambling is illegal outside the state of Nevada, and the NCAA and Congress have legislation pending that could eliminate all amateur sports betting.

So when CBS Sports and the NCAA reached agreement to allow Sportsline to run the NCAA’s official website through 2006, there could be no further ties to gambling. So, Vegas Insider and LVSC had to be divested. And, that leaves those employees wondering what will happen to their jobs in the coming months.

Mariani, a straight-up guy, said there would be no layoffs. However, all bets could be off if some buyer came forth with an offer that could not be refused and suddenly decided to go a different direction with the two firms.

Hopefully, it will be business as usual because the gaming industry needs both LVSC and VI to succeed. While each serves different roles in gaming, a cutback in gambling sources strengthens the case of political forces in Washington that want to see the industry go away.

John McCain and his cronies are sure to keep the pot boiling, even though they are clueless regarding the gaming operations in Nevada. Both Vegas Insider and LVSC helped give customers a fair opportunity of beating the books. That’s much better than seeking unregulated methods of securing lines and information from illegal books across the country.

It was a solid business move for Sportsline.com to side with the NCAA agreement and cut its gambling ties at the knees. Hopefully, though, the decision wasn’t made merely in the spirit of being politically correct as well.