CBS Sportsline severs Vegas connection

Mar 4, 2003 6:11 AM

March Madness came early to Las Vegas. Sportsline.com and CBS TV have officially severed their ties with the gaming industry by jettisoning Vegas Insider and Las Vegas Sports Consultants.

Mark Mariani, the company’s president, told GamingToday in an exclusive interview, that Vegas Insider and Las Vegas Sports Consultants were up for sale and that a buyer should be found within three to six months.

"Both entities will continue to operate business as usual," Mariani said during a conference call from the company’s Fort Lauderdale headquarters. "We believe it’s an opportunity for all parties to move forward."

The announcement came at the same time the NCAA, CBS Sports and SportsLine.com entered into an agreement whereby SportsLine would sublicense the rights to produce, host and manage the NCAA’s official championship website (ncaa.com) through 2006.

"We could not have made that deal with ownership of Vegas Insider and LVSC," said Mariani, who also serves as president of both companies. "There will be no layoffs and we expect the transition period will be orderly. Both have been bought and sold in the past and it has never caused an interruption in business. We expect the same here."

The agreement calls for CBS Sports to provide coverage of the NCAA’s Division I men’s basketball tournament, in addition to 65 other championships. Sportsline.com will have exclusive rights to provide Internet broadcasts of the NCAA championships.

"Divesting Vegas Insider and LVSC was part of the plan," said Peter Gold, director and general manager of the two gaming entities. "From an advertising and business standpoint, aligning with CBS Sports and the NCAA was in the best interest of Sportline.com."

LVSC has been considered the leader in supplying gambling lines to sports books both in the U.S. and overseas. Oddsmaker Roxy Roxborough owned LVSC until selling the company in 1982 to Data Broadcasting Corp.

Vegas Insider, an Internet web site, provides statistical and gaming information on all major sporting events. It also offers by subscription handicapping information and selections. Rates range from $50 a month to about $250 per year. DBC Sports sold LVSC to Vegas Insider in April 2000.

Mariani said no company has offered to purchase Vegas Insider or LVSC so far, but indicated that the eventual buyer would have to be "well financed, in the gaming industry and having technological expertise."

"I don’t generally comment on these matters to the media, but it’s important that we clarify our position so that nobody misunderstands our intent," Mariani said. "LVSC and VI are healthy companies and will continue to provide customers the best statistical information in the business. I wanted to be the one to put those worries to rest."

CBS Sports owns 31 percent of Sportsline.com, according to Gold. Sportsline draws some two million visitors to its website and over 15 million page views. LVSC and Vegas Insider, which produce 11 percent of the Sportsline.com income, attract 30,000 daily visitors and around 300,000 page views.

"To have a foothold in the country’s top gaming market is essential for our company to be considered tops in our field," Gold said. "Our employees are expert in the business and we plan on keeping them."

Vegas Insider is planning a series of radio shows and seminars on the NCAA men’s basketball tournament beginning in two weeks at Sunset Stations.

"The sales announcement will not affect the shows," Gold said. "I plan on coming out to Las Vegas and we can’t wait for the tourney to start."