Betting kiosks spreading

Apr 8, 2008 7:00 PM

by Kevin Stott | First machines gave you your cash, then they helped you rent cars and movies. Later they helped you do your own checkout at the grocery store. Now they can act as your sports book ticket writer as kiosks are slowly but surely showing up throughout casinos – and even a couple of bars – in the Silver State.

One of the main and biggest names in the sports betting kiosk marketplace is American Wagering Inc. who has been the major player in the game here since 2004, and who unveiled the 24-hour automated betting kiosks on Jan. 29, 2007, just in time for last year’s Super Bowl.

AWI is a publicly traded company operating through wholly owned subsidiaries, including Leroy’s, AWI Manufacturing, Computerized Bookmaking Systems (software) and AWI Gaming. Former Executive VP and Director of Autotote CBS Corporation, Vic Salerno, has been the President, CEO and a Director of Leroy’s since 1979 and of AWI since its inception.

Vic’s son, John, director of Leroy’s, said the customers absolutely love this new technology and way to place their own bets.

"We are happy with the response so far," he said. "It helps us out in extending hours and also in different bet types. They’re very easy to use."

John Salerno also said the kiosk players bet a little bit differently on the machine than they do at the window.

"We’re doing small limits on them where we do round robin parlays. It has to be a total ticket of $2 but you can bet down to 10 cents a way," he said. "It’s similar to a penny slot. They’ll bet a quarter a way but it will be 20 different ways so it still costs them."

A sports book ticket writer at Leroy’s main hub, Crazy Leroy’s at the Riviera, said the sports gamblers have really taken to the new kiosks.

"They love ’em," he said. "They do $2 eight-teamers all day long."

Evidence of the kiosks’ popularity was seen at the Riviera where it took 20 minutes just for the kiosk to open up to give it a trial run from so much use.

Although these kiosks are not quite 24/7 yet (but were for the Super Bowl), as John Salerno said they "don’t have the volume yet now," the demand will certainly grow when bettors realize how easy to use and convenient they really are. One small reality: the kiosks don’t pay out cash and winning tickets must be cashed at the Leroy’s sports books or the cashier’s cages of the casino.

After approving the use of these betting kiosks at non-restricted locations like casinos last year, Nevada gaming regulators have recently approved the use of these machines at age-restricted (over 21), state-licensed, non-casino locations.

The Stadium Grille, located in Henderson’s Coronado Shopping Center, was approved by the Nevada Gaming Control Board earlier this year as the first location in the state to have such a kiosk, thus becoming the first non-casino in the Silver State to offer sports betting.

This type of kiosk wagering at bars, unlike the 58 Leroy’s locations, is limited only to those who have accounts set up with Leroy’s. Interested customers can go to any Leroy’s location and open up one of these accounts.

Still in the early stage of development and popularity, and like ATM’s when they first came out, some customers may prefer still dealing with ticket writers and that familiar human element.

The manufacturer of the iSports Stand, iSports International, a major player in the Caribbean and Europe where the automated technology has taken a bit more of a hold than in Nevada, was a business partner with AWI up until last fall.

"We stepped out of that program in October and it’s all pretty much been released to Vic (Salerno) at American Wagering," said Bill Stearns, ISI’s president.

Stearns thinks that kiosks will play a large part in the future of sports betting.

"Automation is the key to survival of the sports book. There’s no question about that," Stearns said. "It’s no different than the ATM machine to banking and your kiosk check-ins when you go to the airport. It makes everybody’s life a little bit easier, it’s open 24 hours and it never argues with you, it doesn’t show up late for work, etc. So it’s something great for the marketplace."

And Stearns thinks these kiosks can even improve the ability to bet sports within the casino itself.

"With the larger casinos, because they’re so big, I mean I could be watching the game and talk about inconveniencing the customer … he’d have to walk a half-a-mile to go to the sports book … Once this automation is put in you can put that type of availability (the kiosk) to the customer anywhere in the casino that they wish."

But Stearns, whose focus has become more international these days, does think our burgeoning metropolis is lagging just a little bit in terms of this new technology.

"Unfortunately I think Las Vegas is well behind the times when it comes to some of this innovation and the proof is in the pudding," Stearns opined. "We have one location in the Caribbean and they’re making 400 bets a day with no manpower."

And Stearns believes the guy that taps this well first will set the tone for some larger scale change.

"Mark my words, the first casino that gets this done, the others will follow very quickly because it makes the customer ease of use tremendous," he said. " Take any large casino and go on any given Sunday in the middle of football season and none of them have all their windows open … And I’m just there sitting in line. It’s simple customer service."