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Vegas oddsmakers could become extinct

Aug 19, 2003 7:22 AM

The Las Vegas oddsmaker, whose betting lines and point spreads are at the foundation of legal sports betting, may soon be extinct.

That’s the message from the Nevada Gaming Control Board, which earlier this month advised sports books that their ability to sports betting information may soon be diminished.

Specifically, board member Scott Scherer said circumstances — including the possible sale of Las Vegas Sports Consultants (LVSC) — could narrow the field to only one licensed oddsmaker in Nevada.

"We fear there will be a lack of choices for the industry," Scherer told GamingToday last week. "We wanted to inform the public that if LVSC is sold, that there is the potential that only one company will hold sway over the market of sports information services."

That one service would be Eugene Buonantony, Scherer said.

"Mr. Bunoantony was granted a 2-year limited license in September 2001 and is on the September agenda for consideration of a new license," Scherer said.

Scherer added that a law passed in 1999 requires all sports information providers to become licensed by the state. Those that were operating at the time were "grandfathered" in and allowed to continue operating, provided they submitted their gaming applications and paid the appropriate licensing fees.

Nevada’s most prominent oddsmaker, Las Vegas Sports Consultants, which has been providing odds and point spreads to all major Las Vegas and international sports books for more than 20 years, had submitted its application and was waiting for a background check to be completed.

But because its owner, CBS Sportsline, was required to dispose of its gaming-related assets under a deal it struck with the NCAA, LVSC must be sold or shut down by the end of the year. Thus, they informed regulators they wouldn’t complete the licensing process.

Last week, GamingToday learned that up to three separate offers to purchase LVSC could be tendered as early as this week. Any new owner would have to become licensed by Nevada regulators.

One offer would be from a sports handicapper and former sports book director. Details of the other two offers were not available.

Other sports services that were "grandfathered" in but have not yet completed the application process are Don Best Sports and Ken White, Scherer said.

Scherer said that both services most likely won’t become licensed in the near future.

"Don Best Sports has requested the withdrawal of its application ”¦ (and) there is some question about whether Mr. White intends to pursue the licensing process," he said.

Scherer said the sports betting industry would be best served if there were more than one service operating in Nevada.

"Someone needs to be encouraged to buy LVSC, or sports books need to start thinking about alternatives ”¦ possibly forming their own companies," he said.

Scherer’s concern stems from the fact that LVSC is the only source of "real time" betting information, which includes instantaneous line movements that are transmitted to sports books as they occur.

For their part, legal bookmakers aren’t overly concerned about having to make their own lines, plus they aren’t required to subscribe to any service.

"Las Vegas Sports Consultants have been a major contributor (to the industry). They are very reliable, and have been around for years," said John Avello, race and sports manager for Bally’s and Paris Las Vegas. "Although, I hope that LVSC will be sold and that everything will be business as usual, the (sports book directors) do a good job of making their own odds. We just won’t have a comparison."

Some sports books, however, see LVSC as an integral part of bookmaking.

"Years ago, there were huge fluctuations (in betting lines)," explains Bob Smith, director of operations for Leroy’s sports books. "Las Vegas Sports Consultants serves as a sort of police officer to sports books and helps to regulate these fluctuations. There would be a huge impact if LVSC were to disband."

Smith pointed out that sports books would survive in the long run, but "LVSC makes our operations so much easier."