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Time for pols to toss
us a life preserver!

Dec 16, 2003 7:22 AM

OUCH! The Barons of Bet, bless their hearts, are up the creek without a paddle.

But maybe there’s a life preserver around the next bend. But more on that later.

Here’s where we stand now.

Not too many years ago racetracks complained that some Las Vegas race books were keeping customers away from the tracks by offering rebates.

Track suits shed crocodile tears hoping for sympathy from Nevada. The tears may have done the trick. Or, maybe it was the threat of not receiving any more simulcast signals of racing from the major tracks.

In any event, Nevada regulators promptly marched to the legislature in Carson City and requested a law prohibiting rebates to horseplayers. It would still be OK if a casino wanted to give money back to table game players, or slot players, or bingo players, or keno players, but not to horseplayers said the wise ones.

The legislature listened and it became law.

Subsequently, Big Players in Las Vegas who wanted to play the ponies for more than chump change started funneling their bets to the offshore books and rebate shops that didn’t have any problem offering rebates.

You might think that the racetrack suits would do their best to stop this terrible practice.


By this time their thinking had changed. The rebaters had made arrangements to put the bets through the simulcasting tracks’ ticket-issuing machines.

And, the offshore places were also willing to pay double the simulcast fee; something that wasn’t possible in Nevada because the wise ones had put a cap on fees.

The racetracks are happy because they are getting 5½% instead of 3% on the handle from these rebaters. And, although no one is talking numbers, that handle is said to be sizeable. In fact, take a look at Ray Poirier’s front page story on the subject, and you’ll see that last year the figure topped $1 billion!

The offshore books are happy because most of their handle consists of exotic wagers where the hold is approximately 25%. So, even though they pay 5½% to the tracks they’re making close to 18%.

Only Las Vegas books aren’t happy. They’ve watched their handle plummet, while offshore books and other outlets flourish. And, unless someone convinces the legislature to give them back their paddle they’re apt to stay up the creek.

Here’s where the life preserver comes in.

The talk around Las Vegas race books is that they’re ready to take their piece of the pari-mutuel pie. In fact, there’s a move to get state legislators to allow books to give rebates, and thus allow them to share the wealth.

The word is that state legislators will take up the issue in their next session. We’ll wait and see. Let’s hope they do the right thing and throw us a life preserver. We don’t need any more bones.


SAYING GOOD-BYE: Although the size of the Fontana Lounge at the Bellagio made it seem otherwise, the crowd was quite large; nearly 200. The diversity of those in attendance seemed non-existent as valet parkers chatted with casino executives and cage personnel reminisced with CEOs. They were united by a single purpose ”” to honor the life and career of the late Delores Owens, casino host and good friend to many.

There were lots of pictures mounted on large cardboard placards standing on easels depicting happy moments in Delores’ life. The guests meandered around the room looking at the photos, stopping occasionally to reflect on a special one and share thoughts with someone nearby.

When the time was right, hosts Terry and Debbie Lanni stepped up to the podium. For perhaps the only time in his career, the MGM Mirage top gun had difficulty speaking. His loss was great. Delores had been like part of his family for nearly a quarter of a century.

After several Delores stories, the gathering broke up. Many wandered by the photographs one more time before walking out the door.

It was a fitting tribute to a wonderful woman, a great casino host and a very good friend.

Delores, you will be missed.