Bookies find alternative to CBS system

Aug 31, 2004 7:47 AM

In Nevada sports books, a California high-tech firm is trying to crash the electronic betting party.

San Diego-based VirtGame Corp. has contracted with Club Cal-Neva to install its electronic teller system in all 19 of its northern Nevada sports books.

The move marks the first time that a firm other than Computer Bookmaking Systems (CBS) will install a bet processing system.

In Las Vegas, The VirtGame system is also being installed at the Plaza and the Las Vegas Club and is already up and operating in Terrible’s Hotel and Casino and the MonteLago.

Tony DiTommaso, race and sports book director for the Cal-Neva, said the new software system gives the operator "more flexibility in terms of things you can book."

He added that the management screen is more user-friendly. "It’s a better format, easier on the eyes," DiTommaso said.

Club Cal-Neva has 21 sports books in Nevada, 19 in the Reno area and two in Las Vegas — one at the Tuscany and one at Thirstbusters in Henderson.

DiTommaso said VirtGame provides personal service by asking the client what they need in terms of equipment rather than "telling us what we can have."

CBS President Vic Salerno said the challenge posed by a new competitor such as VirtGame "made us get off our butts."

He said that at CBS, which has had a virtual monopoly on sports book software since sports books were required to move to a computerized system from a handwritten process by gaming regulators in the late 1980s, the company has added a new terminal for the ticket writers resulting in a new communication process that is "faster and more stable."

In addition, Salerno said CBS is working on a new computer system that will be 10 times faster than the current one; the new system should be ready by the end of the year.

He added that CBS is installing self-service, multi-lingual kiosks that will offer both pari-mutuel and sports betting services. The kiosks have been approved by the gaming regulators and are already operating in some locations.

"Competition is good," said Salerno, who pointed out that VirtGame has added just one customer while his company’s system is being used by almost every other sports book in the state outside of the Cal-Neva chain. He said CBS supplies systems that serve over 90 percent of the industry and books over $2 billion in bets annually statewide. "We must be doing something right," he said.

Rob Terch, the sports book director at the Montelago, said the reason he likes VirtGame better than CBS is because it’s "like using a computer; you do everything with a mouse. With CBS, everything is codes."

Terch said his sports books can process football parlay cards a lot faster with the VirtGame system and if he has a problem with the computers, support is more readily available. "They go into it at their end rather than send somebody out," he said.

Larry Richards, the sports book manager at the Las Vegas Club, said his place has had VirtGame in place for a week and "it’s been working great. It provides you with more financial information. It’s pretty user friendly."

Richards said that on Monday he will start working, at least temporarily, at the Plaza, another Barrick property, as it switches to VirtGame.

VirtGame CEO Bruce Merati said the reason his company has been able to break the stranglehold on sports book equipment is because his company’s equipment is "Windows-based and uses any kind of PC or server" while the CBS system requires dedicated hardware.

"Theirs is an old technology," Merati said. "It’s been around 15 or 20 years.