Gaming Control may look at fantasy sports

July 28, 2015 3:09 AM
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GCB may look at fantasyWe can put our money on the likelihood the Gaming Control Board will have a lot to say about the very active world of fantasy sports betting during coming months.

So much has happened to fantasy wagering since that day in the fall of 2007 when Board Member Randall Sayre put out a memo on the subject, a memo that suggests there was limited interest in fantasy wagering at that time.

Sayre’s memo said in part that the Board had “received requests for the approval of fantasy football proposition wagers.” Here is his response:

“Games based on numbering schemes or associated with what is known as ‘Fantasy Football,’ by definition, do not qualify as athletic events and therefore any wagers thus associated would be considered to be prohibited per Gaming Regulation 22.120.

“This policy, however, does not preclude a licensed sports pool from creating traditional proposition wagers which incorporate a point system provided the criteria is specifically defined by the licensee and clearly posted or available within the book.”

He concluded, “Licensees found to be in violation of this policy may be subject to disciplinary action.”

And that was that. The apparently mild interest in the subject during the Fall of 2007 did not seem to necessitate a study committee or re-arrangement of whatever priorities may have been then.

The issue was not getting a lot of headlines in those days, a time before major league sports teams were promoting their respective promotional approaches to what has become a multibillion-dollar moneymaker.

All three Board Members have gone on to other things since Sayre penned this memo and it’s a good bet the knowledge of whatever thought went into its writing may have gone with them. But the three current members and in particular Chairman A.G. Burnett are giving the subject a lot of fresh attention.

A former regulator familiar with the Board’s approach to complex subjects – and aren’t they all these days – told me recently, “I would not be surprised if the Board has a revised, updated policy on the subject by the end of the year.”

Las Vegas attorney Greg Gemignani, who is seen as an expert on sports wagering and Internet gaming, says the Board’s fresh approach to what is or is not appropriate within the context of Nevada’s approach to the business has been spurred by recent events and the commentary these events have generated.

Gaming Board priorities seem to require careful attention to whatever is getting a lot of attention at any given moment. The world of casino gaming is a fast-changing place. A decade ago, the focus was on the opening up of Macau to non-Chinese companies and the big projects under consideration along the Strip.

There did not seem to be a need for a rethinking of familiar approaches to familiar issues.

New Jersey’s much more recent effort to install sports wagering in its casinos has helped fuel a lot of speculation about what the state’s long-shot possibilities for success may be in other jurisdictions where there is an appetite for more revenue to fill budget holes.

Fantasy wagering is kind of where Internet gaming such as poker was back in the 1990s before hole card cameras turned poker into a spectator sport and began to make profitable television deals possible. Former Horseshoe owner Jack Binion guesses that “The World Series of Poker would probably still be a small event if technology had not made it possible to create big television deals.”

As for the explosive growth of fantasy wagering, television’s insatiable appetite for sports programming has certainly contributed. Maybe it is an opportunity to satisfy the public’s appetite for betting opportunities that were denied by the 1992 federal legislation that limited sports betting of any kind to just four states.

A lot of thoughtful casino executives are waiting for the Gaming Board to tell them how far they can go with their efforts to satisfy this appetite. It’s another opportunity to exploit Nevada’s uniqueness as a U.S. center of sports betting.

There is a lot of discretionary spending waiting in the deep pockets of sports bettors to be sucked into the casino industry’s myriad pipelines.

But there is a need to be cautious because Nevadans do not want to be perceived as playing fast and lose with what remains of the Wire Act and a federal tendency to get involved in things.

Phil Hevener has been writing about the Nevada gaming business for more than 30 years. He can be reached at PhilHevener@GamingToday.com.

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