Salerno leads the way again with US Fantasy

December 15, 2015 3:09 AM
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Vic Salerno leads the way again

UPDATED 12-15-15 at 11:13 a.m. PT

Vic Salerno hopes to have his approach to daily fantasy sports wagering up and running in Nevada and elsewhere – as the law allows – by late summer in time for the 2016 football season.

This estimated timeline assumes that Nevada regulators have signed off on his plan by than. In the meantime, Salerno and partner Mike Knapp are drumming up support for the concept on which a patent is pending.

Salerno told Gaming Today that he first offered the idea to William Hill, the British bookmaking giant that bought out Salerno’s American Wagering. Hill was not interested, which means Salerno is leaving the company “with good feelings on both sides” to head up the development of the company he and Knapp have named U.S. Fantasy.

How will it work? Will it work?

Salerno’s response to both questions: “Nothing could be simpler. It’s so easy I’m surprised others had not already done it.”

There is little or no new infrastructure needed with the U.S. Fantasy product line working as an add-on to existing pari-mutuel systems. The betting structure will be like going to a track, sports book or OTB window to bet on a series of races. Using football as an example, he explained, “The first race of any given day might be which quarterback is going to throw for the most yards? The second race might be how much yardage might a receiver get?

And so it will go, through any given day’s schedule of “races” or events.

Salerno’s proposed pari-mutuel approach to operations will have a take-out of about 10 percent.

Salerno has been in the Nevada sports and race book business since the early 1970s and has something to show for it with a list of good ideas to his credit.

Let’s see, there was the first computerized bookmaking system, the first mobile sports betting app and the first kiosk.

Computerized systems of one kind or another are common in every corner of the casino business now, from sports books to the front desk. As for mobility, just about every company has added it to their marketing tools in the sports and race wagering business.

It is this kind of thinking that earned the former dentist a spot in the Gaming Hall of Fame a few months ago. He should have been put there sooner but times are suddenly changing at super sonic speed in his industry and sports betting is getting more attention in and out of Nevada than it has ever seen before.

Not since the “good ol’ days” when the mob was in charge of things has sports betting earned itself so much national attention.

Nevada is still the only state where wide open sports gambling is legal, but it appears to be pointed toward eventual legalization elsewhere. In the meantime, daily fantasy wagering has come out of nowhere to become a kind of substitute for the real thing even though it is being challenged in some states.

Last week, he became the first Nevadan to apply for the sports book operator’s license that the Gaming Control Board says is necessary for companies interested in setting up shop in the daily fantasy business.

Can this work?

Salerno notes that Nevada casinos already have pari-mutuel agreements with a number of U.S. racetracks and Nevada and Delaware are pooling their online poker revenues. Also, regulators and lawmakers in some states are working on plans for legalizing and regulating the daily fantasy sports business.

 Gaming Control Board Chairman A.G. Burnett told GamingToday, Salerno is the first Nevada operator to apply for a fantasy sports license. Burnett declined to speculate about how long it might take for GCB staffers to process his application, but Salerno is no stranger to the Board. He would not be responding to any of their questions for the first time.

Others are holding off waiting to see how the issues evolve. A Caesars spokesman says the company took a long look at fantasy sport wagering and has decided to pass for the time being.

He seems to be saying in so many words that Caesars wants to see what opportunities exist after the lawyers, courts and assorted influences finished doing their respective things. There is also the anti-Internet gaming legislation that was the subject of a House committee hearing last week to keep an eye on.

Phil Hevener has been writing about the Nevada gaming business for more than 30 years. Email: PhilHevener@GamingToday.com.

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