Nevada takes 1% of betting action, as U.S. fails to capitalize on 99%

Jun 25, 2011 6:21 AM

Vegas Runner, who recently joined GamingToday as a columnist, was featured prominently this week in a nationally televised hour-long CNBC investigative piece on illegal gambling.

VR has been beating the house "legally" for years and his passion to let others know how he did it attracted him to GamingToday, which weekly showcases his expertise both in print and on our internet site.

"Sports betting is the one topic nobody wants to talk about, but everybody does it," VR said during the CNBC interview.

R.J. Bell, the founder of, said of illegal gambling "we estimate that 1 percent of the action is in Nevada which is strictly legal based upon United States laws. It’s 50-50 after that with online sports books and what we call bar room bookies…the guys down the street."

In simpler terms, Bell said he estimates that for every $100 bet on sports, $99 is bet illegally. While there is no doubt that illegal gambling is rampant, if this estimate is true you can clearly see the fiscal and moral dilemma this country is facing.

What makes sports betting work for Nevada is that it has a Gaming Control Board and the assurance that anyone who makes a bet at a casino book will get paid. Offshore and with a bookie, you’re often at their mercy – Russian Roulette if you will. Yet bettors continue to walk that line because sports betting is illegal in all but four states. As a result, this country is failing to capitalize on a multi-billion dollar industry that could certainly alleviate the severe economic recession we’re in.

The sad part is if sports betting were legal, we wouldn’t have to spend so much time, money and manpower busting individuals and gaming sites that fled to places like Costa Rica and Antigua to escape U.S. jurisdiction. And the playing field would be fair and square as it is in Nevada. We would all get paid for winning.

The CNBC report cited one offshore site that was charging clients an 8% vig. And bettors would gladly pay it for the privilege of convenience.

Ironically seeing the feds crack down on the corruption is a good thing. But why go through all that trouble when legalization would basically eliminate that problem.

"I enjoy sports, but I wager on it because there is an edge," VR said. "You only have to hit 53 or 54 percent to grind out a good living. And it can be done. I’ve had losing years, but not enough to stop me from what to do."

There is a trust that goes with making a bet in a local book that can’t be guaranteed staring into a computer or wagering by phone to some voice overseas. When that trust is compromised either by the bettor not getting paid or the bookie not having the financial capability of covering the wager to begin with, the consequences are usually swift and bad.

While it’s always interesting to see sports gambling discussed instead of shoved under the rug by pro sports organizations and the networks, there’s almost always too much focus on the negative – the people who lost everything because of betting.

No, it wasn’t betting that caused some to lose all their net worth, rather it was simply not being able to stop. That’s why so many capable writers, experts and touts talk about money management and not betting money you can’t afford to lose.

It’s not the system that’s flawed, rather the thought process. But every negative story you hear about sports betting just makes the government’s stance against legalization tougher to overturn.

Whether you felt CNBC’s presentation about sports gambling was pro or con, at least they talked about it.

That, in itself, is progress.