South Point oddsmaker Jim Vaccaro shakes his head, frowns and makes it clear some things are beyond his understanding.
A reporter had asked him about the likelihood Nevada books will be allowed to take wagers on political races any time soon. Vaccaro gave the question all of about two seconds of thought before saying, “It is absolutely insane!”
He struggled forward with a response, making it clear he finds it a little “mind boggling” that the people in charge of gaming policymaking and regulations have not yet legalized wagering on political races.
“Maybe they think we’re gonna fix the presidential race,” saying this with a trace of a smirk. “Do you know what one of the biggest days in the European market is?” he asked rhetorically. “It is our presidential election day. We could care less about what the queen is doing but our presidential election day is like Super Bowl Sunday (to the betting public in Europe).”
The South Point began putting out weekly updates last summer of the odds facing each of the candidates. And there were a lot of them then. Vaccaro saw how heated up people were getting and he went to South Point owner Michael Gaughan saying, “We’ve gotta do something.”
And so they did.
The numbers have been available to the public in a format headed with the announcement that this information is for entertainment purposes only. Gaming regulators did not want to hear about any real money wagers being taken. Other books around the state may be doing some version of the same thing.
“But my point,” Vaccaro said, “is that the public has a real appetite for this sort of thing… just like around Oscar time when the TV cameras show up, reporters wanting to know about the chances of this or that actor getting an Oscar.”
Trump was a genuine long shot in the beginning on the Republican side, something like 20-1. Hillary Clinton was always a favorite on the Democratic side. There were even odds on whether either party would have a brokered convention.
“We have been updating the sheets every week,” Vaccaro said. “After each debate we would sit down and discuss things, moving the numbers around where we saw a need for adjustments.”
South Point owner Michael Gaughan “loves it,” according to Vaccaro. “We have to print up more every week. The tourists come in and take them.”
But getting back to Vaccaro’s view of the inability of sportsbooks not being able to take wagers based on election day results. “It’s crazy, I cannot begin to tell you how much revenue we are leaving on the table.”
“In the meantime the money is going elsewhere.”
Vaccaro speculates legal sports betting will be available in the next few years. The momentum for this has been building.
“I think the NFL will somehow find a way to get a piece of the action.”
The National Football League already benefits indirectly from Nevada activity as a result of the significant sums being paid for the video packages that make virtually every game available to casinos willing to pay the price.
Vaccaro also talks up another idea: “When the time comes I think other states should plug into Nevada and get a share of the revenue being earned at books here. The books elsewhere would not have to try it (running sportsbooks) on their own. It would mean a lot of revenue and if a state decides at some point to do it all on their own, they could simply unplug.”
The increasing mobility provided by new apps and the power of the Internet would make it all possible.
He shrugs, as in what could be simpler.
All this presupposes, of course, that federal regulations and the public’s appetite for increased access to sports betting can be aligned.
Vaccaro is quick to note however that the doors to other wagering opportunities have been swinging open.
“We haven’t always been able to take bets on situations such as the most valuable player in an all-star game or the Super Bowl, but we did this year.”
Nevada books will also be able to take bets this year on Olympic activity.
“That will be helpful because August is a slow month.”
Arguments about the integrity of leagues and their games have dwindled as the forces talking in opposition to expanded betting have accepted the argument that regulated sports betting is a wonderful way to quickly become aware of suspicious activity, to keep game fixing and point shaving attempts under a microscope.
Phil Hevener has been writing about the Nevada gaming business for more than 30 years. Email: [email protected].