Sportsbooks just don't have the same issues

June 28, 2016 3:00 AM


I’m reading the tech section of my Wall Street Journal this morning and it smacked me right in the face. My gosh, most readers under 30 (if any) that might read my efforts have never seen, let alone experienced, a Las Vegas race and sportsbook without a wall of giant TVs, computer generated and graded tickets, writers all wearing the same shirts, cocktail waitresses or comps.

They’ve never rubbed elbows with the scufflers, wiseguys and every player in between. I say player because 95.5% of everyone was there to make a bet, and a small number to cash a ticket. The rest were there to see if they could scam a handwritten ticket or catch a writer or cashier off guard.

Like Charlie Brown, who went from the sports cashier in Churchill to the race cashier asking for change, hoping for a mistake. Or Bing Weinstein, who planted himself next to a sports writer station and when an odds change happened he would say, “I was just going to bet that side, how’s about giving me the old number?”

The pickers scoured the racebook floor looking for discarded “losing” tickets, hoping to find a winner or at least a scratch. At the Stardust they even took garbage bags home that our porters filled with floor scraps.

Or the guy who asked me to look at my schedule. Writers kept track of the line and changes by hand in our schedules and he changed a number in my schedule. The real enterprising “high tech” scammers would alter a ticket hoping the cashier was sleeping.

Every scammer’s dream is to have the winner before a game or race goes off. It could be done in the days before computers. 

Like the Saturday morning in the 70s when they bet U Conn like the game was already over and they had the score. It was indeed over and they did have the score. The wrong score.

Not all mischief was from the player’s side of the counter either. We had rogue writers who could get it on till they were caught, which they were more than not. Cashiers were usually sharp and most trusted, and they caught a good share of phony tickets. 

Player-on-player troubles usually involved events unrelated to the race and sportsbooks. It’s just books were common ground for most of us and adversaries ran into each other there.

Political correctness was a generation away. The police or gaming agents did not baby sit us; in fact the Gaming Board agents were not well versed in betting and had trouble with decisions. We hardly ever saw them and they weren’t particularly interested in seeing the race and sports crowd either.

It’s awfully hard for our younger millennials to get their heads around those times, just like my generation having to wonder how our parents walked to school in the snow in their bare feet wrapped in barbed wire to keep from slipping. Someday someone will come across my ramblings and think it is fiction.

The genie is out of the bottle. eGaming is a hint of what’s to come. Someday both bookies and bettors will be so sophisticated, so high tech and so in command of artificial intelligence that neither can beat the other.


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