In addition to the cover feature, I’ve got a Green Felt Journal in this week’s Vegas Seven that takes us behind the scenes, into William Hill’s sports betting war room:
It’s 8:30 on a Sunday morning in October, but for the crew of bookmakers at William Hill headquarters on Grier Drive, just south of McCarran, the workday is well under way. Their business is overseeing the bets flowing in from sportsbooks from Whiskey Pete’s in Primm to Stockmen’s Casino in Elko, betting kiosks at PT’s Pubs and Buffalo Wild Wings, and phones and mobile devices. And judging from the mood, business is good.
via Inside the Trading Room | Vegas Seven.
Note: I was in the war room about three weeks ago, so this isn’t what went down last weekend, when the books had their worst day ever.
I’ve got to say I had a lot of fun writing this one. And the funny thing is that my time in surveillance still affects the way I think. When I saw that the story art was a photo of the war room, I felt this immediate panic–”Oh no! They let people see inside the room!” When I worked in CCTV it was taboo to let any non-CCTV person into the room at all, with a few exceptions. It’s an almost religious prohibition. But I guess that sports books are, indeed different. Still, I couldn’t help but think of “He’ll see the big board!” from Dr. Strangelove.
My ramblings aside, I hope you enjoy this little insight into what bookmakers do on Sunday morning.
Last week, Mike Colbert’s arrest was big news. I commented about it pretty extensively in a few places, but I didn’t have time until yesterday to pull my thoughts together and put them down in one place. The result is a Vegas Seven blog post:
The arrest last week of 25 people—including Cantor Gaming’s sports book manager Mike Colbert—in a national sports betting bust triggered a firestorm of commentary, most of it focused on the calamitous effect Colbert’s arrest would have on a range of issues, from Cantor’s future in Nevada to the pending efforts to legalize sports betting in New Jersey (and, ultimately, other states). Certainly, the arrest of a major figure in a major Nevada sports betting company on a gaming-related charge is a black eye for the industry, but I don’t believe it’s the game-changer that others seem to think it is. Here’s why.
via Colbert Arrest Highlights Hypocrisy of Prohibition | Vegas Seven.
I want to make it clear that I’m not trying to handicap Colbert’s chances at trial or guess what’s going to happen specifically to Cantor, because 1) I’m not a lawyer and 2) there’s too much information that’s not known yet. Instead, I’m talking about the bigger social and political impact that the arrests might have.
There are illegal sports betting arrests happening all the time, which makes it clear that a lot of people are betting illegally. With so many other forms of gambling legalized, there comes a time when you have to ask: couldn’t law enforcement resources be better utilized investigating other forms of crime?
This Thursday I have a new Green Felt Journal in Vegas Seven. It’s about the implications of William Hill’s growing footprint in Nevada sports betting, which I think is noteworthy:
With all of the sound and fury stirred up by the recent “Black Friday” indictments of three online poker operators, some major news that’s bringing Nevada a bit further into the future and a bit closer to the mainstream of sports betting in the rest of the world has gone largely unheralded.Last month, William Hill, a London-based bookmaking giant that claims 25 percent of the competitive market in the British Isles announced plans to acquire both American Wagering—the owner of Leroy’s, a chain of 53 sports books, 19 betting kiosks, and a Lovelock casino—and Club Cal Neva, a betting chain with more than two dozen outlets, primarily in Northern Nevada. This week, William Hill also bought Brandywine Bookmaking, parent of Lucky’s race and sports books.
via Goin’ mobile | Vegas Seven.
I think there’s a real battle brewing between Cantor and Lucky’s/Leroy’s/Club Cal Neva/William Hill for control of the Las Vegas sports book market.
Both companies have visions for how to increase the size of that market, but they’re a little different. Even though Leroy’s is getting its smartphone/tablet apps out first, from what I’ve seen it’s a much more traditional company in terms of approach and product than Cantor’s-Cantor’s CEO Lee Amiatis doesn’t even like the term “sports betting,” preferring “sports trading,” showing his company’s history in the financial markets.
Whoever “wins” (and I’d say there’s plenty of room in the market for both companies and approaches), the way Nevadans bet on sports is going to change over the next year.
It’s Thursday, so there’s a new Vegas Seven out. I’ve got two pieces in this one. Here’s the first, about betting on the Final Four:
March might be mad, but it’s also pretty lucrative for Las Vegas sports books. Most of the big casinos make betting on the NCAA men’s basketball tournament the centerpiece of a gambling vacation for the guys (and about 95 percent of them are guys—there’s still a heavy masculine slant to the party). The first extended weekend, in which 48 games are played over four days, is the busiest for most Nevada sports books. But Final Four weekend’s no slouch, either.
via The Big Finish | Vegas Seven.
Very frenetic stuff.
At the opening of the Tropicana’s new Cantor Gaming-run sports book, I had a very interesting conversation with Cantor Gaming President and CEO Lee Amaitis. It was so interesting that I thought I should share it with everyone. So we made an appointment for a sit-down interview, and here it is.
UNLV Gaming Podcast #27
Lee Amaitis, President and CEO, Cantor Gaming
In this interview with CGR Director David G. Schwartz, Amaitis gives a perspective on his career and discusses the current state of sports trading, as well as sharing his thoughts on the future.
Listen to the audio file (mp3)
More UNLV Gaming Podcasts
Amaitis says some intriguing things about where sports betting is heading. It’s particularly noteworthy that he avoids the term “sports betting” and refers to “sports trading,” suggesting a completely different model for the activity. If you’re interested in where gaming and technology are heading in the very near future, you’ve got to listen to this one.
The Nevada Gaming Control Board has released the unaudited figures for this year’s Super Bowl, and in spite of early reports that the books took a beating, they actually came out slightly ahead. Here’s a quote from the press release:
THE GAMING CONTROL BOARD RELEASED FIGURES TODAY SHOWING THAT $87.5 MILLION WAS WAGERED IN NEVADA’S 183 SPORTS BOOKS ON THIS YEAR’S SUPER BOWL.
GAMING CONTROL BOARD CHAIRMAN MARK LIPPARELLI SAID, “UNAUDITED FIGURES SHOW A SPORTS BOOK WIN OF $724,176 WAS RECORDED ON WAGERS TOTALING $87,491,098. THIS RESULTED IN A HOLD PERCENTAGE OF 0.83%.”
The release also has a table indicated the results for the past ten Super Bowls:
The low hold, as you can see, is a bit of an anomaly. But even if the books had lost money, the casinos would have made money over the weekend, thanks to more action in the casino, even if you discount the bump from the Chinese New Year.
I wonder what role in-running bets had on keeping the win up–with more betting during the game, there were more decisions, which theoretically should get a hold percentage closer to 5.45% over time.
The real story, I think, is that the handle is trending up again. That’s a sign that people are gambling more money, which in the end will be good for Nevada gaming.
My latest piece in the Las Vegas Business Press takes a look at why Leroy’s Blackberry sports-betting application is a big deal:
The year is still young, but 2011 has already been groundbreaking for Nevada’s gaming industry. The Gaming Control Board approved an application that lets players make bets from their own mobile devices, pointing the way to a future in which gambling will go mobile.
via Las Vegas Business Press :: David G. Schwartz : BlackBerry to the future: Gaming takes step ahead.
At its core, the app is just old-fashioned account wagering updated for mobile devices, with a raft of security and geo-location protocols that ensure a) the data is secure and b)the person making the bet is in Nevada.
Anyone can download the app, whether you’re a Nevada resident or not, but you have to physically be within the state to place bets. In addition, you have to open your account at a Leroy’s sportsbook, and if you are lucky enough to win, you either pick your winnings up at one, or arrange for a wire transfer.
This is really where the future of sports betting is going to be. With people using apps for an increasing number of information and commercial services, it’s only logical that they be able to bet on sports with one.
It’s Green Felt Journal time again. This week, I talk about the impact of football on Las Vegas in Vegas Seven:
Even though Las Vegas doesn’t have an NFL team, football is a popular pastime in the city, and one that has a huge economic impact on the area.Yes, there are the Locomotives of the United Football League and the UNLV Rebels, but football’s real impact here isn’t felt on the field or in the stands—it’s in the sports books and bars of the Valley.
via Even with no NFL team, Vegas scores big during football season | Vegas Seven.
I decided to write this after I did a little poking around to check on some of the claims of “economic impact of a new arena” proponents. Even without a team, it’s clear that football generates a lot of economic activity in the area.
This is also as good a time as any to announce that I’m now officially an award-winning columnist. The Nevada Press Association has honored me with second place in the “Best Local Non-staff Column” category. Here’s the description:
2. David G. Schwartz, Vegas Seven
“Schwartz’s column is everything you’d expect a column on the gaming industry not to be — accessible, well-sourced, pertinent and insightful. ‘Real baccarat players like their privacy.’”
I still can’t figure out whether that’s a back-handed complement or not, but I’ll take it.
Congratulations also to Vegas Seven stablemate Michael Green, who beat me out for the top spot in the category.
And fellow gaming writer David McKee took home not one, but two awards for his work for another Las Vegas weekly paper.
You can read about all of the award-winners here.
Since it’s Thursday, I’ve got a new Green Felt Journal for you to read in Vegas Seven magazine. This week, I talk about March Madness on the Strip:
The basketball-mad crowd covers all ages, from cigar-chomping sharp bettors in their 60s to still-in-school rowdies wearing their college colors. It skews young, however, with 20- to 30-somethings dominating in most casinos. The audience in most sports books is about 97 percent male.
The NCAA Tournament, particularly the first weekend, has become an unofficial cross-country college reunion getaway. Although many fans have moved on from the frat house or dorm television lounge and might live thousands of miles apart, they return to Las Vegas in groups of varying sizes each spring to watch the games, drink beer and enjoy what’s become the ultimate guy trip.
The tournament has become one of the biggest draws in town. While it’s impossible to directly assess its total economic impact (no one fills out a survey saying they came to town for the games), it’s acknowledged as a huge draw.
via March Madness offers peek at leaner Vegas vacation | Vegas Seven.
I used the word “crowd” three times in the story, and might have used it more, because gathering information for this story really brought to mind Charles Mackay’s Extraordinary Popular Delusions and the Madness of Crowds. Not that I’m saying that the guys betting on March Madness are deluded, but it is March “Madness,” and there are big crowds, so I guess my brain filled in the blanks.
And there was something very compelling, but very exhausting, about the atmosphere in the books. I can’t see how anyone has enough energy to do anything but crash for 12 hours, beer and other depressants of choice notwithstanding, after a day of March Madness Vegas action. It must be all the oxygen they pump into the casino.
That last sentence, my friends, is the closest I’m getting to an April Fool’s joke this year.
Often, folks in the media accept whatever number’s thrown at them when gambling’s concerned. If someone says a study claims that governments will make billions a year legalizing online gambling, it’s accepted without question.
But Josh McMahon of New Jersey News Room actually did some research when it comes to one net gaming proposal:
What I do object to, however, is the ballooning of expectations.Lesniak and others claim New Jersey can collect about $100 million a year from sports betting but their numbers don't add up.I can't follow his math. I challenged him on this last year but never heard from him. He didn't produce the numbers.Here's why I'm skeptical. Last year all 266 Nevada casinos “won” a total of $136.3 million from sports betting. That's what the casinos had after they paid off the winners.
via The over/under of Lesniak’s sports gambling plan | Commentary | NewJerseyNewsroom.com — Your State. Your News..
It’s good to see people actually look at the numbers to see if they make sense.
One quibble–in the article, McMahon claims that Nevada casinos had $11.5 billion in gross gaming revenue “last year.” The actual total is $10.3 billion for 2009, and $11.6 billion for 2008. I don’t usually go out of my way to correct other people, but since we’re talking numbers and accuracy, I figure it’s fair play. Although to be fair to McMahon, the sports betting total for 2008 was also about $136 million, so it would be easy to confuse the two years.