Goin’ mobile in Vegas Seven

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.

Gaming evolving to web/mobile in LVBP

I’ve got a new piece up in the Las Vegas Business Press about how the current debate over legalizing online gaming in Nevada is really informed by the past development of gaming in relation to technology. But I don’t think it’s as boring as it sounds:

With the current debate over Assembly Bill 258, which would legalize online poker in Nevada, we’ve been hearing a great deal about how online is the future for gambling. But getting involved with online gambling really isn’t such a dramatic departure from the past. Gambling has always evolved. And, for the past 80 years, Nevada has evolved along with it.

via Las Vegas Business Press :: David G. Schwartz : Technology keeps pushing betting, now toward Web.

I really think it’s a question of when, not if Internet gaming is legalized. With our current economic and fiscal position, the phrase “there’s no time like the present” comes to mind.

Handheld relief coming soon to Nevada casinos

I know that the thing that bugs me most about Nevada casino resorts is how hard it is to gamble. You often have to walk several feet to get to a slot machine. Luckily, the Gaming Control Board is on top of the problem and, thanks to Cantor Fitzgerald, a solution is on the horizon: From the LV Sun:

Come mid-2006, casinos will be able to offer the small devices to allow customers to play the slots, blackjack, craps or baccarat while they’re in lounges, swimming pools or restaurants.

The state Gaming Control Board on Tuesday held its final public hearing on a regulation to allow operation of “mobile gaming systems” in casinos.

“We see an appetite by a generation of people that have grown up using mobile devices,” said Joseph M. Asher, managing director of Cantor Gaming, whose company is going to manufacture the mobile devices. “Everybody has a cell phone. People have their BlackBerries. Systems like Nintendo and Xbox — entire generations have grown up with these things.”

Control Board Chairman Dennis Neilander said the regulation would be ready for full board consideration in January at a meeting in Las Vegas. The commission could give final approval in February or March.

Cantor Gaming has already applied for a state gaming license. After the regulation is adopted, Cantor would submit its system to the Control Board for review to check for security and other issues. If cleared, it would go into a casino for a 60-day or more trial period, after which it could be licensed.

“Each system will have to go through full board and commission scrutiny,” Neilander said.

The Control Board and the Nevada Gaming Commission would establish where the devices could be played.

Michael Wilson, chief counsel for the Control Board, said the devices would not tie into the Internet.

Cantor, which has an office in Las Vegas, now makes the devices for off-track, horseracing bettors in the United Kingdom. Other companies are expected to manufacture the systems to get a foot in the door to what may be an emerging industry.

Under the proposed method of operation, a player would deposit up-front money or use his credit at a casino to get one of the devices. A customer would have to show a driver’s license, passport or other identification before a unit would be issued. The casino would have to make sure the person was 21 or older.

“I certainly think you will see people in various areas of the resort, whether it’s out by the swimming pool, convention center or shopping area or whatever areas the system will be able to be used, maybe playing a few hands of blackjack,” Asher said. “It’s about making the gaming experience more convenient.”

The regulation would prohibit operation in parking lots, garages and hotel rooms. They could be used only in casinos with nonrestricted licenses with at least 100 slot machines and a table game.

Las Vegas SUN: Handheld gaming devices might find way into casinos
I’m a bit ambivalent about this story. On one hand, this fits right in with my thesis that gambling continually evolves along with society. Since a growing number of Americans can’t take cell phones out of their hands, the Nevada gaming industry is rationally moving to offer gaming on handheld wireless devices.

On the other hand, I can’t help but feel that R&D is a finite resource. Would we, as a society, be better served by allocating resource dollars to a higher purpose than making gambling more convenient?

Conversely, research into convenient wireless gambling might have some sort of spinoff that does help society: maybe the instantaneous sharing of medical data among hospitals, or something like that.

The Internet, after all, is a fantastic communications medium that can break down borders, but it is mostly used for spam, gambling, and porn. Then again, who’s to say that giving otherwise-frustrated guys an avenue for free “material” isn’t a higher social purpose than ivory tower academics like me emailing powerpoint lecture slides to each other?

As may frustrate some readers, I have many questions, but few easy answers.