Today in Vegas Seven I talk a little bit about what might come after the broader legalization of sports betting in the United States:
The case stems from New Jersey’s attempts to legalize sports betting, in contravention of PASPA, a 1992 law that banned new states from legalizing sports betting. Although New Jersey had a chance to authorize legal betting before PASPA took effect, the state punted. In 2012, its legislature legalized sports betting, which was struck down by federal courts. Like a Bruce Springsteen song, the state did not give up, and that effort has brought us to New Jersey Governor Chris Christie’s suit seeking to overturn PASPA.
As a non-lawyer, I won’t attempt to handicap Christie’s chance of prevailing here. Instead, as a historian, I’ll consider what happens next, whatever the court decides.
Source: U.S. Supreme Court to Hear Case Influencing Legal Sports Betting
I got a few calls last week on the topic, and after spending some time talking it over, thought I would post my thoughts for a wider audience.
I’ve written up a few thoughts for the Washington Posts’s Post Everything on why Las Vegas is suddenly acceptable to the NFL:
The gambling industry here and football have been seeing each other secretly since the 1960s. But Monday’s 31-to-1 vote by league owners to permit the Oakland Raiders to move to Las Vegas with (for now) no stipulations about sports betting is a sign that the league’s and city’s status has changed from “it’s complicated” to “in a relationship.”
Read more: The NFL used to shun Las Vegas. Why is it moving a team there? – The Washington Post
Looking at the history of the NFL, Las Vegas, and gambling is fascinating. The league is steadfastly opposed to legal sports betting despite the fact that many fans bet on the game and it clearly drives a lot of interest. I went back to the Commission on the Review of the National Policy Toward Gambling (1975) to get some context. Pete Rozelle testified extensively then, and laid it out very well.
What I found intriguing is that he said he wasn’t that afraid of legal betting causing actual corruption in the game, but that it might cause fans to think that there was corruption. If they were able to place bets legally, he said, they’d demand Congress investigate every time they lost a bet. Rozelle’s opposition to legal sports betting was rooted in a deep mistrust of his own fans, who he thought would see a conspiracy behind every botched play or blown call.
Because Las Vegas was the country’s sports betting nerve center, Las Vegas was forbidden–although he mentioned that they did monitor Vegas betting lines when looking for irregularities.
So what’s changed? Well, you can read what I think here.
My latest Green Felt Journal talks about the history behind the federal tax on sports betting:
Like so much else in the history of Nevada gaming, the tax is linked to the Kefauver Committee, the early 1950s U.S. Senate body that investigated organized crime throughout America. Chaired by maverick Tennessee Democrat Estes Kefauver, the committee found that organized crime was indeed a national problem—a problem chiefly fueled by income from gambling operations. With state and local authorities unable (or unwilling) to prosecute gambling entrepreneurs to its satisfaction, Congress decided to fix the problem itself.
via Why Congress Should Repeal a Federal Tax on Sports Betting | Vegas Seven.
Always nice to bring some history into the discussion.
In this week’s Green Felt Journal, I discuss how Las Vegas faces change:
Now let’s broaden that concept and consider how Las Vegas not just the casino industry responds to changes dealt to it externally. For example, earlier this month, gay marriage became legal in Nevada. Almost immediately, the question being asked wasn’t whether Nevada’s wedding industry chapels, and the ancillary businesses that support them would benefit from the landmark ruling, but how much it would benefit—and how quickly casinos would jump in.
via As New Jersey Moves to Legalize Sports Betting, Nevada Stays One Step Ahead | Vegas Seven
A broader legalization of sports gambling would definitely shake things up, but with sports gambling being such a small part of Nevada gaming revenues, I don’t think it would hurt Las Vegas casinos. More familiarity with wagering might even help them.
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.