Marathon betting

It’s easy for most people to separate their work and personal lives. By day they are an assistant account manager or food service technician, and by night they surf for porn or watch reality TV.
It’s getting harder and harder for me to draw the line. Working on Roll the Bones, I know that I have 769 pages of manuscript to get into publishable shape; that’s taking up most of my free time. But I still get to do some fun stuff, which for me includes training to run the New Las Vegas Marathon. For months, I’ve enjoyed running as a respite from work and gambling.

Suddenly, running and gambling are part of the same story. Check this email out:

History will be made at this week’s New Las Vegas Marathon when you’ll not only be able to run the world-famous Las Vegas Strip for the first time, you’ll be part of the only Marathon in the nation you can gamble on. In order to bring an unprecedented level of excitement to the race, you’ll be able to bet on the winner of The Challenge and the top male and female professional runners.

This Friday at 1:00pm at the Professional Runners News Conference, the New Las Vegas Marathon will announce the time differential for The Challenge. The Challenge is an L.A. Marathon innovation in which the Professional Women Runners start the race in advance of the Professional Men. Past statistics of this year’s field of professional runners will determine the time differential. The first runner to cross the Finish Line wins a $50,000 first place cash prize and a $50,000 bonus for winning The Challenge.

You can learn more about the marathon here. If you live in Vegas, please consider volunteering–every little bit helps, and the runners really appreciate it.

Anyway, it’s a strange feeling to see gambling and running come together like this. But I’m going to turn it to your advantage, and give you an absolute lock: you can bet the house that I will NOT win the 2005 New Las Vegas Marathon. I’ll be satisfied if I finished, and thrilled if I do so in less than 4 hours.

It’s so typical that people in Vegas have to take a time-honored athletic tradition like the marathon and turn it into another way to gamble. Not that I’m complaining–those gambling taxes (partially) pay my salary.

Two for the Money reviewed

Check out this review of the new Al Pacino movie Two for the Money from the aptly-named Couch Slouch:

There’s a new sports-betting movie out called “Two for the Money.”

Larry King calls it “the best movie about gambling ever made! … This film has everything.” Couch Slouch calls it “the worst movie about gambling ever made! … This film has nothing.”

Guess which blurb the studio is using in its newspaper ads?

I would explain the thrust of the film to you, except it has no story and it makes no sense. It was a bit like watching the Ravens’ offense — somewhat scripted, going nowhere.

The movie starts with a game-winning, career-ending touchdown and finishes with a game-winning, career-ending touchdown. In between, there is occasional dialogue.

Walter (Al Pacino), who is married to Toni (Rene Russo), owns a sports-tout service and hires former college quarterback Brandon (Matthew McConaughey) to be his star handicapper. If Brandon picks games well, they all get rich; if he doesn’t, they all go broke.

I don’t think I’m leaving out any nuance here.

(By the end of the first act, the usher in my theater gave two weeks’ notice.)

The Couch Slouch: Upon further review, gambling movie stinks

I haven’t seen the movie, so I’m reserving comment–from the reviews it’s gotten, I’ll wait for it to show up on HBO–or at least the Tropicana Cinemas.

If you’re curious, here’s a list of movies that Two for the Money would have to have been better than to be “the greatest movie about gambling ever made:”

The Croupier
The Cooler
The Sting
Owning Mahony
SnakeEyes (not really about gambling, but set at the Taj)
Boiler Room
Ocean’s Eleven (1960)
anything by W. C. Fields

That’s just a partial list, but you get the point. Once I’ve actually seen Two for the Money, I’ll let you know whether it belongs in this pantheon.

UPDATE: As of May 2008, I still haven’t gotten around to seeing it. And nobody’s the worse for that.

NCAA troubled by betting

In case you missed ESPN’s hyperbolic exposition of “bracketology” this weekend, the berths for the NCAA men’s college basketball tournament have been announced, beginning one of bookies’ favorite times of the year, March Madness. And the NCAA is shocked, yes, shocked that people gamble on the tournament, and suggests that the best way to end this national rite is to usurp the right of the people of Nevada to decide whether or not their state should offer legal sports betting.
Continue reading “NCAA troubled by betting”

Daily Quote for 2/7/05

“I don’t want to be the one to call it the dumbing down of Britain, but I think its the dumbing down of Britain.”
–Warren Lush, chief oddsmaker at Ladbrokes, on the huge upswing in novelty betting on everything from televised talent shows to whether someone will live to be 100. You can read the full story of novelty betting here: – English risk odds on oddest of wagers.

This came to my attention because I’m currently writing the chapter of Roll the Bones dealing with the initial English gaming mania (1660-1750), and novelty betting was huge back then, too.

A super flip

It was nice to see an actual football game in the midst of all the commercials, but as a lifelong Eagles fan I’m naturally downcast at the outcome. Still, can anyone from the Delaware Valley honestly say that they expected any better? I think Philly has just internalized low expectations, and that losing is now accepted quite readily.

I’m surprised that absolutely no one has commented on what I thought was the greatest controversy of the game–the coin flip.

First of all, I’m all for getting kids involved in sports, but it’s hardly fair to them to put them on the field in such a high-pressure situation. For those of you who didn’t see the coin flip, they brought one of the kids out to actually toss the coin. Instead of flipping it, he sort of pitched it (kind of like someone might slide dice), so that it didn’t actually spin over its axis and land on a random side. If you tired that sort of thing at craps you might get yourself in the black book, but the kid only got a grateful handshake from Donovan McNabb. Funny stuff, yet totally ignored by the play-by-play. I’m surprised Joe Buck didn’t rant about how the blatantly-rigged toss was a “digusting act.”

Oh yeah, people also bet on the game. Luckily for Nevada sports books, the Eagles scored that late touchdown. It was funny hearing people reference Philly’s phyrric victory, saying, “these fans are disappointed, but happy that their team…umm…played with pride.”

Ranting about ESPN

Watching that ESPN series on sports and gambling, something struck me as odd, but I wasn’t sure exactly what it was, until I read this, from John Schwarb of the St. Pete Times:

Not to pile on too much against ESPN (in this space last week we questioned its anchors being advertising pitchmen), but we could have lived without the five-part SportsCenter series “Gambling in Sports: The National Pastime” last week.

For one thing, the packaging of it with the ballyhooed Hustle movie was far too cute. We’re not stupid, we could see the network trying to work us into a degenerate gambling froth, preferably one that would end Saturday night on the couch with their latest foray into original programming.

Parts of the SportsCenter series were laughable, others lazy and less informative than they should have been. A segment on the point-shaving scandal with the 1993-94 Arizona State men’s basketball team relied on old interviews with all parties, failing to show what the guilty are doing now.

A segment on poker’s underbelly – young people spending countless hours and money playing online – rang hollow considering how much ESPN promotes this foolishness. The network is not to blame for an individual’s decision to mortgage the future on card games, but after glorifying poker for hours every week, showing a few minutes on its dark side seems trite.

On the whole, it is hilarious to watch SportsCenter turn into 60 Minutes when “investigating” gambling. The undertones of betting on an all-sports network are constant, either in subtle forms (the never-ending ticker) or in your face (“Hammerin”‘ Hank Goldberg’s Sunday morning football picks).

Perhaps any investigations could start within the Bristol, Conn., offices, where Mike Freeman reported in his 2000 book ESPN: The Uncensored History that gambling was rampant.

Instead, we’re subjected to a five-part series ending in a Pete Rose movie. Oh, well, we watched it all, so you win, ESPN. Again.

Rant: ESPN gambling series comical

Now I remember what was so odd: the channel that ran a countdown clock on their bottom line that ticked off the seconds until the next episode of the WSOP being a little sanctimonious about gambling. It’s great when people and organizations contradict themselves so blatantly that this transcends hypocrisy.

Not all TV is bad–a new episode of The Wire aired last night. It’s honestly the only show that I regularly watch, and it just keeps getting better.

Betting on nothing

NHL owners have locked out their players, but that doesn’t mean you can’t get action down on hockey this season. From the Edmonton Journal:

An Antigua-based sports-betting firm has become the first to put odds on the outcome of the National Hockey League lockout, and how it could affect a season scheduled to open Oct. 13.

If you’re a betting person, it doesn’t look good.

Odds are 1-3 — meaning you must bet $3 to get a $1 return — the entire 2004-05 season will be wiped out by a labour dispute in which owners seek a salary cap and players are resisting it. puts odds the season will start at some point before the regular season concludes on April 10, 2005, at 2-1.

While big-time bettors could stand to cash in on the lockout, provincial governments — the benefactors of Canadian gambling largesse — stand to lose significant amounts of cash should play not begin this season.

NHL wagering makes up just over one third of total sales, and brings in an

$8-million annual profit, for the Western Canada Lottery Corporation, which serves the three Prairie provinces and three territories.

To offset the anticipated loss in revenue, the lottery corporation is introducing a number of other sports and leagues for sports fans to bet on, including U.S. college football and basketball and European soccer

Winter of discontent? You can bet on it.

Now, if a baseball player bet on the hockey lockout, would that be considered a violation? It’s not exactly a sporting event. This sounds like just the thing Pete Rose would wager on.

It’s interesting to learn that a management/player dispute over a salary cap in hockey can drastically impact lotteries in Canada.

Gambling and sports

I read an interesting piece in the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette about the links between gambling and sports.  Here’s the opening, but I really urge you to read the whole thing:

The relationship between sports and gambling, once at arm’s length and now almost hand in hand, is embodied by the brothers Maloof.
The family owns both the Palms Casino in Las Vegas and, since 1998, the Sacramento Kings. The National Basketball Association approved the family’s purchase of the team after they agreed to quit taking bets on NBA games in their casino’s legal sports-betting operation.
“As long as we don’t have the NBA in our sports book, everything is fine,” George Maloof said. “And we haven’t had one problem.
“They are two different businesses. We just have an interest in both. We like the gaming business, and we like the sports business. It’s a unique combination.
“I wouldn’t be surprised if you saw more sports owners get into gaming.”
The next sports team to do that could be the Penguins, who hope to use a slot machine parlor to finance construction of a new arena.
In addition to the Penguins’ plans, Steelers running back Jerome Bettis stirred a National Football League inquiry when he announced his limited partnership with Charles Betters’ proposal to build a horse track, casino, hotel and retail complex in Hays.
Both plans resulted from the slots law enacted in Pennsylvania two weeks ago and bring closer to the surface the often rocky relationship between sports and gambling.
Sometimes, the relationship is direct and ugly, as in the infamous cases of the Black Sox scandal (players fixing 1919 World Series games) and Pete Rose (betting on baseball and other sports) and numerous point-shaving incidents in college basketball over the past half-century.
In recent years, though, peaceful coexistence has been the rule. ITT Corp. set the precedent by becoming the first casino-owning corporation to buy major professional sports franchises, owning the New York Knicks basketball and New York Rangers hockey teams and their home, Madison Square Garden.
Pro sports and gambling interests get cozier

Actually, I think that Del Webb was the first corporation to own both casinos and a sports team.  It owned the Sahara and Mint in Las Vegas and also owned the New York Yankees, though I’m not 100% that the ownerships overlapped.  This was when the 10% bookmakers tax pretty much put casinos out of the sportsbetting industry, so there was no conflict in that area.
It’s interesting to see newspapers in areas that hadn’t previously been hotbeds of gambling–like Pennsylvania and California–suddenly begin running pieces on the subject.  I think that the result has been some great stories.