I believe the Nevada Gaming Control Board did a superb job in examining this incident. Although the results of its investigation were not a matter of public record, I came away extremely impressed by the Gaming Control Board's agents and with their work ethic.
The state Gaming Control Board is investigating an incident at Harrah’s sports book on the Strip detailed in this column last week.
An official with the Gaming Control Board called me after reading the column, in which I cried foul after a Harrah’s supervisor voided three of my sports bets even after the tickets had been printed and my payment accepted.
The supervisor said he “didn’t like the lines” I had bet into — an explanation I deemed unsatisfactory.
My contention was that the actions by Harrah’s, if not a violation of the law, were certainly unethical.
“Sometimes situations take place where perhaps the licensee (casino) doesn’t know the regulations that they think they’re enforcing or not enforcing,” said Paul Tucker, an agent with the state Gaming Control Board. “The article made us aware of a situation, and our job at the Gaming Control Board is to make sure this operation stays legitimate.
“You’re the one angry man, you got somebody’s attention, and we’re looking into it. I haven’t made any determination about anything yet.”
Details of a Gaming Control Board investigation typically are not part of the public record.
But if this investigation has any lasting effect, I hope it would be to serve notice that unethical behavior by casino officials won’t be tolerated in Nevada’s legal, regulated sports books.
The issue cuts to the heart of an important matter for Las Vegas: Casinos should be required to give all customers the same fair shake — suckers as well as those of us who decline to check the ol’ gray matter at the entrance.
Although the incident at Harrah’s was the most egregious, I’ve encountered instances of unethical behavior in books all too often in recent years.
It usually goes like this: After confirming the betting line with the clerk and stating the amount of the wager, a delay ensues. Nothing happens for up to a minute or so as I wait for the machine to spit out the betting ticket.
Sometimes a guy wearing a suit, a tie and a frown emerges from a back office to give me a dirty look during the delay; sometimes not.
Ultimately the result is the same. I’m told the Knicks minus 3, for example, is no longer available, even though it had just been confirmed. I can have the Knicks minus 4 if I want.
At times this is accompanied by a dubious explanation: Gee, it just so happens that another bettor, at our one other affiliated property in the state, bet the Knicks minus 3 at almost the same time. He must have beat you to it by one second. Whoa, bad beat, dude.
On other occasions it comes with no explanation. Regardless, whether the sports book in question has just one or multiple affiliated properties, presumably the “mystery bet,” along with its amount and the time, at the “other” location would be duly recorded by the company’s computer system — you know, just in case a regulatory investigation of the matter were ever launched.
If the line is changed without any bet made, this is unethical behavior by the book and a black eye on Nevada’s legal, regulated gambling enterprise.
Perhaps the current investigation of the incident at Harrah’s will help stamp out this sort of behavior. If not, perhaps there will be more investigations to come.
What’s the big deal between the Knicks minus 3 and the Knicks minus 4? It’s a fair question from someone not involved in sports betting. For the uninitiated, a point or even a half-point in a betting line can carry a lot of weight.
In football season, for example, you might hear somebody say, “I love the Giants on Sunday!”
This statement is meaningless to a sports bettor.
A sports bettor would be more likely to say something like, “I love the Giants plus 7 1/2 points on Sunday. At plus 7, I like them a little bit. At plus 6 1/2, I don’t like them at all. At plus 6, I hate them.”
That second part of the equation — the point spread or the over/under figure — plays a critical role in the decision whether to make a bet.
Many Las Vegas sports books executives, of course, know how to book sports and do so properly. It’s troubling, though, that I have to delineate between sports books in the state that are run professionally and those that are run shoddily.
All of Nevada’s regulated sports books should be operated in a professional — and ethical — manner. Too much to ask?
Las Vegas Sun, April 23, 2008