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Global Gaming Expo Wowed By Sports Betting, But Are We?

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(AP Photo/Wayne Parry)

In this Sept. 5, 2019 photo, a gambler making a sports bet at Bally's casino in Atlantic City N.J. Figures released by state gambling regulators on Tuesday Oct. 15, 2019, show that New Jersey broke its record for the most sports bets taken in by its casinos and horse tracks in September, with more than $445 million wagered.

Legalized gambling is already a multi-billion dollar industry in several states.

And from the looks of what’s happening across the country, it appears to be on the verge of sweeping the entire U.S.

At the Global Gaming Expo in Las Vegas this week, attracting 27,000 people, the acceptance of gaming was big on the minds of attendees.

"I think it's the legalization of sports betting," said Chris Sieroty, the U.S. editor of Gambling Compliance, a gaming industry portal. 

He said that expansion is driving a lot of the overall interest in gaming. Sieroty said he noticed a lot of European gaming companies were at the expo looking for ways to get involved in the sports betting industry.

He noted that Oregon just became the 14th state to have legalized sports betting, in the wake of a Supreme Court decision that allowed states to decide whether to legalize it.

That decision came after a lawsuit by New Jersey challenging the federal ban on sports betting. Former New Jersey Governor Chris Christie spoke at the expo and proclaimed that his state is doing better than any other state when it comes to sports betting. 

Sieroty spoke to him afterward about betting in New Jersey.

"What he said to me was there are a lot of people he sees coming from both Pennsylvania and New York over into New Jersey, who have their apps on their phones, pulling into rest stops, making bets and turning around and going home. Now, that's his perspective," he said.

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Sieroty believes the sports betting numbers in New Jersey will go down as the industry in surrounding states continues to mature. 

Rick Velotta is the gaming reporter for the Las Vegas Review-Journal. He said he would have been surprised if sports betting in New Jersey hadn't been exploding.

"It would be a news story if they didn't beat Nevada because they have such a great population base to feed off of," he said.

He also said that New Jersey may get extra money on toll roads and bridges because people have to be in the state to place their bets

One big difference between Nevada and New Jersey when it comes to sports betting is in Nevada people are still required to go to a casino to register before they can open an app and make a bet.

Neither Sieroty nor Velotta sees that changing any time soon.

"The fact is they don't want to change that," Velotta said, "They think that they need a level of protection that is brought upon by bringing people face to face with those who are taking the bets."

But Velotta believes if that did change there would be more people signing up to place bets.

One of the lingering discussions about expanded sports betting is the possibility of cheating by athletes. Indiana announced it is working on allowing sports betting and Purdue University responded by banning betting on its campus.

Sieroty noted there used be bans on betting on UNLV and UNR teams but that eventually was overturned. He believes the same thing will happen in other states.

"I think once sports betting becomes more engrained in Indiana culture you'll see the ban go away," he said.

Velotta thinks that fears about the integrity of the sport and cheating are misplaced in a time when so many states are watching games for any trace of the problem. 

"The reality is is that these athletes are not going to be going about fixing games because it is too easy to get caught," he said, "And the fact that there are 14 other states with sportsbooks that are going to be keeping their eyes on the amount of money that is being placed on any particular contest is something that will flag them in terms of saying, 'There is something not right about this. We shouldn't be seeing millions of dollars going onto Arizona State to beat University of Arizona - what's going on?'"

Beyond sports betting, one of the newest trends in the casino industry is the effort to make casinos a cashless system.

Sieroty explained new technology that allows people to use their debit cards instead of cash when placing a bet. One of the designs he tested is from a company in Reno called ACS. 

"Say you run out of cash and you don't want to leave the table, the dealer puts the [machine] in front of you, you pull out your debit card -only- put it in, type your PIN in and say I want $100. It prints a ticket next to the dealer, the dealer takes the ticket, puts in like cash - into the box - and gives you $100 in chips," he explained.

Another company allows you to scan a barcode from a slot machine onto an app on your phone that acts like a mobile wallet.  

Sieroty said the idea is to make it more difficult to launder money through a casino and he pointed out that people just don't carry cash anymore.

While casinos see the technology as a way to increase revenue, better track transactions and keep money laundering out, problem gambling advocates are concerned about what it could mean for people struggling with addiction.

"Those folks have come out and said having that type of access to your savings and your checking account makes you too vulnerable," Velotta said, "People who are going to be compelled to try to chase losses, having that easy access to their money, only makes that problem worse."  

He said he would be surprised if cashless casinos become a huge industry because he expects the problem gambling advocates will come out to regulate the technology.

The Global Gaming Expo wrapped up Friday.

Guests

Chris Sieroty, U.S. editor, Gambling Compliance; Rick Velotta, reporter, Las Vegas Review-Journal.

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