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  • Olympic Betting Nears for U.S. Sports Books


    02/13/15

    Sports gambling is big business in Las Vegas. (Getty Images)
    (ATR) A resolution is expected this month that could allow some United States sports books to take bets on the Olympics.

    Jimmy Vaccaro, the head bookmaker at the South Point Hotel and Casino in Las Vegas, tells Around the Rings the owner of his casino, Michael Gaughan, instigated the measure in an effort to keep up with its international rivals.

    “He’s always been progressive,” Vaccaro said of Gaughan, “and it just came to the time where it’s time for us not to be second place.”

    U.S. casinos are not currently permitted to take bets on amateur sporting competitions outside of college basketball or college football, though Vaccaro says the intent of the rule is to keep betting away from things like high school sports, something for which no one is heavily pushing.

    The rule may have been put into place at a time when the integrity of events was at stake. Vaccaro says that is no longer the case.

    “You hear that thing [about match-fixing], and it's a bad argument for the other side. You're not going to be able to walk up to a window and bet $200,000 on USA to beat Bulgaria.

    “That's the least of my concern. We are so transparent. I'm sitting in my office staring at a screen in front of me where I can see every pointspread in every casino here in Nevada and some of the offshores, and they can see ours.”

    Any movement of what Vaccaro calls “unnatural money” would be detected immediately.

    The United States Olympic Committee, for its part, says it is monitoring the situation closely.

    Olympic basketball would be a big hit at U.S. casinos. (Getty Images)
    “We’ve only recently learned about the hearing and seeking to learn more,” said USOC general counsel Chris McCleary, “as we need to ensure that any such step does not threaten the integrity of Olympic sport or our rights and obligations under the Ted Stevens Act.”

    The Stevens Act charters and grants monopoly status to the USOC while also outlining requirements for the country’s national governing bodies. It also governs the ways in which the Olympics can be marketing in the United States.

    Vaccaro, for now, tells ATR he is more concerned with what the Summer Olympics can do for sports books at a typically lean time of year.

    “Last summer was one of the busiest summers we've had in four years because we had the World Cup, and the World Cup draws a lot of people. It was good for what we again consider a down portion of the year for bookmakers here in Nevada.

    “Naturally, the Summer Olympics would help us because the basketball would be a big boon.”

    The Olympics are one of a number of events that U.S. sportsbooks can not take bets on, like who will win Super Bowl MVP, the Academy Awards, and U.S. presidential elections.

    “One of the biggest, biggest betting things that they do in Europe is picking our national president every four years, and we can't do it.”

    While Vaccaro realizes that will not come for awhile, he believes the Olympics are a step toward getting “out of the archaic ages.”

    Written by Nick Devlin

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