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Vegas tries to cover bases

Vegas tries to cover bases

Vegas tries to cover bases
bostonherald.com

LAS VEGAS -- The toxic cloud associated with betting on baseball was steered away from this gambling mecca today when the largest oddsmaker in the world recommended that bets on baseball futures -- such as a team’s odds to win the pennant or World Series -- be suspended, or at least limited, until the winter meetings conclude Thursday.

After an inquiry from the Herald, Las Vegas Sports Consultants (LVSC) decided to issue an alert at 4:05 p.m. EST to sportsbooks at casinos in Nevada and around the world that the potential for insider information arising from the meetings posed too much of a threat for gaining an unfair advantage.

“Major League Baseball’s annual meetings are under way here in Las Vegas through Thursday afternoon,” the alert stated. “LVSC is recommending to lower limits on futures or take them completely off boards during the meetings. News of trades or free agent signings will be known prior to being made public.”

Shortly after the alert was issued, the sportsbook at the Bellagio, where the meetings are being held, took action. Currently, the sportsbook is taking bets on the odds of a team winning the World Series and either the AL or NL pennant. This morning, a bet of up to $500 could be made. After the alert, any bet of $100 or more needed to be investigated before it was allowed.

Major League Baseball has been highly sensitive to betting on its sport since the 1919 Black Sox Scandal, in which eight Chicago White Sox players were banned for life after fixing the outcome of the World Series that season. Pete Rose, the all-time hits leader in the majors, was banned by the league in August 1989, after he gambled on baseball games while playing for and managing the Cincinnati Reds from 1985-87.

This is the first time MLB has held its winter meetings here. Nevada is the only state that allows sports betting.

The league declined comment on the development, but a spokesperson pointed out all of its employees are banned from betting on the sport.

Before issuing the alert, Kenny White, the chief operating officer of LVSC, said he was aware the winter meetings were being held here but had not considered the possibility that a media member or team personnel could have access to specialized information, including a major free agent signing or trade. A bet then could be made on the team receiving the talent before the oddsmakers had a chance to adjust the lines.

“I would have to think of that as insider trading,” White said. “Unlike the stock market, there are no laws or regulation to defense that.”

LVSC employees, who lay the odds on all professional and amateur sports, scour news reports for injuries, trades and even weather conditions. With baseball, hot stove information about the destination of such high-caliber free agent talents such as Mark Teixeira or CC Sabathia would have a major impact on the odds of teams winning the pennant or World Series next season.

A potential signing of Teixeira by the Red Sox [team stats], for example, may not move the already short odds on the Red Sox to win the AL (5-2) and the World Series (5-1). But if a team at 25-1 odds to capture the World Series, like the Milwaukee Brewers, were to re-sign Sabathia, that would mean a major shift in the vicinity of 10-1, according to White.

The potential for someone with inside knowledge of an imminent deal walking the one minute it takes from the lobby floor of the Bellagio to its sportsbook in order to place a bet on the Brewers, for example, before it became official or even reported as a rumor is too great a risk.

“We might as well be careful,” White said. “Whenever a trade or free agent signing is made, it affects odds. You can see the type of value you can get with that type of information. One guy can swing a line drastically.”

Before the alert was issued yesterday, a supervisor at the Bellagio sportsbook related how big an impact trades or free agents can make on futures odds.

For example, before the Celtics [team stats] traded for Kevin Garnett before the 2007-08 season, the team was approximately “60- or 80-to-1,” to win the NBA title, according to the supervisor. After the trade, the odds went to 10-1.

“We have wiseguys in here who are betting for professional bettors and I don’t know where they get their information sometimes, but they get it before LVSC get it,” the supervisor said. “Minutes after they place a bet on a basketball game, we’ll get an alert saying, ‘Shaq is injured, out of the game,’ and we’ll take it off the board.”

The supervisor added he had not seen insider information ever used for futures betting (as opposed to game betting) in his double-digit years of experience.

Blade
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Re: Vegas tries to cover bases

I saw some people calling this a pussy move but the more I think about it, it's probably a smart play on everyone's part.

You definitely could get buried on a long shot with the info that comes out of a room right on the strip. It's only steps to take advantage.

They also want to prevent any black eye that could be attached to holding meetings for a pro sports team within Las Vegas.

I think you can also tie this back to the economy a little bit too. Better safe than sorry if revenues continue to drop.

Michael Cash
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Re: Vegas tries to cover bases

Personally, I do not have a problem with the sportsbooks doing this. They know the edge in having this information in the players hands and the lines not reflecting an accurate scenario.

Johnny Detroit
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Re: Vegas tries to cover bases

The days of Vegas being the place to bet sports are long gone and being afraid of a future bet because of inside info is comical at best.

This is like the old days at the Castaways when half of the games on the board had double and triple circles around them since Sonny was so afraid of taking a real bet.

Blade
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Re: Vegas tries to cover bases

I agree with Cash and JD - better play this one safe. With the winter meetings located right in Vegas's backyard this year, they don't want any bad press because this is a nice attraction for them to have on the strip.

I realize some gamblers are going to be pissed because they're looking for every advantage they can get to beat the sports books, but it seems to be a fair way to do things.

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