Lawyer: All Olympic events should to be open for bets

LAS VEGAS (AP) -- Olympic fans visiting Nevada during the 2016 games in Rio de Janeiro might get to do something that hasn't been done in Sin City for years: Make a wager on who wins a medal.

Whether its archery or synchronized swimming, a casino operator and several sports books are lobbying Nevada gambling officials to allow betting on the Olympics.

They also want a change in the law that could allow bets on nonsporting events such as the Academy Awards, the most valuable player in Major League Baseball, or even "American Idol."

Attorney Barry Lieberman, who represents South Point casino owner Gaughan South LLC, and Las Vegas-area sports books made their case for the changes Thursday at a workshop with the Nevada Gaming Control Board.

"Anytime you can increase the amount of betting options to customers is a good thing," Jason Simbol, vice president of risk management for CG Technology, which operates sports books at The Cosmopolitan, Hard Rock Hotel, Tropicana, Venetian and Palms casinos, said earlier in the day.

Nevada regulators could make a decision on the requests next month.

State regulators at the workshop appeared less inclined to open up betting to every Olympic event and instead seemed to lean toward looking at the bets on a case-by-case basis.

The state currently bars casinos from accepting wagers on events such as the Oscars in which the outcome is known before it is officially disclosed.

Olympic betting has been frowned on because the most prestigious sporting event in the world involved amateur athletes and, in some cases, decisions made by judges. But that thinking is changing as more professional athletes compete.

International sports books in Great Britain, Ireland and Australia, and offshore Internet sites already allow such bets.

Nevada casinos want to do the same.

The South Point proposal pointed to the "dream team" of U.S. professional basketball players in the 1990s as an indication that more pros are competing for Olympic gold.

What about Olympic events that require a judge's subjective score?

Lieberman said bets are already taken on Ultimate Fighting Championship and boxing matches that involve judges who determine a victor.

Board chairman A.G. Burnett pointed out, however, that those events sometimes have a definitive winner.

"You can't get a knockout in a gymnastics competition," he said at the workshop.

Ahead of the Winter Olympics in Sochi, the Nevada board announced it had signed an agreement with the International Olympic Committee to share information on Olympic betting allowed elsewhere as a way to protect against illegal wagering activity.

Burnett said earlier in the day that has paved the way for Nevada to consider Olympic betting.

Regulators have gotten similar requests in the past. One sports book wanted to allow bets on basketball, soccer and tennis during the 2012 Olympics in London but the proposal was denied, said Karl Bennison, chief of the board's enforcement division.

Last year, regulators approved wagers for "Horse of the Year" but requests involving other possible wagers were rejected because there was no way to provide the state with verifiable results.

There was a time when betting on Olympic events was allowed in Nevada.

Johnny Avello, director of race and sports book operations at the Wynn and Encore casinos, said some events were winners in attracting betters, others not so much. Basketball, hockey and boxing would certainly generate business, he said. Downhill skiing? Maybe not.

Olympic bets were barred years ago after regulatory language was changed to exclude any non-collegiate amateur events from betting.

In lobbying for a return to Olympic betting, Lieberman argued that by putting such activities in the sunlight, "you're able to spot any hanky-panky."

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