Nevada gaming regulators’ technology division watches evolution of sports betting in real time By John L. Smith, CDC Gaming Reports August 13, 2018 at 8:00 pm Big changes are coming to legalized bookmaking in the wake of the repeal of the Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act, but Jim Barbee takes those changes in stride. Barbee, chief of the Technology Division at the Nevada Gaming Control Board, has had a front-row seat for the better part of two decades during the rapid evolution of bookmaking and sports betting in the run-up to repeal. The stampede of new jurisdictions hoping to cash in on legalization may increase the regulatory workload in some areas, but he says the technology in use is well understood by GCB insiders.“I would say that I don’t really see any challenges from a technology standpoint,” Barbee says. “Fortunately, we’ve been doing this for a long time, and the technology in this area is actually quite mature. Yes, there are people who are coming up with new ways to apply wagering, maybe they’re coming up with a new app or something along those lines, but the technology behind it is fundamentally the same.” As chief of the division for the past seven years, Barbee supervises a department of 25, including 18 electronics engineers who review each device and new piece of technology that comes before them. Jeremy Eberwein serves as lab manager. In many ways, Nevada’s bookmaking industry, in cooperation with the control board, has been preparing for the eventuality of expansion by embracing technological advances. In-state phone wagering was once illegal and generated headaches for regulators when it first started, but it’s now common place. As phone technology has changed, geo-location technology has also evolved. The era of the pay phone and pager is long gone, and even cell phone tracking has become old hat. So is in-home wagering, Barbee says. But back in 2001 when Station Casinos first made its “Sports Connect” betting available via the personal computer, some watchdogs predicted calamity. The world didn’t end. It just changed. In-game betting, which some bookmaking veterans believe will be extremely popular in the wake of PASPA’s repeal, actually began around 2006 with Progressive Gaming’s Rapid Bet Live, Barbee notes. New generation technology only figures to make the action flow faster. By 2010, sports betting through approved smart phone applications went from the drawing board to reality. With spreading legalization will come increased use, and technology once considered exotic eventually will become second nature for players. And those sports pick contests that are so popular with fans and players? They “are pretty well vetted at this point,” he says. “However you package it, the technology on the back end is the same.” Multi-state interactive wagering, once the definition of a violation of federal law, has been going on between Nevada and Delaware since 2015. It’s a model that’s rapidly expanding as states such as New Jersey embrace the new era of legalization. If there’s a challenge in the sports betting industry, Barbee says, it will likely come from jurisdictions that open without being fully prepared for the scale and speed of the games on the board. To improve the flow of information, control board officials participate as instructors in the “Centers of Excellence” educational forums and seminars presented through UNLV’s International Gaming Institute. There’s a lot to learn, a lot to digest, and the changes keep coming. Perhaps the biggest challenge soon will come when states divide the spoils of legalized sports betting. Was it really just a few years ago that sports bettors commonly used pagers? Barbee laughs at the thought. “Yes, I’ve definitely seen a shift in technology over the years,” he says. Contact John L. Smith at email@example.com. On Twitter: @jlnevadasmith.