The British may be coming, but the Vegas guys are already here By John L. Smith October 2, 2016 at 5:12 pm As I listened to economist David Forrest and sports integrity specialist Rick Parry give their considered views on the wisdom of legalizing and regulating sports betting on a major scale in America during last week’s Global Gaming Expo 2016, I couldn’t keep from smiling. The lettered fellows from Great Britain made plenty of sense as they elaborated on their recently released study, which was part of the kickoff by the American Gaming Association in its push for the eventual expansion of legalized sports betting outside Nevada. Forrest and Parry’s report is titled, “The Key to Sports Integrity in the United States: Legalized, Regulated Sports Betting.” It advocates for the path the British took in 1961 to drag that popular gambling activity out of the shadows and away from the grip of the criminal element. Although the British system is far from perfect, it is widely considered a net winner and a big improvement over the shady system it replaced. At one point in their report, the authors enthuse, “America should look to nations with mature betting markets, like Great Britain, when adopting a legalized framework. To reap the benefits of a legal sports betting market, America must put in place a robust regulatory structure with appropriate controls. Keeping fixers’ money and manipulation out of sports must be a collaborative effort that brings together the expertise of regulators, betting operators, police authorities and the governing bodies of sports.”Makes perfect sense. And it sounds awfully familiar. That’s what made me smile. I couldn’t help thinking about all the bookmakers I’ve known through the years on either side of the fence who have understood those facts — even when they didn’t always apply them. Some of the old outlaws lacked the academic and societal credentials of Forrest and Parry, but they were absolutely professorial when it came to understanding the pay-and-take world of sports betting. But whether it was illegal bookmakers such as black book members Frankie Masterana and Marty Kane, or just about any corporate casino sports book official you can name, the bottom line remained the same. Legalization and regulation were the right ways to go.With due respect to our visitors from across the Atlantic, Nevada has spent decades building a legal and regulatory structure. It’s imperfect — no system can eliminate the potential for thievery and occasional scandal — but it’s a structure that works. It also incorporates a cooperative network between regulators, corporations, police, and players. Masterana and Kane carried too much baggage to make the transition from the shadows. Like most of the bookmakers of their generation, they had grown up in a world controlled by organized crime elements. Masterana wound up heading to the Caribbean to beat the heat. Kane and his pal Joey Boston remained in Las Vegas after being ousted from the Stardust sports book and were known as agents for some substantial illegal bookies. They faded into the neon years ago as Las Vegas expanded. The evolution of the sports betting industry in Nevada continues with new challenges to its credibility and business model. But I’m not sure how much the British have to teach the Silver State’s industry. The report’s authors remind us, “America lags greatly behind the rest of the world in the area of sports betting. Rather than setting the standard, the United States is on part with Russia and China, having forced a groundswell of black market gambling by prohibiting the popular pastime of sports betting.” They add, “… America should implement a sound and robust regulatory framework to legalize sports betting, drawing on the experience of mature gaming markets, such as Great Britain.” Sounds like a fine idea, gentlemen, and that’s great as far as it goes. But my money will remain on Nevada’s hard-fought and time-tested system of legalized and regulated sports betting. In an imperfect world, it’s still a model worth duplicating. John L. Smith is a longtime Las Vegas journalist and author. Contact him at email@example.com. On Twitter: @jlnevadasmith.