Private equity sports betting bill advances in Nevada Senate

CARSON CITY — Private equity groups soon could place large bets at Nevada sports books under a bill advancing in the state Senate.

The Senate Judiciary Committee on Friday amended and approved Senate Bill 346, which would authorize the Nevada Gaming Commission to adopt rules to regulate “entity” bettors.

Now, only individuals can wager at Nevada sports books. Nevada holds a monopoly on sports betting under a 1992 federal law.

Meanwhile, a bill sponsored by Judiciary Chairman Tick Segerblom, D-Las Vegas, to allow betting on the outcome of federal elections passed the committee.

But the committee punted on a bill sought by the Nevada Resort Association to limit the spread of sports betting kiosks at bars, taverns and restaurants that have restricted gambling licenses.

Nevada’s large resorts argued the kiosks cross the line from slot and video poker machines and enter a realm of sports books reserved for big casinos that hold unrestricted gambling licenses.

SB346’s supporters said the “entity” bettor measure would position Nevada to capture some of the estimated $380 billion bet illegally on sports each year in the United States.

The bill, sponsored by state Sen. Greg Brower, R-Reno, now moves to the full Senate.

Former Gaming Control Board Chairman Mark Lipparelli, who is a gaming industry consultant, said the measure is good for Nevada.

“The state should embrace this idea,” Lipparelli said. “It will increase transparency, bolster competition and move at least one small element of the billion of dollars of illegal wagering out of the shadows. I have high confidence Nevada regulators will create a balanced framework that would address any concerns that could emerge.”

Nevada books now see a sports “handle,” or betting action, of $3.5 billion annually. Some observers estimate that amount could triple over five years if the bill becomes law.

Segerbloom said the bill, “is going to bring a lot of money to Nevada.” He said hedge funds would be able to make wagers for their investors.

“The Gaming Commission will make regulations and (make) sure it is not abused,” Segerbloom said. “There wouldn’t be any betting by illegal bookmaking operations (from other states). The commission can watch for that.”

The bill was amended to address concerns raised by state gambling regulators over the policing of such entities to guard against money laundering, underage gambling or illegal messenger betting.

All members, partners, shareholders, investors and customers of the equity group would be required to register with the Gaming Control Board. The groups would have to be located and operate in Nevada.

Some committee members wanted to vote on the kiosk measure. Segerblom refused and instead sent the bill to the Senate Finance Committee with an amendment seeking an interim study on the tussle between Nevada’s big gambling players and their smaller, restricted competition.

“Is there an appetite to pass this without the study?” asked state Sen. Mark Hutchison, R-Las Vegas.

“There is no appetite for that.” Segerblom replied. “I am full.”

Las Vegas Review-Journal reporter Howard Stutz contributed to this report.