State gaming commission lifts cell ban in sports books

On a typical day, Wynn Las Vegas sports book director John Avello spends a lot of time on his cell phone. He wants his customers to be able to do the same without being treated like criminals.

Avello supports the move the Nevada Gaming Commission made Thursday by lifting a decade-old ban on the use of cell phones and other communication devices inside the state’s sports books.

“I was part of the movement to have that regulation repealed,” he said. “I believe that is the right thing to do, but it does not mean it’s a free-for-all now with cell phones.”

Avello said he estimates 95 percent of sports book customers use cell phones for “casual conversation.” There is no reason to harass those people, he said.

The other 5 percent still will be watched closely. Gaming Commission chairman Pete Bernhard said the situation will be monitored during a one-year suspension of the rule.

An effort will be made by casino personnel to ensure gamblers are not using cell phones for illegal activity — and that means discouraging messenger betting, in which a person is paid to place wagers for others, and transferring gaming information across state lines.

Avello called it a “common sense” rule for bettors. “I’m not going to let somebody come up to the counter with a phone in hand,” he said.

Las Vegas Hilton sports book director Jay Kornegay said he is taking down signs around the book that prohibit cell phone use and that he might move the signs to areas around the betting counter.

“I think it would be a good practice on our part to try to reduce or eliminate the use of phones while in line or near the betting window,” Kornegay said. “We want to keep the lines moving and keep the accuracy of the transactions intact.”

As annoying as rampant cell phone use could be to some, most sports book directors support the change because it was a challenge to enforce the regulation. It is believed customers also will be allowed to use laptop computers with wireless access.

• VEGAS VISITS NCAA — Kornegay and Ken White of Las Vegas Sports Consultants were invited to an NCAA sports wagering in-service meeting Aug. 14 and 15 in Indianapolis.

The meeting also was attended by representatives from the four major professional leagues, law enforcement officers working on gambling cases and FBI agents.

“We’re not always going to agree on everything, but our relationship with the NCAA and the major sports has really improved over the last few years because of the opportunity that we’ve had to share our views,” Kornegay said. “We welcome the relationship. We’re all working together to ensure the integrity of the games.”

• FREE VI SEMINAR — is hosting a free football handicapping seminar today and Sunday at Red Rock Casino.

Station Casinos sports book director Art Manteris is scheduled to speak at 10 a.m. today to start the seminar, which features many of the nation’s top handicappers breaking down the college and NFL seasons.

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