Ever since the United States Supreme Court handed down its landmark sports betting ruling back in May of 2018, the legal gambling landscape in America has been fundamentally transformed.
In case you missed the big news, the Court issued a 6-3 decision in a case originating out of New Jersey, following the Garden State’s several attempts to legalize and regulate sportsbooks.
According to the Court, a federal law known as the Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act (PASPA) of 1992 — which had previously limited legal sportsbooks to Nevada only — unconstitutionally violated the 10th Amendment’s protection of states’ rights.
Just like that, New Jersey — and any other state, for that matter — became free to set their own state based sports betting policies.
It hasn’t been that long since PASPA was repealed, but New Jersey, Delaware, Mississippi, West Virginia, New Mexico, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, and New York have already launched legal sportsbooks in casinos, racetracks, and other venues.
Nearly a dozen states have passed similar laws which are awaiting implementation, which means more than a quarter of American states will soon have legal bet shops up and running sometime soon.
All of that progress on the legalization front is a beautiful thing to see, but the vast majority of Americans — remember, the big states like California, Texas, and Florida aren’t close to regulating sportsbooks — aren’t invited to the party just yet. And for most of them, that means the best way to bet on sports remains what it’s been for several decades and counting — visiting Las Vegas.
Sin City is home to hundreds of sportsbooks, ranging from the Westgate SuperBook which boasts the largest bet shop on planet Earth to self-service kiosks operated by William Hill in hole-in-the-wall gambling halls.
MGM Resorts, Caesars Entertainment, Boyd Gaming, Wynn, and Station Casinos all operate their own sportsbooks as well, making Las Vegas the most competitive bookmaking market anywhere in the world.
With legalization in other states creating a heightened sense of interest in sports betting and the upcoming NFL season fueling the fire, 2019 and beyond is sure to set numerous records for wagering “handle.” With more than 40 million visitors descending on Las Vegas every single year, that means millions make their way to the world’s gambling capital on a monthly basis.
Sure, they may have studied their stats and learned about parlays, teasers, futures, and other minutiae of sports betting strategy, but plenty of folks out there don’t know about the house rules put in place by all reputable sportsbooks.
And for that reason, you can bet your bottom dollar that dozens of people every week will find themselves “86’d” — or banned from the premises and possibly arrested — for violating a sportsbook’s rules.
To help you avoid that regrettable fate, be sure to remember the five illegal things you should never do in a sportsbook listed below during your next trip to Las Vegas.
The easiest way to find yourself on the outs with your favorite Sin City sportsbook is to commit Las Vegas’ cardinal sin — drunk and disorderly conduct.
Of course, public intoxication in and of itself isn’t a crime in this adult playground, and in fact, it’s usually welcomed by casino operators who prefer their players to be three sheets to the wind. But when you let the alcohol get the better of you after losing a big bet, throwing a temper tantrum of any sort can be grounds for immediate dismissal, or worse.
Speaking to sports betting news outlet Covers, Westgate SuperBook vice president of race and sports Jay Kornegay explained how his venue approaches bettors with behavioral issues:
“There are a lot of things that would get you kicked out. It’s generally summed up as, ‘Don’t act like a jerk.’
It’s actions like anywhere else — I don’t think sportsbooks have any different rules than a restaurant or a bar.
If you’re being a jackass, you’re gonna get thrown out.”
Now, that’s not to say you can’t bemoan your fate after a brutal bad beat. Last-second field goals to lose by one, buzzer-beating three-pointers from way back, and walk-off home runs after the closer blows a save are all good reasons to be upset, especially if you had major money on the line.
Spend an hour in any Las Vegas sportsbook, and you’re likely to see grown men drop to their knees in anguish, shout their grievances to the heavens, and generally act like sports fans do at home while watching a big game that isn’t going their way.
With that said, lines can definitely get crossed, and that becomes even more likely when you’ve had too much to drink.
Punching the wall, knocking over your chair, kicking a barstool… these physical acts of violence are never tolerated in the public setting, and the sportsbook is no exception.
Sports stadiums and arenas are notorious for physical confrontations between fans cheering for opposing sides.
Just imagine two grown men, each wearing the colors and symbols of their favorite side, growing increasingly agitated as they taunt one another. When one fan realizes his team won’t catch up, it can be all too easy for frustration to boil over into actual fighting.
And while it’s not nearly as pronounced in the sportsbook, this dynamic of tribalism is a trademark of Las Vegas bet shops too.
During the biggest games — pivotal playoff matchups, decisive championship tournaments, or major rivalries like the Red Sox and Yankees — you won’t have to look far to see bettors sporting their side’s jersey.
Coming to Las Vegas and betting a few bucks on your hometown heroes is a grand gambling tradition, but every so often, things go haywire, and rivalries devolve into outright violence.
As Terry Cox, director of race and sports at the Peppermill casino in Reno, told Covers, anybody caught participating in a physical altercation of any kind on his sportsbook floor will be immediately ejected:
“Physical confrontation is an automatic 86.
If you’re involved, you’ll be excused, regardless of who was ‘right’ or who was ‘wrong.’
We all know lots of times in football, the unsportsmanlike conduct penalty is called against the responder, not the instigator.”
Imagine yourself taking in an afternoon baseball game when you see a Cubs fan and a White Sox fan start throwing haymakers.
Security arrives, separates the “gentlemen,” and removes them from the sportsbook, never to return. They’ve both been 86’d, which means state law prohibits them from stepping foot back on the gaming floor — sportsbook, table game pit, poker room, etc.
The next day, as you’re getting ready to enter the casino and enjoy another round, you see the Cubs jersey-clad offender pacing around outside. He catches your eye and calls you over, whispering slyly, “Hey pal, you bettin’ at the book today?”
After some discussion, the banned bettor makes his move. Offering you a cool $50 for your troubles, he asks you to place a few $100 wagers on his Cubbies winning the rubber game, going over on the total, and outscoring the opposition by at least two on the run line.
So… what’s your play?
If you said to pocket the $50 and place the outcast’s bets for them, you’re in for a world of hurt. Sportsbook regulations are extremely strict about the use of “runners” or “proxies” — people who place bets for others who may not be permitted for one reason or another.
The ticket taker might recognize the particular group of wager types and peg you as running for the Cubs fan banned one day before. Or maybe the casino’s exterior security cameras caught you conversing with him outside before heading inside.
In any case, acting as a runner by betting for someone else is a surefire way to get banned from your favorite book.
This rule might seem rather obscure at first glance, and indeed, when I initially encountered it, I wasn’t sure why it was such a big deal.
Of course, I know now that the prohibition on phone usage while betting has been put in place for a good reason — to prevent bettors from using outside information to get a leg up on the house.
Sportsbooks employ powerful technology to adjust their lines on the fly, using stats, injury reports, and other data to offer the most accurate odds possible. Nonetheless, a bettor on the phone with a stadium employee who just watched a star player go down injured in practice could easily beat the book to the punch, placing a huge bet against that player’s team before the odds have been adjusted.
That’s an admittedly far-fetched scenario, but you’d be surprised at how clever unscrupulous cheaters will go to gain an edge.
For this reason, phones, laptops, or any other mobile communication devices aren’t allowed when you’re at the window. You’ll generally get a few warnings beforehand, so don’t stress about absentmindedly carrying on a conversation in line that you can’t cut off before getting to the window.
With that said, becoming a repeat offender in this regard is a great way to find yourself banned.
Once in a blue moon, you’ll see the sportsbook post a line that seems too good to be true.
Say the vaunted Patriots are playing the woeful Raiders on Sunday, and the point spread everywhere else reads “New England (-13).” But when you look up to the big board overhead, the flashing numbers say “New England (+13)” instead.
The book has obviously made a mistake here, and within minutes, it will soon be corrected. Before it is, however, you have a bright idea — bet the farm on the Pats and the points.
In most cases, exploiting the house’s mistake in a case like this won’t be a big deal. So long as you simply placed a single wager of normal size, most Las Vegas sportsbooks will honor the ticket and eat the loss.
On the other hand, folks who try to shear the sheep down to the skin by betting several times, or for inordinately large amounts, will be detected and directed to exit the property.
As Kornegay told Covers, the policy at his Westgate SuperBook is to be lenient with bettors who obviously didn’t know any better, while punishing those who do:
“There are so many events each and every day that mistakes are bound to happen. We made the mistake, we honor those tickets.
But there are some who will low-limit bet multiple times. The same guy bets 20 times for a total of $100. In that case, we do have the obligation to trespass that person. He can’t come back.
It’s kind of a gentlemen’s agreement. If he keeps betting purposely, and all his friends are betting it, it’s kind of crossing that line.
It’s a general rule for all sportsbooks. It’s not written anywhere, but that will warrant the door.”
On the flip side, you can curry favor with a sportsbook’s staff rather easily by reporting the error. So if you’re looking for a handful of free drink tickets, honesty is always the best policy when it comes to incorrect odds.
Sports betting can be one of the best ways to stretch your gambling bankroll while visiting Las Vegas. A $100 bill can easily provide three hours’ worth of action to sweat, which is a far cry from the “setting money on fire” feeling often inspired by slot machines, roulette, and other games of chance.
The atmosphere is loud, raucous, and in the biggest moments, downright electric. Sports bettors love their favorite books, forming friendships with the ticket takers and building a sense of loyalty on both sides, but this arrangement can easily be broken through bad behavior. To make sure you’re never on the wrong side of sportsbook law, simply abide by the basic tips offered above at all times.
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