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Offshore Books Evolution Reflected in Panama Shop

14 August 2003

Horse bettors are well aware of the correlation between a horse's performance and its pedigree, but the connection between bloodlines and projected achievement is also evident in human endeavors, hence the truism, "the apple doesn't fall far from the tree."

Looking at the sports betting universe, in which we are constantly seeking noteworthy material for this column, we're struck by the high incidence of relevant stories being driven by quality individuals. Hint: we just found another, the launch of a new full service offshore sportsbook created and operated by a stellar management team.

From our offices in Las Vegas, it would be presumptuous to make pronouncements about any book, new or old without talking with the principals, and then passing along our observations.

So, as we detail the creation of a brand new shop, and regale readers with revelations of an entity that sounds almost too good to be true, our crucial reference point for giving this new book such a positive sendoff is not simply all its obvious advantages. Rather it is the impeccable pedigree of its top management that garners our kudos.

The new offshore sportsbook is Panama City-based BetPanAm, And from its promises of 1.07 vig. to its status as the first officially licensed and government regulated sportsbook in that Central American country, BetPanAm has the look and feel of a winner.

Senior management consists of three high caliber, experienced and dedicated individuals whose backgrounds include decision-making positions at some of the industry's most successful and respected books:

* Richard Long, managing director, formerly with Betmaker, and

* Marty Monroe, marketing director, formerly with Galaxy and Royal Sports

* Scotty King, player development, formerly with Pinnacle Sports.

This industry is not composed of businesses with formal and bureaucratic layers of bosses. Indeed, it is highly personal, where a man's word or handshake is far more meaningful than a long-winded legal document.

To get the inside scoop on the new book as it prepares to open we spoke with Marty Monroe -- a well known, highly professional and free spirited veteran of the offshore industry. Suffice it to say he is a straight shooter, and a source whose word has always been dead on the money. Truth be told, Marty is much more than a source, so that disclosure needs to be made.

Before asking him about BetPanAm, we wondered about what happened at Royal to cause him to leave a company he had been with for years. After a pause, he said, "Buzz, it's a long story and best told in person, preferably over some pina coladas, which I'll be happy to do next time we are together."

Marty was more interested in talking about the new book, which went live on the Internet August 12; phone action will follow shortly. He opined that Panama will be the next popular location of offshore and online gaming companies.

"Our license was three years in the making and has teeth in it to protect players. Regulatory due diligence is strict and goes over the past history of those applying for a license with a fine tooth comb, so dead beats and other bad elements are screened out before they get very far in the process," Monroe added.

Panama is a G-7 nation, which means it shares banking regulations with the U.S. It is also an industrialized country in which English is the primary language. Every gaming licensee must post a $500,000 bond with the government to insure payment in any disputed claim that is upheld.

"I'm proud and excited to be part of such a terrific sportsbook," Marty told us. "The Panamanian government has embraced our industry and its regulation. This supportive and progressive atmosphere is certainly more conducive to business that what is found elsewhere."

Monroe characterized BetPanAm's management group as a "dream team" and the company's operating software as, "reliable, speedy and attractive, with the emphasis on being user friendly. That was a high priority goal for our tecchies," he noted.

Marty is convinced this book will truly achieve its objectives while also satisfying the needs of bettors "because the concept behind it has been implemented by a group whose background and expertise in this industry is without parallel."

Unlike some books which are also started with good intentions, but simply do not have the resources – financial or operational – to fulfill them, BetPanAm will have no such problems, Monroe stressed.

The investment group backing the book possesses not only the deep pockets that are necessary, but they are political heavyweights. "I'd say, with all due modesty, that this operation has all its bases covered with room to spare," said Monroe.

Betting limits will be: online $5 minimum, $2,000 max on sides, $1,000 max on totals; phones, $5 minimum, $5,000 max sides/$2,000 max totals. Vig will be competitive and payouts "will be done at the speed of light," said Marty. "That is only a mild exaggeration as our banking services here are fast, efficient and highly confidential."

In order to honor its claims, BetPanAm "has a technology infrastructure with cutting edge accessibility not generally available in the Caribbean region. We're one step off two worldwide central fiber-optic cables," Monroe explained, adding, "We have totally redundant communications on both Internet and phone through dual fiber cables from two separate switches on the fiber ring throughout Panama City."

Can customers visit the shop, we wondered. "Certainly. We're proud of our modern facility," Monroe said. "And we'd be happy to show it off to our clients when they are in Panama. Incidentally, this is a beautiful country, well worth visiting. It offers great restaurants, nightlife and fantastic fishing. Also, this is the second largest free zone in the world, just after Hong Kong."

Marty acknowledged that a cadre of players, known as "bonus whores," has become a major annoyance to the industry. But BetPanAm is still going to offer "terrific incentives for players to sign up with us. Although we're not giving away the shop. Essentially, any serious or savvy player will want to open an account here. We're designed to service all types of bettors, from the sharpest wiseguys to the vast majority which simply enjoys getting a rush from having some action on a game, and backing their opinion with more than hot air."

If there is one area of BetPanAm in which Monroe takes personal pride, it is the ticket writers. "They've had intensive and comprehensive training under my supervision.

When we open our doors, they will be ready for anything. And our customers will not have to deal with heavy accents that slow down the betting process," he promised.

The book will open with a world class betting menu for sports enthusiasts, and will soon be followed with Pari-mutuel horse betting, poker tournaments and soccer from around the world.

"Buzz, I know you've heard a lot of hype from other books," Monroe said, "but the principals behind this operation are in the business to insure its success for the long-term. They believe in Panama and its future as an e-commerce community.

"When will you be visiting, so we can partake of the local delights, like we did in Curacao?"

That's an offer that is mighty hard to refuse.

For more info go to or call 1-800-810-8596.

Marketing Guru Relocates to Costa Rica.

San Jose received a humongous injection of marketing savvy recently as D.T. Colen left the D.R. and is now ensconced with C.R.-based BetEuroSport,

For those unfamiliar with this youthful veteran, Colen established his credentials in Las Vegas with such high profile companies as Las Vegas Sports Consultants and Vegas Insider. Known as a quick study and a productive over achiever, Colen was an obvious comer in this industry.

The only people with whom he made even a stronger impression were the foxes he encountered at his favorite hangout, the Hard Rock Hotel & Casino. When D.T. left for a gig at in the Dominican Republic, more than a few femme tears were shed, and hearts left unhinged in Sin City.

After a successful stint handling marketing responsibilities for PCI, Colen landed "an exciting new position at a top notch sportsbook that gives me a little more opportunity," he told us. "With a bigger ad budget and more resources, available," he has lots of ideas he is anxious to put into motion.

Just as we would have expected, he is hitting the ground running. Starting this week, BetEuroSport will offer a nickel line on bases every Thursday through the World Series, with a dime limit. The book currently deals a 10-cent line, which is much more attractive than the standard 20-cent line offered in football and baskets; books wishing to discourage sharp action in baseball also offer 20-cent lines.

We are delighted to see a promotional betting incentive that is a legitimate benefit, particularly in baseball, which is our favorite sport on which to wager. And if we hear a wiseguy complain about the Thursday schedule, and whine about wanting a higher limit, our response is simply, "Stick a sock in it, and count your blessings."

More to the point, sharps and other players with multiple accounts routinely can make sportsbook transfers from most major shops to BetEuroSport. "That's a nice advantage bettors truly appreciate," noted Colen.

When we asked him for some juicy details regarding his night life, now that he is in Costa Rica, whose easy-on-the-eyes female population certainly gets an assist for helping make the country so popular with the male dominated sports betting fraternity, he demurred.

"Buzz, I'm very focused on the business. This is a terrific opportunity. BetEuroSport is among the elite of this industry. My job is to help get the word out so more people are aware of what we offer."

For more info check out or call 1-888-656-2433.

Veteran Sportsbook Director Art Manteris Expands Market for Station Casinos Books

If there is an executive position in the casino industry with more aggravation, diminishing rewards and greater scrutiny from management, the media and the public than the job of running a sportsbook, it is a well kept secret.

The volatility of sportsbook management is illustrated by some casualties in recent years among top execs. One was replaced because he took action on risky plays -- 2-team NFL teasers during the playoffs -- and suffered a six figure loss on his last weekend.

Another honcho was fired for accidentally booking big action from a well known jock without following proper procedures. The jock won, the sportsbook director lost his job.

There are other stories, but you get the idea. Meanwhile, one venerable member of the sports betting fraternity is in his third decade of being a high profile bookmaker, and recently took on a new challenge.

We're referring to Art Manteris, nemesis of wiseguys, who followed up a long, successful run as vice president of race and sportsbook operations at the Las Vegas Hilton and Park Place Entertainment, by taking on the same responsibilities for Station Casinos. The veteran BM has not only seen it all; his instincts and judgment have served him well over the years.

Before the football season started, we visited him at his second floor office at Palace Station, where he is assisted by Carolyn Evely, the executive secretary who worked with him at the Hilton. We wondered how he was adapting to the change from dealing with Hilton's big bettors, to the action from locals.

Not as big a change as we might have thought, he told us, "But today, more books are looking for the casual recreational player," observed Manteris.

We also asked him about his reputation for having an adversarial relationship with wiseguys and professional bettors.

With the candid, forthright response we've learned to expect from him over the years, Manteris quickly admitted he discourages certain action. He noted that it is ridiculous for a bookmaker to take on all comers, but acknowledged that he regularly deals with many professional players and top handicappers, whose opinions he values and respects.

"And let's make one thing clear," Manteris emphasizes, "I usually don't like the phrase 'wiseguy'. That phrase means a lot of different things to people. I don't necessarily think it is fair or accurate to label someone who is an intelligent, sophisticated bettor, a wiseguy."

The public perception of some of this town's BM's is that they would take on anybody, "but in general, at least in modern times, they have not been the most successful," Manteris revealed.

Bookmaking has come a long way since he started back in the early 80's. "Today, I look at my screen and see lines at all the books. But the players have the same tools.

"We no longer need to get early action from wiseguys to see their plays. That's like using an encyclopedia to get info instead of going to the Internet."

Using a cerebral approach to bookmaking, Manteris formulated his current strategies 10 to 15 years ago. "They were dictated more by regulatory compliance than bookmaking," he explained.

"What I found early on was there were benefits to taking a hard line on wiseguys. My philosophies and strategies evolved when I was a young manager. What I focused on was the importance of strictly enforcing all regulations.

"This was important for one key reason," he stated: protecting the gaming license of a publicly traded corporation; but, the result was an increase in revenue and hold percentage. But today, more than ever, sportsbooks are under scrutiny at the Federal level. So strict adherence to gaming regulations is vital for the preservation of our industry.

Specifically, the regulations he referenced were those prohibiting messenger betting and banning various communications devices in the sportsbook.

By taking his well publicized hard line, he eliminated a small segment of the business, "much smaller than most people realize," said Manteris.

Reviewing his career in Vegas, he then made a statement that his critics will find hard to believe, but which resonates with credibility.

"I have never barred a person for winning who came into the book and bet over the counter. That's a myth. It never happened. I also have never laid off a bet. Not once."

Manteris has barred a fair number of players over the years, "but in every instance, it was due to other reasons, not just because a player won," he insisted. "Lots of people win."

"Anybody can come in and bet the limit in person, making his own bets, risking his own money. It is when suspicions arise as to the use of ear pieces, walkie-talkies or beepers, etc., that I get concerned," Manteris advised. "I don't have a personal vendetta against the professionals that use every tool imaginable; I just ask that they use them somewhere else."

We asked about phone accounts, which are the medium of choice for many wiseguys.

"That's a different business," he stated. It's not crucial to the company and is simply an accommodation to regular customers. Manteris readily admits that he has on occasion closed phone accounts; usually to protect against the phone system being monopolized by a few.

However, Intranet betting is a different story, and this football season, there will be a big push by books at Station Casinos in conjunction with Cox Cable to build its online betting volume.

Manteris is one of a small select group of the sports betting community who has enjoyed hands-on service during virtually the entire run of sportsbooks in Vegas from their inception to today. Despite the negativity from some corners that says the golden age of sportsbooks is behind us, Manteris scoffs at what he considers wrong-headed notions.

"I remember parlay cards with very short payoffs, ties lose, limited number of games, no totals and no payouts until Monday," he recalled. The old days weren't as player-friendly as the current environment.

All that has changed due to competition. Other benefits of today's sportsbooks compared with years ago is the bigger betting menu, imaginative props and bigger, more diversified television offerings.

There used to be just one nationally televised NBA game per week, two or three NFL games on Sunday, and no live racing was available.

"Today is far superior to what the industry was 15 or 20 years ago," Manteris stated.

Two innovations he has developed at Station Casinos sportsbooks are the Wild Wednesday parlay cards, and the new Friday Happy Hour parlay cards. They provide higher payoffs to bettors playing the day before most cards in the city are distributed, and on Friday evenings. They give a nice incentive to bettors, while putting the house at risk a tad more than usual. Manteris boasts that he believes those two cards are the highest paying, non ties-lose, parlay cards in Las Vegas sportsbook history.

He cited the Station Casinos annual Great Giveaway football contest which offers a million-dollar prize, and the cost is still a mere $25 entry fee. "That's an enormous overlay," Manteris noted. "We're not in the habit of giving away more than we take in, but we do it for this contest." The Fiesta Football Frenzy gives away $250,000 for free!

Manteris still takes great pride in the little things that make for a successful shop. Cleanliness, lots of great screens, knowledgeable and courteous ticket writers, and updated sheets and boards. To foster good customer relations and productivity, he allows the managers at each of the company's 11 sportsbooks a degree of autonomy in order to implement their own ideas.

In spite of the enmity directed at him from some of the town's professional bettors who have the ear of the media, Manteris must have been doing something right all those years he ran the Super Book at the L.V. Hilton. His facility perennially was the winner for best sportsbook in the annual Review-Journal contest for the Best of Vegas.

Since he left Hilton, the book hasn't won that contest, we pointed out to Manteris.

With the smallest hint of a smile he offered, "No comment"; then added, "The Hilton is a fine property."

We could end on that gracious note, but it would be gratuitous not to mention the controversial situation that arose last year at one of the Station books. Without rehashing old news, there was a confrontation between a bettor and sportsbook manager over a bet on an NBA game.

Reportedly, the manager on orders from Manteris tried to get the player to rescind a bet the book felt was improperly placed. The alternative was to be banned from the book. The player refused and subsequently was barred from that sportsbook.

As reported in the papers, the issue earned Manteris a bushel full of bad P R. He maintains the story was inaccurately portrayed in the local media, and declined to revisit it.

"Some things really get to me," he admitted, "That story was so blatantly wrong and silly, I just didn't think anybody would believe it."

Ideally we have helped set the record straight on some issues with this story, although we realize Manteris' critics will probably remain immovable.

Players' Choice Update

The college football preview edition of Players' Choice newspaper will soon be available in its usual locations at Vegas sportsbooks, as well as new outlets in Atlantic City, Detroit, and on the highways leading to town from southern California, Arizona and Utah. Other distribution points will be added shortly.

For those who can't get the paper regularly, we are now offering subscriptions. For more info, go to

Please send comments, questions, etc. to

Buzz Daly

In a previous life, Buzz Daly was a mainstream journalist and public relations account supervisor in New York and Los Angeles. Despite a number of challenging positions, Buzz was unfulfilled and his muse lay dormant.

In 1994, he created Players' Guide to Sports Books, and since then has been immersed in the world of legal sports wagering, where he has established himself as a reliable and credible authority.

Buzz covers the industry through a syndicated Internet column titled Sportsbook Scene, the weekly sports betting tabloid Players' Choice, the website and several handicapping radio and Internet shows with such notables as Jimmy Vaccaro and Kelso Sturgeon.

His objective is to provide the sports wagering public with useful, relevant information as well as an occasional whimsical observation as seen through his unique and personal prism.

Buzz Daly Websites:
Buzz Daly
In a previous life, Buzz Daly was a mainstream journalist and public relations account supervisor in New York and Los Angeles. Despite a number of challenging positions, Buzz was unfulfilled and his muse lay dormant.

In 1994, he created Players' Guide to Sports Books, and since then has been immersed in the world of legal sports wagering, where he has established himself as a reliable and credible authority.

Buzz covers the industry through a syndicated Internet column titled Sportsbook Scene, the weekly sports betting tabloid Players' Choice, the website and several handicapping radio and Internet shows with such notables as Jimmy Vaccaro and Kelso Sturgeon.

His objective is to provide the sports wagering public with useful, relevant information as well as an occasional whimsical observation as seen through his unique and personal prism.

Buzz Daly Websites: