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Howard Stutz

Cell phone ban may be lifted

11 July 2008

LAS VEGAS, Nevada -- Cellular telephones may soon be allowed inside Nevada's race and sports books after the Gaming Control Board on Thursday recommended repealing the regulation banning their use.

The Nevada Gaming Commission will make a final ruling at a later date.

The decades-old ban was enacted to keep betting lines from being transmitted outside the state and to discourage layoff wagering by illegal bookmakers inside Nevada casinos. However, casino representatives want to end the prohibition because of the advent of Internet sports books and the countless number of Web sites that transmit sports wagering information.

Cell phone technology has advanced well beyond the capabilities in effect when the ban was implemented.

Two of the three members of the Gaming Control Board said numerous other regulations and measures are in place to ensure that layoff wagering, in which bets are "laid off" to other parties to balance risk, doesn't occur.

"Clearly, this a regulation that is antiquated and causes more problems than it is worth," Control Board Chairman Dennis Neilander said. Control board members said the predominance of cellular telephones challenged sports book employees to uphold he ban.

The proposed regulation change was part of a package of proposed revisions to several Nevada gaming regulations. Removing the ban on cell phones, however, covered the majority of the debate.

Gaming attorney Tony Cabot, representing the Nevada Pari-mutuel Wagering Association, said relaxing the ban on cell phones in sports books might spur further development of mobile gaming technology, where customers can wager within the walls of the casino using a wireless, handheld device.

Cabot said sports wagering is one of the concepts for mobile gaming technology and the devices have a similar look and capabilities of cellular phones.

"This ban is truly counterproductive to the advent of mobile gaming," Cabot said.

Control board member Mark Clayton said he was uncomfortable with removing the ban on cell phones, especially when the agency's chief of the enforcement division, Jerry Markling, was opposed to repealing it.

However, Clayton supported the recommendation after fellow control board member Randy Sayre, a former enforcement chief who steered through industry discussion on the regulation changes, said he was comfortable with the ban's removal.

"We have a number of enforcement tools still in place," Sayre said. "We are not relaxing our standards."