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Howard Stutz

Kiosks just in time for kickoff

31 January 2008

LAS VEGAS, Nevada -- Casual and serious gamblers hungry to bet on the Super Bowl or other events have another outlet.

Sports book operator Leroy's is testing its self-service betting kiosks inside sports bars and restaurants. The idea is to allow Leroy's customers with telephone wagering accounts to bet on sporting events without having to visit a sports book.

"We view this as a convenient service for our customers," Leroy's spokesman John Salerno said.

The first location in Southern Nevada is at the Stadium Grille in Henderson. The kiosks are also being used at a few similar establishments in Reno.

Super Bowl XLII kicks off Sunday, but Leroy's executives hope to have a larger rollout throughout the valley by the time the popular and heavily wagered NCAA basketball tournament takes place in March.

"We really hope to be up and running strong by March Madness," Salerno said.

Leroy's, which began its sports and wagering life as a small and smoky stand-alone downtown betting parlor, is now high-tech. The company operates race and sports books in 61 casinos throughout Nevada. Many of the Leroy's locations have betting kiosks, which connect to a central server that updates betting lines and odds.

Wagering at the kiosk is the same as betting at a Leroy's sports counter.

To use the betting kiosk outside of a casino, customers need to establish telephone wagering accounts with Leroy's. Customers then use an account number and password to place wagers.

Nevada gaming regulators approved the concept as long as the kiosks are placed in age-restricted locations, such as bar areas, that are accessible only by patrons aged 21 or older.

The restaurant, bar or tavern must have an approved restricted gaming license to operate 15 slot machines.

"It's an extension of telephone wagering," Gaming Control Board Chairman Dennis Neilander said. "Leroy's approached us with the concept for approval."

Neilander said another company tried a similar concept a few years ago, but the idea failed, mainly because customers were charged a fee to place wagers.

Jim Desio, owner of the Stadium Grille, said the kiosk differentiates his tavern from similar locations.

"It really completes us as a sports bar and allows us to offer customers a full package," Desio said.

During football weekends, Desio said customers might leave at halftime or in between games to place a wager. Now, he hopes to keep the business at home.

"It's much more convenient for patrons," Desio said.

Leroy's officials said the kiosks could increase the company's handle on halftime wagering during professional and college football season.

Desio met Leroy's Chairman Vic Salerno in July at the Stadium Grille's opening celebration. Salerno approached him with the concept. During the current testing period, Desio said, the Stadium Grille is not receiving any rental fee or stipend for allowing the kiosk to be in the tavern. He said he eventually expects to collect a fee.

John Salerno said a payment system is still being developed, but taverns with the kiosks could earn a percentage of the wagers placed.

"That way, there's an incentive for the bar owner to drive customer traffic to the kiosks," Salerno said.

Desio said offering the sports wagering kiosks might help tavern owners recover some of the business they lost when a ban on smoking was enacted a year ago. He said the Stadium Grille opened after the smoking ban took effect, so "we really didn't have a captive audience before the ban."

Leroy's is a subsidiary of American Wagering, which is publicly traded on the Over-the-Counter Bulletin Board under the symbol BETM. Through its subsidiaries, American Wagering manages race and sports books and sells and services race and sports book computer systems.

In the third quarter of 2007, ended Oct. 31, American Wagering reported revenue of $5.1 million and an operating profit of $950,000.