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As I See It

5 September 2002

Over 20,000 Wisconsin football fans were in town last week, and they watched their Badgers take apart the Rebels, 27-7. But joy quickly turned to disillusionment once they marched up to the betting windows to cash their tickets only to find out they were getting a refund, rather than winnings.

The game ended with just under 8 minutes to play, when reportedly a car ran into a transformer, causing a power outage that turned off all the lights.

The sportsbooks followed a posted rule, and they did the right thing in refunding the bets. According to existing rules, a college or pro football game must go for at least 55 minutes in order for a betting decision to be official. First half wagers counted, but the game, total and halftime bets were a refund.

Now maybe it is true that b.m.'s are cold and heartless, but you can believe that they paid for adhering to the rule. It created a public relations nightmare for the books as many unsophisticated bettors (and there are lots of them) felt they got ripped off.

This rule has been posted for about 25 years, and bettors who have been around are well aware of it, but the recreational guys never bother to look at the rules. I've seen lots of stuff about this incident on the Internet and in print as well as the talk shows and there are so many erroneous opinions out there, maybe I can shed some light on the issue.

First of all, let me clarify this rule about the need to play 55 minutes, as it has been misrepresented by many who just don't know what they are talking about. It is not a Nevada gaming law. Each book has its own set of rules which is submitted to the Board upon being granted a license for a race and sportsbook. Upon approval, they keep a copy for reference in deciding disputes with customers.

For about the past 15 years, new books would simply get an existing copy of the rules from another book and use them when applying. Nothing wrong with that, but some books may want to tweak a rule or two.

Point being, they are not standardized rules. If you want the official time for a game to be 53 minutes, that is your prerogative, just so long as the rules are posted.

When I started back in the early '70s, the rules were less complicated and the joints adjusted them as sports betting gained in popularity. Common sense frequently ruled.

In defense of the books being run by corporations and being subject to their heavy handed ways, a set of rules that addressed just about every conceivable situation needed to be in place.

Here are some examples of a few that evolved a long time ago and are still on the books.

I'm taxing my memory, so bear with me. I believe the 55-minute rule came into being about 1978 when a college All Star game or an early Hall of Fame game ended due to heavy rain and lightning. There was a lot of confusion about cashing tickets, and that is when the 55-minute rule was decided upon for football, and is also used for other sports.

In baseball, there used to be a rule that said if a team was batting when the rains came, the score would revert back to the last full inning. If the game went over 5 ½ innings and the game was finally called, the winner was declared from there. But it all changed around 1985, for the following reason.

I was running the book at the old MGM, and the last game of the night saw the Cubs playing at the Dodgers, with the Cubbies leading 4-3 in the bottom of the eighth. The Dodgers then scored two runs and had men on base when the game was called.

Technically, the score was L.A. 5-4, but the rule stated that we had to go back to the last full inning played and that called for a final score of 4-3 for betting purposes. So, we paid off on team A but with team B actually in front when they ran off the field.

It created a nightmare scenario with big time negative P.R. This beef did not go away for a while. It had a life of its own. So, after hearing everyone's opinion, all of which made sense, I just paid off both sides.

But that was then and this is now. I do not know if any Vegas book could do what I did due to all the red tape that is involved. Offshore books have much more latitude to make those decisions compared with Nevada shops.

But all the books got together and changed the old rules that allow you to win or push a bet if your team wins or ties or goes ahead under the new rule now in effect.

The issue of miswritten tickets was never an issue, as common sense was the prevailing guideline. For example, if the machines were set up and Tennessee came out +32 instead of -32 over Wyoming, common sense would kick in because a player getting Wyoming -32 would get the same consideration as the bettor getting undeserved points.

In games where the number is 1 or 2, the book should honor its mistakes because that is too close to call and the advantage should go to the player.

Bettors, wherever they play, offshore or Nevada, or with a local guy, should ask questions before making plays since there are no standardized rules used by everyone.

One of the latest beefs concerns golf futures. Should the bettor get a refund if his guy does not tee off, or does the book keep the money? From what I understand, the books in Vegas that were not refunding were taking enormous criticism, and most were falling back to the old rule of no action if your guy does not make the first tee. I think it should be no bet.

But you need to get answers from whomever you are playing with. If you get fuzzy responses, take your bankroll to someone else who offers clarity on where you stand on a questionable play.

Some places made adjustments on the Saturday game and some did some damage control. I know Heritage 2000 refunded all UNLV and over tickets like everyone else but if you had Whisky and under gave you a free bet on the face value of the ticket you had. I have heard some other places might have done the same … if they did, please contact me. But to be fair, no Nevada place could do that because the uproar from one place to another would be impossible and Nevada gaming would put you through the ringer.

So a part of wagering even though you really do not think about it much and you can include me is that you have to know where you stand at all times.

And as I hopefully illustrated that the evolution of rule changes only came because we got caught with our pants down from time to time and had to adjust. There are plenty more but I do not have the time to get into them.

True, the books should bend a little more at times because when it all washes out you are laying 11/10 but they do not have to baby sit you either. So check your tickets, get a read back, or ask the rules before the game starts.

By the way, I had Whisky but did not have it at Heritage 2000. I should have asked.

Stay smart and keep in touch,

Jimmy V.

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