Hi-Tec Hits Back Street Bookies
the views of Mickey Charles CEO at Sportsnetwork.com
Nathan Detroit no longer runs the oldest established permanent floating crap game in New York.
And the ranks of bookmakers have thinned out faster than the number of arctic glaciers thanks to the global warming that has enveloped us and which those blind to reality have ignored. The warming being experienced by these turf accountants is not the result of law enforcement heat. Their numbers have dwindled, almost diminished entirely, thanks to technology and the tidal wave of off-shore bookmakers using high-tech and the Internet.

Even those that have managed to continue are doing so with mobile phones, e-mail, carefully disguised web sites and the Internet. There are no clandestine meetings in front of, or in back of, the local candy store or bakery, the established and historic points of encounters and assemblage. They are gone together with the passing patrol car and knowing nod or wink. This, of course, is the American perspective and experience, not that of the UK or any other European country. The exclusion here, naturally, is Nevada, where sports wagering is legal.

“What do you want to be when you grow up?”

“A bookmaker, like my daddy.”

Words to make any father proud…30-40 years ago. Especially true if you were a numbers operator in Harlem of New York. Time erases much and the numbers are still a gambling industry of sorts in special corners of the world…like the Harlem referred to. But the size of what once took place is historical and growth is not even an option or discussion point.

The largest source in the world for gambling dollars is in the U.S. and it is flowing into, and out of, the Internet like the waters of Niagara or Victoria Falls. Imagine both of those going up, as well as down, and there you have gambling portrayed today…as it exists.

We live in denial…personal, business, social, family, everything to which we want to deny existence, and then that, whatever “that” is, continues to grow, but not in the manner it existed in the past.

Wagering on sports, playing poker, going to more and more casinos and slot machines who fraudulently market how much they have given out in winnings when, in reality, that is money that tingles down but, most of the time – nearly all, just goes back into the machine as the player, the punter, continues on in his, or her, quest for the triple 7 or other jackpot. Yes, they win for a split second and the casinos carefully, and with delight, record the win and tally the total. Huge. Lie. Truth with a taint.

The bookmakers of today, the single street ones that prowled and patrolled the streets of New York, Chicago, Detroit, Los Angeles, Boston, Miami, patronized the arenas and stadiums of the games, mingled with the players and punters, have either retired, taken lessons in high-tech, moved to Costa Rica, Malta or Antigua or moved on. Ladbrokes, William Hill, Coral, Victor Chandler, Paddy Power, and others that developed incredible businesses at home, wherever home might have been, still is, operated betting shops quite legal in their country, and are now on Gibraltar, Malta or some other island paradise. They have joined Bodog, BetCRIS, WSEX, Five Dimes and too many others to list here. All are competing for the players and punters with many having been street bookmakers in the States in another life that can best be termed “BI” to join “BC” – Before Internet.

The U.S. produced the usual array of politicians anxious to impress their constituency so some folks secreted an anti-gambling online law into a bill being passed that had nothing, not a twit, to do with gaming. Nice move! It stopped close to nothing in the wide spectrum of life but did curtail ad revenue, for example, for sites taking ads from these folks and the government did chase, arrest, a few, harass, harangue, arrest, fine, imprison, torment and victimize many others following the dictates of this misbegotten anti-gambling bit of legislation.

The street bookmaker peeked out of his hiding place at this announcement, took a look around and then went back to his laptop.

So, at present, the government in the U.S. is reconsidering its stance thanks to the economy. Maybe, as well, someone there figured out that Prohibition did not work, the Mafia continues to thrive advantaging legitimate undertakings…parking garages, food distribution, taxis, off-shore gaming…and prostitution cannot be corralled unless you visit the Chicken Ranch in Nevada. Smoking will kill you and, to folks like me, it is equivalent to sticking your head into an open fireplace, but it thrives to some extent despite all the admonitions and warnings with manufacturers of cigarettes branching out into a myriad of other ventures.

Automobiles kill as many people, more perhaps, as guns which we now allow everyone to have as if the British were still lurking in the shadows of cobblestone streets in Philadelphia and lotteries take in tens of billions of dollars annually in a country feigning concern over gambling. What am I missing here?
The irony is appalling.

So, with pressure mounting on the United States government to find new revenue sources, Congress is considering legalizing, and taxing, an activity it banned just four years ago: Internet gambling. But, lest your heart begins to skip a beat or two, what that would effectively do is legalize online poker and other non-sports betting, overturning a 2006 federal ban that critics say merely drove Web-based casinos offshore. The operative words, of course, are “non-sports betting.”

The total idiocy of this is that it cannot work. Oh yes, it will be fine if it applies to Nevada, if and when, as is inevitable. But, our Treasury Department is not about to license and regulate Internet gambling operations that do not need their blessing. A companion measure, pending before another committee, would allow the Internal Revenue Service to tax such businesses. That works again, if Nevada, but nowhere else. And, hold on to your seat…winnings by individuals would also be taxed, as regular gambling winnings are sought to be taxed now…a total impossibility, Vegas aside and collecting on a $10,000 payout that requires some forms to be filed. Does asking friends to cash in $2,500 each and meet in the lounge attend to that? I would say so.
In their dream world, the taxes could yield as much as US$42 billion for the government over 10 years, supporters say.

My advice is to brace yourself with the status quo, do not spend much time looking for Nathan Detroit, or his clones, and keep the Internet addresses, the contact points of your current bookmaker on hand. Oh yes, that of your attorney as well…and tax specialist/accountant.