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Best of Buzz Daly

Gaming Guru

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NCAA's Anti-Legal Sports Betting Campaign is Fronted by Inspector Clouseau Impersonator

21 April 2004

The bumbling, stumbling, addle-pated inspector who tries so hard but can't get out of his own way has been reincarnated. Bill Saum, a nonsequitur-spouting dim bulb NCAA executive, is giving a world class performance that replicates Clouseau's buffoonery to a T.

His pretentious title, NCAA director of agent, gambling and amateurism activities, pretty much reflects the substance of the person. Saum visited Las Vegas for the annual NCAA Men's Basketball Tournament and was quoted in a local daily making the standard party line observations about sportsbooks and their patrons.

Saum's comments are the sort of inane babble one gets from dogmatic apparatchiks. Perhaps he was disoriented by the noise and smoke indigenous to sportsbooks, but his conclusions are based on misconceptions of biblical proportions. Taken at face value, his observations could easily be the routine of a stand-up comic.

Was it naïveté, or just his woefully out-of-touch-with-reality mindset that was behind this classic utterance of his? "What I found interesting was that I didn't see people cheering wins and losses. I saw people who were cheering points and baskets."

Good grief, what keen powers of observation; what sharp insight, what a woeful display of an obviously short-circuited neural network. Does this agenda-driven hack really have the gall to be surprised by people in a sportsbook with an interest in the ATS outcome of a game?

Apparently so. What really got his attention was how little spectators actually cared about who won the games. He found it appalling that people were most concerned with being on the right side of the point spread or total.

This bundle of self-righteousness thinks fans have become oblivious to what the spirit of college athletics is supposed to be about: straight up competition and the integrity of sports.

As a man obsessed with the party line, which says betting on college sports is immoral, the myopic Mr. Saum just doesn't get it. People bet on NCAA sports because of the competition and the integrity of the games.

Not that the NCAA can take much credit about the integrity of the games. Their pious and heavy handed efforts at warning of the evils of gambling are less productive than what Vegas bookmakers do to keep the game free of scandal.

By tracking action on games and monitoring betting trends at the counters, anything suspicious or even slightly out of synch is detected, and law enforcement agencies are brought in immediately.

Virtually everybody who is aware of the impact of March Mania on Las Vegas knows that the opening weekend is an absolute madhouse. Not so, Mr. Saum. He deduced what was going on when, after arriving at the airport, he "had to wait for over an hour to get a cab."

With all the instincts of Inspector Clouseau on Valium, Saum gave a typically officious answer to what he was looking for in his visits to Vegas sportsbooks. "My primary reason for being there was to be observant of the issues related to the sportsbook and to become better educated."

The hypocrisy of Saum and the NCAA is especially laughable because it is so transparent. If betting on college sports is evil, why not target illegal bookmaking which is not only against the law, but historically these are the folks who have been at the bottom of fixes and point shaving scandals? Another likely objective, if the NCAA was truly sincere about its concern for preserving the purity of college sports, would be to eradicate all the on campus bookmaking conducted by college students.

The reason the NCAA's foppish Inspector Clouseau targets legal, licensed sportsbooks in Las Vegas is easy to figure out. Huffing and puffing about the evils of Sin City is guaranteed to get ink. This little popinjay loves to see his picture in the paper. And getting all-expenses-paid trips to our popular city in the desert is a nice little perk, especially for a ribbon clerk.

Goliath Toppled Again. A long time ago, Goliath was a lock to put away diminutive David, but the kid had a secret weapon and prevailed. In another superficially unequal fight, Goliath, or in this case, the U.S. government suffered an embarrassing and unexpected defeat when its undersized adversary, the island of Antigua, unsheathed its secret weapon: The Truth.

Uncle Sam, replete with the tell-tale signs of a liar, beet red face, and a Pinocchio-like proboscis, is trying to bury the issue. Implementing the customary strategy this administration uses to cover up its failures, the government has refused to allow journalists or the public to see details of the landmark ruling by the World Trade Organization.

According to sources, the crux of the issue is the United States reneging on general obligations it made when it joined the WTO in 1995, to allow gambling across national borders. By taking actions to prohibit Internet gaming, the government gave Antigua a strong opening to lodge an official protest. A substantial portion of the island's economy is predicated on Internet gaming.

A final report will be issued next month. During the interim, both parties will be allowed to provide the WTO with additional input which will be considered and if relevant, added to the final report when it is made public.

Although the U.S. is expected appeal the decision, sources close to the case told us that virtually all the corroborating testimony from other nations was in support of Antigua. The U.S. position was notable for its lack of international support.

Antigua also has declined to disclose the contents of the ruling, but its chief foreign affairs rep, Ronald Sanders, provided some insight. De-facto prohibition on Internet gaming by the U.S. violated an agreement in principle to open its borders to gambling, he observed.

The smoking gun that likely swayed the decision was the passage of laws that conflicted with the terms of the United States entry into the WTO. "You cannot use domestic laws (to avoid) fulfilling your international obligations," Sanders was publicly quoted in the mainstream press.

Chalk one up for the good guys as the Evil Empire (no, not Iran and South Korea) gets the equivalent of having its mouth washed out with strong soap. Whether this is a major or a minor triumph for proponents of freedom of choice regarding gambling is debatable, but it is a victory.

Given the arrogance of the current administration, it is quite possible they will simply thumb their noses at the WTO and ignore the ruling. If so, watch the 5,000-pound gorilla morph into a 4,000-pound gorilla, enroute to becoming a baby chimp.

Costa Rica Beckons. We've been looking for excuses to return to Costa Rica, or Bookmaking Central as it could be known. But since relinquishing advertising duties for the magazine we publish, Players Choice, we've been concentrating on editorial and distribution responsibilities, which keep us in Vegas.

So, when the chance to participate next month in the First Annual MVP Golf Tournament in San Jose was offered, we accepted in a New York second.

MVP (www.mvpsportsbook.com), of course, is one of the more heart warming success stories to come out of the offshore/online gaming industry. Under enlightened guidance of Dalton Wagner and a cadre of savvy, dedicated gaming executives, the organization has grown to become one of the giants. Among its varied betting menu is sports, horses, poker, casino games and more. That is of more than passing interest because this is a business that cruelly and without remorse relegates those shops that can't cut it to being an historical footnote.

The golf tournament is for MVP's roster of participating sports services and a sprinkling of the media. It is an opportunity for the gaming company to reward its handicapping partners and generate some P.R. As a card carrying member of the press, we go where the freebies are. It's a dirty job, but someone has to do it.

During the relatively brief era in which offshore sports betting has grown, roughly 1994-2004, one of the most challenging issues confronting the books has been marketing. Early on, a few ads garnered great response, and the rush was on. But like any successful business, as more companies joined the fray, competition became increasingly ruthless.

Finding ways to grow without cannibalizing your own shop(s) became more difficult, as many books began offering humongous new business bonuses and re-up incentives. Of course, the coming of the Internet raised the ante as anyone could build a website and troll for customers. Spam advertising became SOP.

Eventually, many books turned to sports services, or touts, for mutually beneficial arrangements. Given the similarity of their customer bases, this was a natural progression, and often a good fit. Still, players had to be wary of abuses, false claims and other chicanery in which they might be used as pawns.

One of the books that discovered a productive and legitimate way to harness handicappers/touts was MVP. It has created working arrangements that generally benefit bettors, books and 'cappers. We're not quite sure of the elements that comprise this win-win situation, but we'll find out and report on it after the golf tournament.

Meanwhile, with so many leading 'cappers descending on C.R., we're left to ponder if this small Central American country can handle all the king-size egos that will be there. Moreover, given the proclivity of these boys to indulge in a little good old fashioned hyperbole, we wonder if there is a tax on imported fertilizer.

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 buzzdaly.com 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:

www.buzzdaly.com
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 buzzdaly.com 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:

www.buzzdaly.com