Sports betting embraces new technology
Technology has changed the way people shop, read news, and gather information. Local bookies have not been forgotten by the technology revolution. For decades, street bookies have relied on pencils, notebooks, phones and a big guy to collect debts. Today’s bookies are taking advantage of computer technology which is changing the industry. For sports bettors, bookies taking their action are using the internet. Some web sites function as a bookie’s version of Quicken, the popular finance software. Instead of taking phone calls directly from clients, some bookies are sending clients to websites that record, track and total bets made. The bookie can log into his account and easily see who gets paid and who owes money.
The new technology has eliminated some of the surreptitious meetings between bookie and client. The technology is user friendly for both the bookie and the bettor. Although the transactions are still illegal, the internet has added a touch of civilization to sports betting with a local bookie. The new technology is a departure from the old stereotype of the bookie operating out of a basement or back office with the usual jumble of phone wires, handwritten ledgers, and drop safes. Steve Budin, a gambling expert who actually operated a sportsbook, told reporters “There is always going to be a huge market for local bookmakers because they are the ones who let players bet with credit, with money they don’t have to produce. People don’t want to give out their credit cards or send money offshore someplace. They like dealing with real people and real cash. These sites just make it a whole lot easier for the bookies serving them.”
Bookies using the websites pay a per-client fee, which is why the sites are known as pay-per-head sites. The sites are different from offshore sportsbooks, which have been a target for federal authorities after the passage of the UIGEA. The sites do not handle any money – they simply keep records for the bookies and offer players a safe place to place their bets. Settling up is done locally, and bettors reluctant to pay their gambling debts can still expect a visit from a hired goon.
Bookies say the services offered by the sites are worth the per head fee; usually around $20. In the ‘old days’ profits were split 50/50 between the operator who actually took the bets and the money guy who worked the streets. Travis Prescott, an executive at one of the pay per head sites derided the old business model and said “Honestly? That’s so ‘Goodfellas. With our setup, everything is streamlined and anyone can run their operation on their own.”
The new technology also appeals to the new generation of sports bettors. Budin told New York Times reporters: “Younger bettors are used to ease and quality — they don’t want busy signals or guys who don’t answer their phone. They want Web sites. They want a number they can trust where someone says, ‘How can I help you?’ if they have to call.” One New York bookie said that pay per head sites had revolutionized his business. His clients can place bets 24/7 and if they want to make parlay bets they can call the website. The bookie who goes by the name of ‘Thomas’ said “It’s a huge timesaver. I can tweak the lines if I want, I can set minimum and maximum bets for different customers. There are still some older guys who like hearing my voice, but most of my clients just go to the site. They can see it all there.” So far the sites appear to be working well for local bookies.