Small win for local gamblers 

City Sage

A couple of decades ago, when the overbuilt and undertenanted Denver office market was at its nadir, a particularly daring entrepreneur announced a new downtown project. It seemed like utter folly — the developer had no tenants signed up and none on the horizon, and the downtown vacancy rate was over 30 percent.

"Isn't this a really bad deal?" asked an impudent business reporter.

"Maybe so," the developer replied with a slight smile. "But let me tell you something: For a guy like me, there's only one thing worse than a bad deal, and that's no deal at all!"

Successful developers, like successful gamblers, enjoy risk and know how to manage it. Few among us have the cojones to bet millions on a speculative office deal, but most of us enjoy smaller wagers. And the real action comes in betting on spectator sports, or the ponies.

Off-track betting is legal in Colorado, but it's harder to license a betting site than to open a marijuana grow. There are currently eight OTB licensees in the state, including PostTime in Colorado Springs, located where Rocky Mountain Greyhound Park once thrived on North Nevada Avenue.

Another local option: Cripple Creek's Wildwood Casino opened an OTB facility on the casino floor this week.

"We started the process five years ago," says Wildwood general manager Kevin Werner. "We're the only casino in the state with off-track betting, and there won't be any others — we got the last license."

By Werner's account, it's a fine place: "We've lined the walls with 18 TVs, nice comfortable chairs, and we'll have mint juleps waiting for our customers on May 2, Kentucky Derby day."

Sounds great, but what about sports betting?

"That hasn't come up in any discussions," says Werner, noting that sports betting is illegal in almost every state. "I've been told that professional sports leagues will pull their teams out of any state that legalizes sports betting — that's one of the reasons that there aren't any teams in Vegas."

If you want to bet on the Broncos, Nuggets, Rockies or Avalanche, you have three choices:

• Fly to Vegas, and hit any of dozens of sports books.

• Go to an offshore Internet site.

• Set up a credit line with a local bookie.

Thanks to our strange American hypocrisy, Vegas is the only legal option. Every other form of sports betting is illegal, including your office March Madness pool.

For that, you can thank former NBA star/New Jersey Sen. Bill Bradley, who authored the Professional Amateur Sports Protection Act (PASPA) in 1992. The senator-turned-nanny wanted to protect the integrity of sport, but of course, his legislation has not slowed illegal wagering. Last year, Americans bet somewhere between $80 billion and $300 billion illegally. That's a lot of money, and a lot of income — unreported, untaxed and invisible.

New Jersey voters voted for legalization four years ago, hoping to revive their moribund casinos and racetracks. Then, predictably, the National Football League, Major League Baseball, National Hockey League, National Basketball Association and NCAA all sued, citing PASPA and arguing that betting would somehow endanger sports and drive fans away. New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie's administration is still battling, dreaming of $100 million in additional tax revenue.

Given that so many of us love to bet on sports, why don't we rise up as one and demand reform? The answer: For many gamblers, things are fine as they are. Internet betting on sites such as Bovada.lv is quick, simple and (at least for the moment) safe. And betting with a local bookie is secure, safe and easy, with one overwhelming advantage: credit.

"The two biggest reasons people bet with bookies (beyond the lack of alternatives) are the convenience and the line of credit," wrote ESPN's Jeff Ma in February. "In addition, customers are far more inclined to place a wager when they don't have to put any money down. Those betting with bookies have predetermined settlement terms. This credit relationship will be hard for many gamblers to give up."

You got it, Jeff! Meanwhile, Vegas Super Bowl odds have Seattle at 6-1 and Denver at 15-1, but I'll take Jacksonville or Tennessee (both 300-1).

OK, it's a bad bet — but it's better than no bet.


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