RENO — Nevada casino regulators are considering lifting a decade-long ban on the use of cell phones in casino sports books.
The regulation was enacted to thwart illegal betting by messengers or runners and to stop the transmission of betting information across state lines, book operators said.
But with cell phones now commonplace, enforcement is a chore.
"We do the best we can to enforce the policy," Terry Cox, manager of the Peppermill Race & Sports Book, told the Reno Gazette-Journal. "We tell them this is not a Peppermill policy. It is a state of Nevada gaming regulation.
"They look at you like you are crazy," Cox said about a typical confrontation over a cell phone. "They'd say 'What do you mean I can't use my cell phone?'"
The cell phone ban, however, may soon be ended by the Gaming Control Board.
Regulators plan to hold public workshops on the cell phone ban and other regulations within two months. After those workshops, the board could decide to end the ban, said Frank Streshley, senior research analyst for the board.
"When that law was enacted, probably the only guys using cell phones were book makers and drug dealers," said Chris Andrews of Leroy's Race and Sport Book, the largest operator of sports books in Nevada. "Since then, even my 12-year-old has a cell phone. The whole landscape has changed dramatically."
Cox said the law no longer applies since most sports book operators can spot messenger bettors with a keen eye. Although Nevada books allow phone accounts where bettors can call in bets, messenger betting — in which someone on the phone makes bets for the person on the other end of the call — is illegal.
"So, what happens is that the people who are actually using cell phones out in the middle of the sports book are just the Joe Schmoes who don't know any different," Cox said. "And probably all he is doing is calling his wife to find out where they are going to meet for lunch.
"And that's the poor guy you have to go out and tell that he can't use his cell phones," Cox said. "That makes it hard."