The 24th Round

If I told you that Don King or Bob Arum were not only in the business of promoting fights, but also in the business of TAKING BETS on those very same fights, it would certainly raise a few eyebrows on the part of consumers, wouldn't it? After all, King and Arum would seem to be interested parties in the outcomes of those fights, and with the element of wagering introduced into the mix, it could just give the appearance that the results of those fights could easily be manipulated so as to make them doubly profitable.

Well, isn't something roughly similar going on with casinos and boxing? Let's illustrate it in terms of the abstract, without bringing up the case of any casino in particular.

Let's say a casino lays out a site fee to host a world championship fight. It may even have a “relationship” with the promoter of that fight, which may lead down the road to more championship cards the promoter will bring to the property. And one of the main event participants in the fight is quite appealing, drawing enough gamblers to the casino that it would be to their great advantage to have him back again. Either way, big-time boxing means big-time business for the property.

The casino has a sports book. And that sports book, like all sports books, is in the business of taking bets on sporting events – in some cases, very large bets. As the gamblers are being attracted into the casino the week of the fight, they are laying down their bets in the sports book. naturally, if they're on hand for the fight, they're going to BET on the fight. So the casino's sports book will invariably handle an awful lot of money on the event.

Sports books generally try to balance action on both sides of a proposition, but it doesn't always work out that way. If there is enough action on one side where it creates considerable financial “exposure” on the part of the sports book, it would
certainly be very interested in one side winning over the other, wouldn't it?

Now consider that the way things are set up in Nevada, that casino entity also holds a promoter's license, meaning that, by definition, it is taking bets on fights that it is promoting.

And its “promotional partner”, if we can use that term, is an entity the casino might have an “exclusive” deal with, or an “output” deal which entails that they do a specific number of fights in conjunction with an outside promoter. There might be a special relationship struck because of a “house fighter” the casino wants to be involved with. There might even be a direct deal made by the casino with a fighter.

The convergence between the promotional interests and the wagering interests of the casino in relation to a boxing event is something that needs to be acknowledged. The hotel/casino hosts the fight, houses the fighters, and its staff can't avoid having continual contact with both camps that are involved. There is a lot of information the casino (i.e., the oddsmaking entity) might be privy to that may not be available to the betting public, or to other sports books.

What about when there is a CONFLICT between the two? What happens when a casino has enough exposure through the wagering to where it would be better for them if the opponent of the house fighter won? And then we saw some outrageous decision by the judges to make something like that happen?

And what if a fighter owes a casino a lot money? It's no secret that some fighters have shown a proclivity to gamble – I've seen quite a few of them run up a considerable tab by the end of their stay. Sometimes they're signing markers.

Now let me give you the “added attraction”.

Consider, on top of everything else, that the officials that are chosen for fights can have a very real effect on the outcome – something we are keenly aware of, based on recent boxing history, if nothing else. When the casino that is co-promoting a fight, hosting the fighters, and taking bets on the result, with a very real interest in the fight, from more than one angle, also has a voice – indeed an actual vote by way of “proxy” on the boxing commission, as to who the officials are going to be a for a championship fight, it becomes a matter of very real concern. Who needs to open that can of worms?

Understand this – I've been involved in boxing long enough to know that cases of fixed fights, and fixed judges, are few and far between. But when I address this issue, I'm not looking at it from the perspective of what


. I'm trying to envision how the general public would look at it. And I offer no guarantees as to what the average fan might perceive if this kind of scenario were laid out for him.

You know, the NBA forbids the Maloof family, which owns the Palms Hotel & Casino in Las Vegas, from accepting wagers on the NBA in its sports book. It's for a pretty good reason – the league doesn't want to raise any questions about the integrity of its games. There might be the appearance that the Maloofs could use certain inside information on the NBA franchise they own (the Sacramento Kings) or other NBA franchises (which, in effect, are their partners in the league) to their advantage – information they could easily have access to.

And you know what? The Maloofs are all too happy to oblige.

When a casino gets involved in the promotion of a fight, it “owns the franchise”, so to speak, at least temporarily. So why should the standard be any different?

Perhaps it's an issue that Nevada's boxing commission, and its gaming commission, should contemplate addressing.

Copyright 2003 Total Action Inc.