The Scourge of Golf Betting

The logic for legalizing iPoker, DFS and sports betting is that the activities are already happening so why not tax and regulate them? Good point, but what happens when we take it to the next level? Richard Schuetz explains, tongue firmly in cheek.

I was an employee of the state of California when the great debate concerning iPoker consumed the state. Moreover, I was close to the center of that debate because I actually had been involved in gaming for many years prior to becoming an employee of the state, and that was a rare attribute of any employee in California government. While I certainly was not the most knowledgeable person on the planet regarding iPoker, my importance to California on these topics could be explained by the expression that in the land of the blind, the one-eyed man is king. Because of this, I was identified as a special consultant on these topics to the Governor’s office and the state Senate committee responsible for gaming legislation while I was serving as a member on the California Gambling Control Commission.

I have also watched with great interest the latest debates concerning sports betting. While I have no dog in that fight at any level, I am interested because many years ago in Las Vegas I used to be a vice president of casino operations that had supervisory responsibility for the books at two Las Vegas Strip properties, and one of these was the Stardust, and the Stardust was a place of both fame and infamy when it came to sports betting.

The debates about legalization of internet poker applications and sports betting have possessed similar themes. Both debates have contained the suggestion that these activities are very present in the country and should therefore be legalized and regulated. The arguments are that both activities exist in this murky underground, without meaningful controls, and should be made legal so that regulators could ensure they operate with integrity, taxes can be collected, player funds are protected, and, well, you know all of the arguments. There are some nuances to the arguments, such as the importance of states’ rights in the sports betting debate vis-à-vis Internet poker, but they are basically similar arguments in a great many ways.

There seem to be a great many experts, cobbled together from the legal, governmental, lobbying, regulatory, publishing, and operator worlds, pleading to be heard regarding the material risks of the illegally present activities of sports betting and Internet gaming applications, and they are all terribly concerned about these not being regulated by some government bureaucracy. It, therefore, seems that we should then tackle another form of betting that is widespread, and operates without any governmental protections, and that is the scourge of golf betting.

Golf betting is huge. During my many years as a casino executive in Las Vegas, I often thought that there was more money changing hands on the golf courses than in the casinos that I managed. I was, and continue to be alive to the fact that over a million dollars could change hands between just a few individuals on the golf course in a single round. Moreover, this destructive behavior can destroy families, for I have witnessed incidents of parents betting on the golf course with their children. I recently heard a father on the 19th hole say to his young son, “I beat you on eight holes, so you owe me 80 cents.” Where is a country headed when it allows parents to bet with their children?

I have also heard stories that, on the professional tours, the players may bet during a practice round for cokes, drinks, or more money that I make in five years. Maybe we could check with Phil Mickelson to see if there is any truth to this rumor. And I have heard it suggested that professional poker players have lost an ante or two on a golf course.

It even appears that the scourge of unregulated golf betting has permeated the hallowed halls of our institutions of higher learning, for studies have found that the highest incidence of sports betting takes place among college golfers of all categories of college athletes. If this continues unchecked, it will only be a matter of time before little Timmy will be losing his orange slices to Suzy at the daycare center as a result a missed putt on the playtime putting mat.

Clearly, we cannot stand idly by with all of this unregulated gambling taking place, for as it has been argued with Internet gaming, and as has been argued in sports betting, it just isn’t right. It needs a solution, and that solution involves governmental intervention in the form of laws, regulations, and a great many bureaucrats to keep the people of this country safe.

Fortunately, we have some great regulatory models to fall back upon. We will mandate complete background checks to ensure the suitability of all participants involved in golf betting. Furthermore, we will have great internal controls to ensure that each stage of the golf betting process is memorialized in writing, with appropriate audit trails and compliance checks. We will install surveillance equipment to be able to follow the money throughout the round of golf, and we will have state operated and third-party labs ensuring that the golf equipment meets the appropriate technical standards. We can make sure that there are no ATMs in the golf shops that could lead to spontaneous and impulsive golf betting. We will ensure that golf courses cannot be built near schools, and each tee box will carry the message to “Golf with your head, not over it.” There will be Suspicious Activity Reports (SARs) to be filed in those circumstances where a player hits into the bushes with a Titleist, and hits out with a Wilson; and don’t forget Currency Transaction Reports (CTRs) when a golfer has to hand a sum equal to the GDP of many small countries to his opponent. Most importantly, we will make sure that the regulations and the standards are different for each state, for that is the cornerstone of the US gaming regulatory system.

There will also be taxes, for this is the price of sound regulation, with Nevada charging a very low tax so as to ensure a continued and sustainable golf betting industry, and Pennsylvania will charge somewhere north of 97 percent because, hey, they have a budget hole to fill.

We are now in an age where we need our government to get involved in all things gambling, because gambling needs to be controlled and regulated, and what institution in our modern world do we have greater respect for than the government? I insist that we all immediately demand our politicians address golf betting to get this country back on the right track, for after all, without golf betting protections, I believe that the terrorists win. Sad.

Articles by Author: Richard Schuetz

Richard Schuetz started dealing blackjack for Bill Harrah 47 years ago, and has traveled the world as a casino executive, educator and regulator. He is sincerely appreciative of the help he received from his friends and colleagues throughout the gaming world in developing this article, understanding that any and all errors are his own.