In May, a divided national Gambling Impact Study Commission voted to recommend a ban on college sports betting, including wagers made at casinos in Nevada. The sports ban proposal will be presented with the commission's full report to Congress and President Clinton in June. To most of you, I'm sure this is old news, and as for the absurdity of the proposal, I will not address it. Nor will I discuss the wagering of athletes at my alma mater, simply because I have nothing to report on it. I would, however, like to shed some light on an area you may not be familiar with, which is the college gambling scene and it's impact as a result of the explosive growth in online gaming.
I suppose that as a first-time contributor to this particular publication, and the first in a three-part series, I should introduce myself and provide some background history. I have been involved in the Internet gaming industry since its infancy. Many of my college friends claim that they were the first to make an online wager back in 1993 and while this simply involved exchanging emails from various dormitories to Mexico, it did work.
I attended the University of Arizona to participate in one of only two racetrack industry programs. Imagine the response when I told people that my major was horseracing; needless to say, I was unable to date any debutantes. Once I discovered racing's bleak future, I eventually switched majors to finance and marketing.
The University of Arizona was one of the leaders in introducing schools to Internet access in both dorms and libraries. They took it one step further by requiring students to use it to access homework assignments and grades. Without this persuasion, I would have been years behind the technology curve instead of on top of it. With respect to gaming though, I immediately envisioned a future for online casinos and online sports wagering in cyberspace, where no borders or boundaries existed. The major corporations were (and still are) behind regarding this new application for the Internet, in fact, most senior management operatives had probably never even heard of e-mail in 1993. Today, national casino companies are finally getting involved. For them, it will never be too late, as their reputation will always outweigh those of the Caribbean.
Now that you understand more about me, let's get to the point. If ever there were happy cohabitation of college gambling and universities, University of Arizona would definitely fit the bill. The profile of the average sports better is a college educated, white male who follows and/or participates in sport, and seventy percent of the student body is white. Additionally, the school has a strong fraternity system which is consistent with the sport betting profile. I'll address this unbelievable marketer's paradise of over 14,000 ripe jocks and frat guys during the next segment in the series.
The burning question is: "Where do they bet?" Through my own tenure there, as well as staying in touch with current students, it seems to me the college bookie is still cranking out a pretty good living. Most students interested in wagering are set up with a small time bookmaker, who is commonly self-employed, and on his own. The smallest wager he will usually make is $25, and the most, $500, depending on one's reputation for paying.
So, why aren't these student's betting over the Internet? The equipment's there; the drive for betting is there. Online, they can bet a minimum of $5 (at any hour of the day), place all different types of bets and not worry about being stiffed or snuffed out. What makes it even more favorable is that now they can charge these bets, an option not available while I was in school.
From a small sample of college men, I determined that approximately 70 percent of students' credit card bills went home to the parents. I doubt Daddy would like to see a charge from Lucky Luigi's Online Sports book. Bookies also continue to thrive because it's easier for gamblers to collect, and some guys just like the mystique and thrill of having a bookie. Of all the people I spoke with, they agreed on one thing: While they may not bet on the net, they do 95 percent of their handicapping there.
So you see, we're finally worming our way to the magic answer to our question (one that has kept illegal bookies in this country in business for the past 50 years): CREDIT--the ability to put off until tomorrow what you can't pay today--which is something 95 percent of online sportsbooks don't offer.
Jon S. of Arizona said, "With my guy, I can tell him I am a little short and he will cut me some slack and give me a couple of weeks."
Online books don't operate like that.
My final point regarding college gambling and the Internet is that the bashing of online gaming as being corrupt and dangerous should be reexamined. It is usually the credit issue that hurts the student and not the availability of gambling itself, since bookies are still in fine shape. I once saw an acquaintance go from a $50/game bet to $1000/game bet, a month later. He was a compulsive gambler and he hid it well. It wasn't the money so much as the rush of winning up to $13,000 a shot.
The trouble starts when a player begins to bet more than $500 and is passed from the local student bookie to a professional bookie, who legend has it, holds no compassion and rarely gives breaks.
Does this happen in online betting and a credit card?
Would one have to pay those charges?
Would the better have been hurt or harassed?
Definitely not. And that's the difference.
"Changing the Future of Gaming and Marketing"
David A. Freemon Consulting
David Albert Freemon is president of David Freemon and Company, a Los Angeles-based marketing consulting firm specializing in online gaming. His firm has represented companies in Europe, Mexico, the Caribbean, Central America and Australia concerning all gaming aspects. Mr. Freemon is currently studying International gaming law while attending Loyola Law School of Los Angeles. He is also working directly with one of the country's best gaming attorneys, I. Nelson Rose, author of "Gambling and the Law." He has provided development consulting to numerous projects from Hollywood Park Racetrack and Casino to Arizona Indian casinos. He was one of the founders of Chargeback Coalition, a service that provides a credit card database exclusively for the use of sportsbook and casino operators throughout the world. It is a co-operative service among online gaming operators to counter credit card fraud. He has also taken on projects regarding future gaming projects in Mexico. His firm also is known for its niche marketing regarding the Generation X marketing. He also was a consultant involved with the development of Internet gaming software for use in the Australian Capital Territory. This was the first Internet software approved for use in the ACT territory. Mr. Freemon is a frequent speaker at international conferences and symposiums.
David A. Freemon can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.