Technology

Bringing Wall Street Technology to Las Vegas


It's fourth and one, and the Denver Broncos are going for it. You're certain they'll make it. If only there were a way to bet on this one play. Even in places where sports betting is legal, bookmakers' computers aren't fast enough to handle bets on just one down, at bat, putt, or penalty kick. Once the game starts, betting stops.

Unless, that is, you're in Nevada, where a bookmaker from Wall Street named Lee M. Amaitis offers in-game wagering. Amaitis, 60, is the originator and chief executive officer of Cantor Gaming, an affiliate of interdealer bond broker Cantor Fitzgerald that uses Wall Street-style technology to let sports gamblers scratch their itches. Its In-Running system was launched in March 2009 at the M Resort Spa Casino in Henderson, Nev., where patrons can sit in front of four screens of data looking very much like traders. At The Venetian and The Palazzo casinos in Las Vegas, bets are placed exclusively on a mobile device about the size of an iPad. During the Chicago Bears' 20-17 win over the Green Bay Packers on Sept. 27, gamblers bet on every play as the odds changed. Action is available in seven sports, including golf and soccer. Amaitis claims 15 percent of Nevada's sports gambling market, which the state Gaming Control Board says totaled $1.4 billion in the first seven months of 2010. "We've created a giant price-making technology company and we've applied it to sports betting," he says.

Amaitis is a Brooklyn native who likes the Los Angeles Lakers and Dodgers, though he doesn't bet on them. ("I can't root for a team and then sit down and think about risk management.") In 1995 he joined Cantor Fitzgerald. On September 11, 2001, the terrorist attack on the World Trade Center killed 658 Cantor employees. Amaitis, who ran the London office, returned to New York to help rebuild the company. In 2004 he started working on his gaming operation, getting approvals from Nevada lawmakers and regulators. Four years later he started running the gambling unit full-time.

Cantor Gaming's advantage is speed. Its bookmakers can post odds on new situations as they arise, take in bets, and change the odds to balance its book—that is, ensure that it won't lose much money regardless of the outcome. London-based William Hill, one of the world's biggest bookmaking companies, has nothing like In-Running, says spokesman Graham Sharpe: "We can come up with the odds. The problem is getting them online quickly enough to let people get at them."

Joon Ho Hwang, a gambling economics expert at Korea University Business School in Seoul, likens traditional sports betting to buy-and-hold investing. Says Hwang: "In-game wagering is allowing bettors...to become quasi-day traders." That's catnip for gamblers. As one In-Running customer told the Las Vegas Sun: "I want to be doing something during the game rather than sitting there like a dip."

Résumé

Joined Cantor Fitzgerald in 1995 and helped rebuild it after 9/11

Teams

L.A. Lakers and Dodgers—though he doesn't bet on them

Product

In-Running, which lets gamblers bet on outcomes during a game

Coy_190
Coy is Bloomberg Businessweek's economics editor. His Twitter handle is @petercoy.

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