Sports Betting Options: In The Book/On the Mobile App 

The Evolution of Sports Betting Options

It truly is the best time to be alive as a sports gambler. Notice I didn’t say as a CASINO gambler, as many brick-and-mortar operations run by corporations have done whatever they can to cut out your edges.

No rebates, much harder-to-get comps for food and free rooms, and generally worse customer service have made going to the casino a much less enjoyable experience in Las Vegas than it was 20 years ago. 

But betting sports in Nevada was the original option starting in 1931, and it’s been a good one for nine decades. 

Our overview piece about sports betting options (here/link) briefly explains the other options that exist going into 2024. You can bet offshore using post-up funds, for more info check out “Wagering Offshore – Benefits and Advantages”, you can bet with a local bookie on credit, either by calling him or using his per-head shop offshore see: “Sports Betting Guide to American Sports Betting Operations”, and you can bet in legalized states (of which Vermont will become the 38th, in addition to the District of Columbia), either on the phone or at a physical property in that jurisdiction.

Yet while Nevada (you must include Reno with Las Vegas when talking history of sports betting in the Silver State) had a monopoly on all legal sports betting until recently, the details over the years were quite complicated. 

A historical timeline

Nevada had illegal bookies before the 1931 law that passed legalized gambling in the state to boost both revenue and interest tourists to visit the state. Famous turf clubs that took bets legally from the outside included the Saratoga Club, the Derby Club, and the Hollywood Horse & Sports Book. At that time, horse racing and boxing were the two most popular sports for fans and bettors. 

One of the first Las Vegas Strip casinos opened on Dec. 26, 1946. Bugsy Siegel oversaw getting The Flamingo opened as quickly as possible. It took a little longer than his bosses anticipated and cost a lot more than they also anticipated. Speaking of cost – his life ended up being part of the debt that needed to be repaid. On the night of June 20, 1947, he was shot twice in the head at his girlfriend Virginia Hill’s home in Beverly Hills. The homicide showed that his mafia partners meant business and were tired of Siegel’s reckless spending and time-wasting. 

Siegel did something quite important before his Flamingo time, however. He was the first race disseminator in Nevada, offering the race wire service to bookies to share odds, entries and results back in 1941. This helped him get money needed to open the Flamingo, in addition to getting the trust of the mobsters who had sent him out west to begin with. The wire service would help the mob book horses in Nevada without parimutuel pools well into the 1970s. 

The federal government decided to impose a 10 percent tax on legal sportsbooks in Nevada on all written bets, mostly because of the nationwide opposition to gambling, period. Given the hold percentage on booking sports bets is far lower than 10 percent, sportsbooks had no chance to stay in business without skirting the law. The ways to skirt the tax were simple, and customers would obviously be agreeable to it, given the circumstances.

If you made a bet for $1,100 to win $1,000, then the clerk would write the bet for $110 to win $100 and put a 10 in a circle in the bottom left or right-hand side of the ticket before it went back to the bettor, who had to know/agree to the situation beforehand, given his ticket was being shown for far less money than he actually invested. 

This allowed the independent sportsbooks to operate for two decades plus, until the federal government lowered the tax from 10 percent to 2 percent on written bets to the operators in 1974. Booking sports bets now became a viable option and something the Las Vegas casinos could consider doing without it being a “loss leader”.  

Jackie Gaughan had been in Las Vegas since 1950, but wasn’t heavily involved in sports betting until after the tax was lowered to 2 percent; he soon thereafter opened a sportsbook in the downtown Union Plaza Casino in 1975 – as the first Las Vegas sportsbook that wasn’t a standalone spot but rather inside a casino. 

The next year, the Stardust opened on the Las Vegas Strip – in a spot where Resorts World stands now. 

Frank “Lefty” Rosenthal helped to open the first of the modern Las Vegas sportsbooks, which featured six giant screens and the ability to seat 300-plus patrons. Former casino manager Richard Schuetz has often described some of the stories where he had to protect “Lefty” from patrons, other employees and/or himself. Rosenthal is the prime actor in the movie “Casino”, which was made in 1995 and described how things went down at the Stardust as the fictitious “Tangiers”. All of the actors in the movie were based – and not loosely – on real-life characters who were roaming around Las Vegas in mid-to-late 1970s.  

Most of the mobsters who were involved in Las Vegas were largely gone by 1983, when the federal government cut the tax on sports bets from 2 percent to 0.25 percent. Licensees were also now able to operate more than one book at a time. This allowed the resort/casinos to have easier access to their properties. Soon, resorts would use one operator (Leroy’s and Cal-Neva were among the first) to have the same lines at multiple properties. 

The game had been changed forever, and with illegal operators moving offshore and a monopoly in town until 2018, the complacency to run Nevada properties with laziness was now setting in. 

Pros and Cons


Betting in Nevada still has its positives for those who play sports. The South Point, Westgate and Circa all use the same software (Stadium) but the lines are independent of each other. Those companies all have different risk management teams and answer to different groups of people who want to know how much they win or lose. The Stations casinos use Miomni, and have a different line than the others.

They have the same edict. Generally, Stations caters to square players and uses higher lines on the favorites – something to keep in mind if you don’t live in Nevada and want to go there to bet on a favorable underdog price. Phone (mobile) betting is allowed at all places where you have registered in person – this is something BetMGM and Caesars fought for with their brick-and-mortar monopoly on the Strip. 

South Point and Westgate are generally in line with market prices, though they both have multiple bookmakers that have opinions. Michael Gaughan owns the South Point and wants customers in his casino, so his phone limits are less than everyone else. The counter limits can be much bigger. Circa will take big bets at the counter and on the phone, and Westgate posts their limits on the phone, but will give you more at the counter if you ask them most of the time. 

For more on the benefits of using online betting sites, see “The Advantages of Using Online Betting Sites”.


There are very few options in the Silver State compared to elsewhere heading in 2024. Three-quarters of all jurisdictions in this country have legalized sports betting now. You’ve gotten all the pros above. But there are no bonuses in Nevada. The comp system for betting sports is far worse than it used to be, given that the corporations/companies want to steer your money to the tables, video poker and slot machines.  

Other options have forced some of the hands of Las Vegas operators – or have they? Most people in town seem to understand that there is a different level of competition, but they’re not willing to sacrifice the somewhat-controversial “hold percentage” in exchange for more volume. Bean counters “upstairs” know little about sports betting, its long-time low-hold background and are inquisitive about why the bookmakers aren’t “holding more”. 

To be fair, this happens in other businesses also. But Las Vegas bookmakers who work for corporations have to answer the most questions anytime there is a losing week, or if they don’t meet their benchmark from the corporate overlords. 

This makes it difficult for gamblers to get the best betting options in Las Vegas at the counters or on your mobile phone. The operators have little incentive to offer players something that could get them beat; the -110 games, first and second halves and other props that are a surefire winner for the house are going to be the most likely options for bettors in those spots. 

What to do

When you come to Vegas, or go to any other brick-and-mortar spot in other states, try to compare prices if possible, via the physical sportsbooks or by depositing money into your phone app in that jurisdiction. Give yourself all the outs you can if you are serious about winning. 

If you are recreational, and know it, then go the opposite way. Bet for fun at the one spot you are at, with the knowledge that if you run good, you can still win regardless of prices.  

Either way, regardless of what you do, set a loss limit for what you plan on losing. Bet smartly – if you’re serious then the biggest bet should not be more than 7 to 8 percent of your bankroll. If you have a “vacation bankroll” for going to casinos, it can be higher. But when trying to win at sports betting, most professionals don’t bet more than 5 percent of their bankroll on any one investment.  

For tips on working with professional sports handicappers, see “Working With Professional Sports Handicapping Sites”.