sports betting:

Gaming Commission puts off entering horse race of pari-mutuel wagering rebates

The sports book at Wynn Las Vegas is shown Wednesday, May 4, 2011.

The Nevada Gaming Commission met in Las Vegas today to consider whether it should adopt regulations to allow rebates on pari-mutuel wagering.

The issue: The horse-racing industry has been in decline for decades, and state lawmakers approved legislation this year directing the commission to study the role reintroducing wagering rebates would have in expanding the industry. The Nevada Legislature banned rebates in 1996 after California race tracks threatened to end simulcasting races to Nevada casinos because they believed they were losing customers to Nevada.

After receiving testimony from several race and sports books directors, the commission decided it needed additional information before making a determination on whether to draft regulations addressing rebates. The legislation specifically requests studying the feasibility of accepting less than the full value of an off-track pari-mutuel wager, agreeing to refund a percentage of a wager, or increasing the payoff or paying a bonus on a winning wager.

The vote: The board took no action and will gather additional information to be presented at the commission's October meeting.

What it means: Most of the race and sports book directors who testified oppose reinstituting rebates, but Cantor Gaming, which operates six books in the state, favors them as a means of boosting the popularity of horse-race betting in the state.

Because the issue was new to most of the commissioners, the board decided to seek additional information before making a decision on whether to draft regulations. State legislation requires the commission to complete study of the issue by Jan. 1, and if the commission determines that rebates should be allowed, regulations would have to be approved by April 1.

Opponents of the rebates fear tracks in other states would increase the cost of simulcasts to Nevada casinos and that a "gas war" mentality would break out in the state as casinos increase their rebate percentages to lure customers from their competitors. They also said if the cost of offering off-track betting gets too high, they'd have to cut casino comps like free food and drinks to race book bettors or even discontinue race betting if margins get too low.