01/20/2006 1:00AM

Bettors say good riddance to bleepin' beepers


Until recently there were two groups of people that hated beepers - doctors and Nevada race players.

But, thanks to a recent change in gaming regulations that eliminates the need for telephone bettors to carry a beeper, race players are no longer burdened with them.

Not long ago, Las Vegas race players who wanted to bet by phone needed only to visit a Coast Casinos race book, fill out an application, deposit money into an account, and they were off to the phone-wagering races. Nevada residents could get down on any parimutuel race the Coast Casinos race books offered from the convenience of their phone. Stuck in traffic, dining with the family, or running an errand, players were in action. Great. Gaming capital of the world stuff.

Then, right around the turn of the century, a turn in regulatory restraint put Nevada race players back a century - or at least a couple of years - in utilizing betting technology.

The Nevada Gaming Control Board ruled that a simple application was not enough to ensure the resident account-holder was placing the bet within the borders of Nevada, as required by regulation. Thus, a tracking system would have to be put in place for the practice of parimutuel phone wagering to continue in Nevada.

Up pops the beeper. The reliable beeper could determine the location of the phone betting customer, and confirm that the player was within the legal boundaries.

But with the beepers came the increased risk of getting locked out of a play. You see, a player would have to call the phone room to make his bet, give his code number, then wait until his location was verified, when a confirmation number would appear on the beeper. Well, on a busy day the beeper system added minutes to a process that should have taken seconds. You might as well have been in the race book. The beepers quickly became known as the "bleeping beepers."

So, it was with great pleasure and an equal amount of relief that Coast Casinos announced last week that the beeper system was going the way of the buggy whip.

It seems the Nevada Gaming Commission - in an effort to put Nevada parimutuel outlets on even footing with other national phone betting services - lifted the burden of proving that the bettor is in state from the Nevada phone betting operations. The commission now put the onus of proof on the customer rather than the service provider.

Thus, Nevada residents have flocked back to the Coast Casinos race books to either renew or apply for a phone betting account with the knowledge that a single call at post time can get them down. Now, after verification, a Nevada player will be asked if they are in the state to make a bet. Yes? Done deal. It's that simple and fast.

This development is one of several new positions that Nevada regulators are taking in their views of simulcast horse racing and the potential that parimutuel phone betting offers to the state's economy. Regulators also are exploring the possibility of expanding Nevada's parimutuel phone betting beyond its borders.

At the moment, however, Nevada race players are enjoying their new-found technological freedom from an outdated and now out-regulated system.

Ralph Siraco is turf editor for the Las Vegas Sun and host of the Race Day Las Vegas radio show.