Venerable Oddsmaking Firm, LVSC, Steers New Course Under Ken White
By Jeremy Martin
The relentless struggle for supremacy between bettors and bookmakers just took a turn for the worse if you're a player, but brightened considerably for those on the other side of the counter.
The U.S. sports betting industry's leading odds making firm, Las Vegas Sports Consultants, is once again at the top of its game, after its dominance had diminished in recent years following the retirement of its originator, Roxy Roxborough, and his sale of the company.
One of the sports betting community's most respected and well-regarded individuals, Ken White, has put together a consortium, which acquired LVSC with the promise of restoring the firm to its original prominence.
White is a key member of the ownership group that purchased LVSC in late November. This corporation has a hand in just about every posted point spread, not only in Nevada, but also overseas and in Mexico.
The new owner and Chief Operating Officer, who previously ran a much smaller competitor - Nevada Sports Executives - for 15 years, is generally acknowledged as one of the brightest minds in the sports betting industry. His clients at NSE included top Las Vegas sports books such as the Stardust, Binion's Horseshoe and the Mirage. He has experience behind the counter, having held oddsmaking positions at the Santa Anita Race and Sports Book and the Fremont Hotel and Casino. He also handicapped professionally for seven years for VegasInsider.com and was a regular top finisher in the most prominent handicapping contests in Las Vegas.
No stranger to a workaholic-like regimen, White spends countless hours assigning numerical rankings to players from all sports and compiling power rankings for teams in order to come up with the best numbers for his clients. Crunching numbers is his passion.
To sports book managers who have to contend with low margins and increased pressure from management to show a profit for the casinos, a rejuvenated LVSC is seen as their savior. White's emergence as the firm's new leader fills the void that was previously the role of the well-known Roxborough. Savvy bettors who have a history of beating the house know this is not a desirable development for them.
"Man there are a lot of lines that are covering right at the half point of the closing line," stated Hardwaymoney, a poster at The Prescription's popular online sports betting forum. "You can thank Kenny White for that," replied poster vegasrob.
LVSC has been without a leader since 2001, when the firm was sold to SportsLine.com. The loss of Roxy's media presence and management skills created a void in the industry in general and at LVSC in particular that has been difficult to fill. He was the first one called by the press in his capacity as unofficial industry spokesman. He ran the consulting service in a fashion that commanded respect from everyone from sports book management to the bettors themselves.
Without Roxy, however, the firm seemed to be treading water. White cites an "absentee owner" and an overworked staff as reasons the company was entrenched in the status quo for so long during its SportsLine.com years. A small budget, which he says is no longer a problem, was also a big concern for the staff. White's presence has freed up other employees at LVSC to concentrate more on tracking players and teams. With White securely at the helm, hands-on management is the order of the day.
"I am always going to be hands on with the company," explained White. "I'll be the one that's going to go out and talk to clients, make sure they are getting everything they need, get their feedback and find out when something is wrong so we can get it fixed."
White also has a bold vision for the future of the company that presently has approximately 60 clients in Nevada and several more overseas. His No. 1 goal in setting the direction of the firm is to ensure that the LVSC numbers "stay as good as they were before and if not make them better." He also hopes to smoothly integrate improving technology into the business, including the LVSC Web site and the Sports Signal Gold odds screen. His most important task may be assuming Roxy's polished and productive lobbying efforts aimed at rebuilding some of the bridges that have been broken between the industry and entities like the government, the professional sports leagues and the National Collegiate Athletics Association. These relationships, he says, are crucial to the future of sports betting in America.
"If I have to go to Washington D.C. to fight for sports betting, I will be the first guy there," said White. "Anything I can do to help sports betting out in the whole country, I'm going to do it. I think it's something that should always be here. It's been here for a long time and it's hard to believe it will be going away."
White's immediate plans, however, revolve around improving service for his clients. In the near future he might consider releasing two lines to his subscribing sports books. Currently, LVSC submits an oddsmaking line to their clientele. This is the "true number" of where the consulting firm sees a particular game falling. White is debating whether to expand that service to include a bookmaking line that reflects the best number a sports book can set their line at in order to get two-way action or have a vested interest on the "right side" of a game. The bookmaking line should be similar to the closing line at most sports books.
"I am very confident in my numbers and where the numbers are going to go but we would like to have something on paper so that we can show [sports books] 'here's the proof,'" he said. "It's easy to go out and say that your numbers are the best or the line moved to your number 70 percent of the time. But I would rather have the proof.
"One good thing is that I know exactly what they want. I think I know what they need and I know that they need the information and they don't want to be left in the dark. [The sports books] love to know which way the professionals are going to bet the game and which way the public may bet the game."
LVSC has already started to utilize new technology that wasn't previously used by the firm, said White. He has implemented a computer program that comes up with two lines for each sport for five consecutive days. LVSC is already using this program to assist with their hockey lines and they plan on expanding its use to other sports in the future. Soon, the program will calculate lines for the entire year to help books post futures lines.
White now has the advantage of having a large, knowledgeable staff, which is something he never had at NSE. At his former firm, he often did most of the work by himself with occasional help from his father Peter, a long time professional sports bettor who was his mentor in the industry. White retained nearly all of the former staff at LVSC, except for one key oddsmaker who left on his own accord. He believes the dedication and intelligence of his staff - including odds director Tony Sinisi and top assistant Mike Seba - will help his new firm achieve its goals.
When White heard that LVSC was being put up for sale in early 2003, he was immediately interested. He put together an investment group that included Ellen and David Whittemore, brother and sister attorneys in Las Vegas, and Ellen's husband Jeff Patterson, another lawyer. The group put in the highest bid and took over ownership on Nov. 25.
The owner already had a Nevada Gaming License from NSE, and he says his gaming permit and the one held by LVSC were both extended to the new ownership group. In order to ward off future complications, White has pushed for the license to be investigated by the Nevada Gaming Control Board, which will likely occur in February. "We wanted to make sure we went the full route," said White. Once that process takes place, all members of the ownership group will be fully licensed.
One sticking point for the Gaming Control Board may be LVSC's small stable of offshore sports book clients.
"We have a couple of offshore sports book [customers] right now and that's one thing we will be discussing with the Gaming Control Board," commented White. "We do know that they understand that we need to know what is going on down there. We need to know the line and the movements and the casinos here in Las Vegas need to know it. So it's kind of a double-edged sword. We need to have their information so we kind of have to do business with them - to get that information. If we keep it to a minimum I think we are okay. Right now they haven't asked us to drop any of our clients so we are going to run business as usual. If they tell us we have to drop somebody then we have to drop somebody."
Regardless of the red tape, LVSC clients are no doubt happy to have someone with White's reputation in a leadership role. It's the bettors, however, that are going to have to adjust to the new era, and find fresh ways of trying to beat the house.