Thursday, November 25, 1999

Griffey, Coslet make odds couple on the 'Net




BY TIM SULLIVAN
The Cincinnati Enquirer

        The Ken Griffey Jr. sweepstakes have lasted long enough for the odds to shift. The serious money has move from the Atlanta Braves to the New York Mets. The Reds remain a relative longshot.

        “We've had more individual bets on Cincinnati,” said Internet oddsmaker Dutch Djykstra. “But they just don't bet as much money. A lot of the smaller bets are sentimental in nature.”

        You can't walk into a sports book in Nevada and find a line on Griffey's next employer — the ability of individuals to influence the outcome makes it forbidden — but virtually anything is available in cyberspace. If you have at least $6 to spend on speculation — and are resigned to being ineligible for the Baseball Hall of Fame — you can get 6-1 odds on the Reds landing Junior in time for the 2000 season through www.intertops.com.

        The actual probabilities, it says here, are slightly more promising than that. Both the Mets (5-2) and the Braves (7-2) are believed to be more infatuated with Griffey's Seattle teammate, shortstop Alex Rodriguez. Griffey has vowed he will never play for the New York Yankees (4-1). And despite his objections to the Mariners' asking price, Reds General Manager Jim Bowden is still the only baseball executive who salivates at the sight of Seattle's center fielder. (I figure the Reds about 3-1, with Junior staying in Seattle at 2-1).

        “We basically looked at the richest and deepest teams and broke down how much each team could afford,” said Vincent Arrise, who researched Djykstra's line for Intertops. “The idea of the line is to divide what we see as public opinion.”

Trying to pull the plug
        The idea of this line is to generate publicity, attract more eyeballs to the Intertops web site and siphon some market share in the burgeoning Internet gambling industry. In cybergambling, it's always important to stay ahead of the curve and/or the law.

        Efforts to curb online casinos led the U.S. Senate to pass an Internet Gambling Prohibition act last week. Bill sponsor Jon Kyl (R-Arizona) estimates more than a billion dollars will be bet over the Internet this year, and says such activity is “addictive, accessible to minors, subject to fraud and other criminal use, evasive of state gambling laws and already illegal at the federal level in many cases.”

        Kyl's bill would extend the 1961 Wire Act's prohibitions on interstate sports gambling conducted by phone and wire to include newer technologies. Whether that would curtail offshore operations such as Intertops, however, is unclear.

Going global
        Established in 1982 in Salzburg, Austria — where the hills are alive with the sound of money — the Intertops online casino has since relocated to Antigua for tax and regulatory reasons. Executive director Simon Noble says the business boasts more than 400,000 customers worldwide, and will soon add Spanish, Mandarin and Cantonese translations of odds currently posted in English and German.

        “Obviously, the NFL is first (in terms of volume),” Noble said. “Then it's the NBA and European soccer. We've got quite a lot of Japanese customers betting on soccer and the NBA.”

        “Proposition” bets — such as the Griffey line — are aimed primarily at North American plungers. Earlier this fall, Intertops established Bengals coach Bruce Coslet a 5-2 favorite to be the first NFL coach to lose his job. By midseason, Coslet had moved to 2-1.

        “We've taken that line down,” Djykstra said. “We don't fancy Bruce Coslet's chances at the moment.”

        Because of the potential for insider wagering, Intertops generally limits the size of proposition bets. The maximum Griffey bet is set at $110. The largest bet allowed on the first-coach-fired proposition was $275. These limits sometimes are exceeded for favored customers, but Carl Lindner is not going to be able to put down $3 million on Griffey in an effort to justify his salary.

        “Because we limit the amount per customer, there's not much chance of people in the know making a killing on it,” Noble said. “I think they've got better things to do.”

        Columnist Tim Sullivan welcomes your email at tsullivan@enquirer.com.

        SULLIVAN ARCHIVE