introduced me to the world of "betting groups" and "point
scalping." And to the role of Las Vegas in pro football betting.
There are betting
outfits or groups around the country who pool their resources and bet large
sums, up to $25,000 a game in a few cases (but, The Mover emphasized, nowhere
near the bets of $50,000 and up that were fairly common 15 and more years ago).
The groups usually are assembled by a handicapper who works on a percentage or
for a salary or both. The handicapper may be an expert in a particular sport
rather than in all of them. He is in effect a private tout. He has contacts in
the inside-information network of handicappers. The biggest groups have men
working for them in Las Vegas, placing bets for them, reporting on changes in
(A lawyer I know
in the South recently told me that a client of his, a mother of two children,
was a "bag woman" for a betting group. He said she flew regularly to
Las Vegas to pick up and deliver money.)
The Mover said
the line used to originate in Minneapolis, that the biggest layoff office in
the country was in Cincinnati, that there were major offices in Miami, New
Orleans, Chicago, New York, Boston, Detroit, Los Angeles. The laws banning
interstate traffic in gambling information have wiped out most of the major
offices. As a result Las Vegas has become the center, the New York Stock
Exchange, for what remains of interstate betting. The official line now
originates in Las Vegas.
The Mover said he
does not deal interstate as much as he once did, but he still "moves
money" for groups in the Midwest, upstate New York and New England. (All
interstate calls are initiated on public telephones; most of his are incoming.)
He said that in many cities it is difficult to get a big bet down, especially
as game time approaches, so groups funnel money through him to big offices in
New York. When there is a consensus of opinion or a hot handicapper, he adds
his own money to the bet. He spoke contemptuously of young hustlers—obviously
raised by permissive parents—who won't put in the phone time necessary to
coordinate such an effort. They have it too easy, he said.
provides his service in return for money-backed handicapping—an opinion isn't
worth beans, he said, unless it's backed by money—and for the opportunity to
is another sophisticated money-manipulation technique to skim a piece of the
action. A handicapper in Buffalo calls The Mover and says he'd like to get down
for $8,000 on the Redskins, giving no more than four points to the Jets. The
Mover, being in constant touch with bookmakers, knows that there is 2� and
three available. He tells the man in Buffalo that he has a bet, and he himself
bets as much as he can at 2� and the rest at three. Should the Redskins win by
three or four, The Mover wins a free bet. During the course of a football and
basketball season The Mover may make a thousand bets, and he is bound to cash
in some of those free bets. (The handicapper may be doing the same thing on the
other end, telling his clients that he has made a bet at a half or full point
more, or less, than he actually has, giving himself a free bet.)
The Mover said he
does not work on a percentage, as some such money men are said to. He said the
bulk of his income is from accumulated betting.
I asked him how
he was doing this season. "You can quote me on this," he said.
"Terrible. Guys in Vegas have gone to the vault 14 times. We're breaking
even in the pros and getting murdered in the colleges."
The Mover said
that on Mondays he can bet into what is known as the outlaw or early line, into
which a few select bettors are allowed to bet limited amounts. The resultant
fluctuations determine what Tuesday's official line will be. But he prefers to
wait until the end of the week, when all the information and opinions are
digested by the handicappers he relies on. He said that he himself knew nothing
about sports. He said he made money on horse racing, college basketball,
college football and pro football in that order. He does not bet baseball.