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Sunday, February 7, 2010

Turning gamblers into traders

LAS VEGAS—Investors are sometimes accused of treating the stock market like a casino. Now, one Wall Street firm wants to treat casinos like the stock market.

Bond-trading specialist Cantor Fitzgerald in March took over the management of sports betting at the M Resort, a new 390-room hotel and casino on the Strip's southern edge.

"We wanted to turn gamblers into traders," says Lee Amaitis, the 60-year-old Cantor executive who runs the gambling division, Cantor Gaming.

To do that, the company has transformed Las Vegas sports betting into something it thinks is akin to derivatives trading. By using financial-markets technology, Cantor allows bettors to wager not only on who might win the game or by how much, but also on whether a team can complete its next pass or make a field goal.

While such betting is common in Europe, and has been tried before in Las Vegas, Cantor says it is currently the only company in the U.S. to allow bets while the game is underway. Vegas veterans say Cantor is the first Wall Street trading firm they can remember running a gambling operation here.

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