The New York Times has caught up with the growing phenomenon of pay-per-head sportsbetting operations. In a detailed and fairly positive profile, the Times described how the mostly Latin American-based sites are dragging the traditional back-of-the-bar bookie kicking and screaming into the digital age. If you aren’t aware of this sector, the bookies establish a relationship with a particular site, then direct their betting customers to that site, creating what the Times referred to as (financial accounting software) Quicken for bookies. The sites charge the bookies a nominal fee per client, from which derives the ‘pay-per-head’ tag.
Among the benefits of such a setup for the punter are the ability to place bets whenever they like, rather than having to track down their bookie at the bar, plus the not insignificant ability to wager on credit (unlike the overwhelming majority of online sportsbooks). And, for the moment, the feds have yet to bring the prosecutorial hammer down on such sites, because the sites don’t handle any money. All financial transactions continue to be handled in person between bookie and bettor.
Customers are assigned a specific ‘settle-up number,’ the sum at which the customer is required to pay up or the bookie is required to pay out. A longtime New York bookie identified only as ‘Thomas’ told the Times the service was “a huge timesaver. I can tweak the lines if I want, I can set minimum and maximum bets for different customers. There are still some older guys who like hearing my voice, but most of my clients just go to the site. They can see it all there.”
It always struck us as odd that PayPerHead.com uses Vincent Curatola as spokesman. Curatola played New York mobster Johnny Sack on The Sopranos. Why on earth wouldn’t they have gone with Joe Pantoliano, who played Ralph Cifaretto on the same program? After all, Ralphie’s severed head actually ended up in a bowling ball bag on the show, which could have opened up some really fun marketing possibilities. Can you imagine a commercial in which a bowler sets down his bag, pulls out Ralphie’s head, at which point the disembodied head would begin its pitch. The pitch could progress as the bowler prepared to make his shot (fingers up Ralphie’s nostrils) and continue as Ralph’s head rolled/wobbled down the lane toward the pins. The pitch sums up as Ralph’s head re-emerges from the return mechanism, then we cue the graphic with the website address, and… Scene. (PayPer-Head peeps: call me.)