“We came here to change the face of the industry,’’ says Amaitis, who’s retained a bit of his native Brooklyn accent.
Cantor Fitzgerald, which lost 658 of its 960 New York employees when terrorists slammed an American Airlines jet into the North Tower of the World Trade Center on Sept. 11, 2001, is known for playing tough. The brokerage’s chief executive officer, Howard Lutnick, battled the widow of founder Bernie Cantor in court for control of the firm in the 1990s. Since then, he has launched a series of lawsuits alleging patent infringement and broker poaching against ICAP and other rivals, which have reciprocated with their own litigation.
Equipped with technology drawn from Wall Street and a trader’s appetite for risk, Cantor is charging into sports betting in Las Vegas. The business — conducted in a section of a casino called a sports book — is characterized by volatile swings in profit and loss, competitors such as the MGM Grand and Caesars Palace and expert gamblers known as wise guys.
“I have friends who run sports books,” says Joe D’Amico, owner of All American Sports, a Las Vegas handicapping service. “I got to tell you, none are without stomach problems.’’
While Wall Street firms are no strangers to Vegas — they have long helped casino developers raise money — Cantor is the first to explicitly set itself up as a gambling operation. With a $150 million investment, the New York-based bond brokerage has taken control of and retooled seven sports books. They are owned by the Venetian and the Palazzo — part of Sheldon Adelson’s Las Vegas Sands — and other casinos.
Cantor has also produced wireless tablets so gamblers can bet anywhere in the casino or hotel. Eventually, it wants to start an online poker casino, too.
To promote its new Android app that allows betting from smartphones and tablets in Nevada, Cantor put cardboard fliers in Las Vegas taxis in February. They feature a curvaceous woman’s derriere with the tag line “Sports Betting on Your Android? You Bet Your App!’’
“The idea that we can bring so much technological innovation to that market is a great opportunity,’’ says Lutnick, 50. “I think it will dramatically add to the size of the market.’’
Cantor’s bookmaking software, a modified version of what Wall Street traders use, has changed the way sports gamblers at the Venetian bet. They walk past cocktail waitresses and low rollers at slot machines to get to the sports book, a 10,000-square-foot room furnished with 118 bright-red betting stations. Cantor installed a 100-foot-wide TV screen that can show 34 sporting events at once.