Gambling is like any other vice: It thrives on consumer demand. And in Utah, there is plenty of demand.

But are Utah sports junkies getting a fair shake from local bookies? Some frequent gamblers say Utah bookies are "shaving points" by offering less favorable point spreads than offered in Las Vegas."What's fair?" questioned Detective Mike Julian, Salt Lake County sheriff's office. "Gambling is illegal in this state and I know of nothing governing the odds bookies have to offer. It's a free market out there and they (gamblers) can either stop betting or find another bookie."

Regardless of what the odds are, vice detectives say there is no shortage of Utahns willing to take those odds.

"They're crooks," said one Salt Lake gambler, who with several other gamblers claimed to have discovered how bookies are systematically cheating. "They are making the odds so there is no way we can win, and people keep betting and betting."

That same gambler, however, refuses to help vice detectives put a stop to bookmaking. "Even losers are loyal to their bookies," said Julian, who relies on disgruntled losers to infiltrate gambling operations.

Sports gambling in Utah is a thriving business, one in which thousands of Utahns participate every week. If you count those who wager through office and club pools, the number is hundreds of times higher.

One individual who recently contacted Gamblers Anonymous owed more than $4,000 to bookies. "That's not uncommon for compulsive gamblers," said one member of Gamblers Anonymous.

None of the 13 or so individuals involved in Gamblers Anonymous program is exclusively a sports gambler. However, most of them wagered on sporting events as a sidelight to their preferred form of gambling.

"I bet on games for 25 years," said one member, "but never with a bookie. I think it's something we all did for fun."

"Gambling is a disease, and sports gambling is no different," said Julian. "They say they don't like the odds, but it doesn't stop them from placing bets."