Bankers are getting out of the casino game, but not in the way you might think

Peter Spence
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Deutsche Bank could be looking to dispose some gambling property, according to reports.

But we're not referring to typical "casino banking" here. Instead, Deutsche is preparing for the sale of some more traditional gambling properties.

We're talking about the Cosmopolitan Las Vegas Resort - an establishment famously marketed as doing "just the right amount of wrong".

Sources with knowledge of the matter have told Bloomberg that Deutsche is in talks with potential buyers, in an attempt to ditch a six year, loss making asset.

The bank is looking for more than $2bn for the resort, with at least four possible bidders interested in the sale, according to one of Bloomberg's sources, while two others suggest it might be worth something more like $1.5bn.

The term "casino banking" as it stands is often thrown around to refer to almost any kind of trading. But to compare investing generally to taking a gamble is pretty misleading: While there are obviously risks involved, traders aren't simply playing roulette.

And investing has a lot of socially useful effects. It allows those who want to save to diversify, protecting them against downturns in any one asset class, and allows companies to raise equity. Business secretary Vince Cable has been keen for more small and medium size businesses to get involved - urging firms to explore non-bank lending options.

Recently, allegations that bankers are involved in activities akin to gambling have been advanced primarily at proprietary trades - where an institution trades with the firm's own money, rather than that of depositors. Deutsche Bank itself cut back on so-called prop traders in advance of the introduction of the US Volcker rule. That regulation puts limits on short-term prop trading of securities.

Those restrictions have come under attack for being devilishly difficult to navigate, with JP Morgan's Jamie Dimon quipping that traders will now need a lawyer and a psychiatrist sitting with them to work out their intent. Writing in City AM, Hester Peirce of George Mason University's Mercatus Center, argues that "good intentions morphed into 11 pages of statutory text and a proposed rule that included hundreds of questions."

"Even banks intent on staying on the right side of the line could easily get tripped up by its detailed compliance mandates," says Peirce. Instead of placing strict limits on certain types of trading, paring back deposit insurance to remove cover for large institutions should encourage banks to act safely.