Sportsbooks don’t produce the hold percentages of slot machines and other games throughout a casino, but what they unquestionably do is add life to the place.
Fans and bettors who are celebrating every touchdown pass or agonizing over every missed jump shot help create a buzz that brings energy to the overall atmosphere.
Just ask the Cosmopolitan of Las Vegas.
Brian Benowitz, the senior vice president of casino operations, and his boss, CEO Bill McBeath, wanted to liven up the atmosphere so they moved the race and sportsbook from the second level to the main casino floor, just steps from the Las Vegas Boulevard sidewalk.
Benowitz believes people who previously might have kept on walking are now stopping to take in the new and improved environment.
“We love that it’s steps off the Strip,” he said.
Not only is it located perfectly, next to the Chandelier Lounge and giant red shoe, but the sportsbook instantly became one of the best in Vegas. It’s not as large as the Westgate SuperBook, but the LED video walls are just as impressive.
The boards feature sports on one side, races on the other. A bar that never closes is situated in-between, along with nearby billiards, foosball and shuffleboard tables. The leather chairs and couches make it an ideal upscale man cave.
“It’s been a great addition, something sorely needed for our casino,” Benowitz said.
Benowitz joined McBeath’s team five months ago after 24 years with the Mirage Resorts chain.
“When I got here, I felt the energy was lacking,” he said of the Cosmo’s street-level casino.
Slot machines previously occupied the area where the race and sportsbook now stands.
“We couldn’t draw up a lot of energy,” Benowitz said. “We couldn’t draw up a lot of play in there. It was an underperforming area for us. We feel the 23 (video poker) games at the bar will do better than the 100-plus slot machines that we had over there.”
The old sportsbook was tucked away upstairs on the level that features shops and restaurants.
“It really didn’t create any energy or really any kind of excitement for us,” Benowitz said of the old book. “Our guests would come in, (place their bets) and pretty much leave because there really was no reason to hang out there.”
The changes were an automatic win-win for the Cosmo.
“We’ve given this environment where we had really a dead slot area tremendous excitement,” Benowitz said.
The sportsbook, which is operated by CG Technology but without the familiar red furniture, opened the Wednesday before the Super Bowl and is now preparing for its first March Madness.
“We’re really, really thrilled with the way it’s going,” Benowitz said.
A plan is also in place to refurnish the first floor of the three-story landmark Chandelier lounge, which has become somewhat outdated since opening in 2010.
Other changes to the casino level include trying to enhance the experience for Cosmo’s high-limit players. Those areas have been expanded, updated with more and newer games, and continue to be renovated to create the best atmosphere possible for the highest rollers.
The Cosmopolitan likes to consider itself a “hip and cool place” for the high-end crowd, but Benowitz admits that wasn’t necessarily the case.
“I think we were lacking that in the casino area,” he said. “What we really want to do is make sure people know we’re a luxury destination. The casino maybe didn’t have that feel prior. We want to make sure our luxury guests are comfortable playing in our casino.”
Despite the many new looks, one thing will remain the same. That big red shoe isn’t going anywhere because the tourists love it way too much.
Benowitz estimates “at least 10 people an hour” stop to have their photo taken inside it.
“There’s so many people that take pictures in there, we have to furbish the inside and outside of it quite often,” he said. “People are stunned when it’s not there.”
They also might be stunned, or at least pleasantly surprised, by some other things they see going on around the shoe these days.
It is proof that a quality sportsbook really can make a difference.
Dave Dye is a former sportswriter for the Detroit News and FoxSportsDetroit.com. He has covered six Stanley Cup Finals, five Final Fours, three NBA Finals, three Rose Bowls and one World Series. Email: [email protected].