Veteran still can pick NFL winners

When the coronavirus’ impact was felt throughout the country and casinos and retail sportsbooks were forced to temporarily shut down, Nick Bogdanovich didn’t panic.

Bogdanovich, the director of trading for William Hill U.S., got creative. He and his team already had a mobile app in place and their task was to find inventory for their clients.

They scoured the world, conferred with their counterparts in the U.K. and quickly pivoted from basketball, hockey and baseball to table tennis in Russia, soccer in Turkey and professional darts.

“It’s been the weirdest year,” Bogdanovich said of 2020, which was probably the understatement of the 21st Century. “We had to do something to keep our customers engaged. No one knew anything about Russian ping pong so we did our research, talked to our people in the U.K. and we went to work.”

It turned out to be a hit. William Hill got a ton of coverage in the sports betting world and even the mainstream media picked up on it. While it wasn’t Bogdanovich’s comfort zone, he and his staff got through it and when mainstream American sports such as golf and NASCAR returned, it gave William Hill’s customers inventory they were more familiar with.

By late July, baseball, hockey and basketball were returning to play and when the NFL kicked off in September, things were back to normal, or as normal as one could expect in 2020.

“It was hard,” Bogdanovich said of muddling through the choppy waters. “We were down to 22 employees at one point and the ones who hadn’t been furloughed came to work every day.”

Bogdanovich himself may have contracted COVID-19 even before people knew what it was.

“I wasn’t feeling too good in February,” he said. “I had a lot of the symptoms so maybe I had it. My brother and sister did have it and so did most of the staff here.”

Bogdanovich also did something in 2020 he hadn’t done in years — he represented his company in Gaming Today’s Bookies Battle contest sponsored by Station Casinos.

“I think it was 25 years the last time I was in the contest,” said Bogdanovich, a veteran Las Vegas oddsmaker and sportsbook manager who worked at Binion’s Horseshoe, Mandalay Bay, the Stratosphere and the Golden Nugget. “Joe (Asher, William Hill U.S. CEO) asked me to do it so I did.”

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And he did well. Bogdanovich had the lead for several weeks, trading punches with BetMGM’s duo of Randy Madayag and Mike Piranio. He didn’t have an elaborate plan of attack. Instead, he’d meet with Ryan Oakes of WH’s Vegas staff and Oakes would read him the lines and Bogdanovich would give him his selections.

“I just winged it and away we’d go,” Bogdanovich. “In a contest like this, you’re really flying blind because you’re giving your picks on Tuesday and things always change between then and Sunday or Monday. Especially this year with COVID.”

Still Bogdanovich finished 135-117 against the contest’s point spread, which is 54%. He is one of the 10 participants in the Bookies Playoff contest which will award $500 to the winner.

“It’s a fun thing,” Bogdanovich said of participating in Bookies Battle. “You always want to win but I’m proud of how well I’ve done.”

A bigger source of pride for Bogdanovich was how his staff rallied in the dark days of March, April and May to keep the business going and actually saw their customer base grow.

“It was pretty hairy at first,” he said. “We knew for three months it was all about keeping the customers engaged. The hardest part a explaining to the customer what the rules were for betting ping pong and darts. We had to come up with a whole new set of house rules.

“But we got through it and with the NFL playoffs, the NBA and college basketball under way and hockey starting up soon, we’re feeling like we’re getting back to normal.”

Or as normal as one can feel in the midst of a pandemic.