A TV betting ‘discovery’ long awaited for in Las Vegas

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In all the years of cable television, and more recently satellite TV, it’s hard to understand why a show like “The Linemakers” never came about until 2011.

We all love to gauge our teams against the spread, yet there’s always kind of been that unwritten taboo regarding the spreads being talked about and mentioned on network television.

Just about every type of sports show has come and gone on air with reality angles brought into the mix, but never previously about one of the most select group of specialists in the country, the Las Vegas odds makers.

In August, Discovery’s Velocity channel (DirecTV Ch. 281) took a chance that viewers would tune in from all over the country to watch a group of six current and former sports book directors talk about a slate of featured weekend games every Friday night at 8 p.m. ET/PT from their unique perspective.

The group of linemakers includes Kenny White, Richie Baccellieri, Vinny Magliulo, Rick Herron, Lou D’Amico and Jimmy Vaccaro – murderers row of the Las Vegas sports books industry over the last 35 years.

If there was a sports book Hall-of-Fame in Las Vegas, these guys would already be enshrined.

So far response from viewers has been overwhelmingly positive. They’ve been given a raw insight to the thought process of how these sophisticated business executives approach games with the ultimate goal of winning money for the casino.

That process is now shared weekly like never before, which can now benefit the player to look at things from the angle of those who have been setting the lines for close to four decades.

Las Vegas sports book directors are celebrities, plain and simple. Local and national TV cameras have routinely come through the sports books to get their opinions on the big games. Newspaper columnists call weekly from all over the country to get an expert’s take on their team’s big game for the week.

The journalists could call players, coaches, touts or anyone else who knows the game, but it’s far more interesting getting an opinion from someone who actually makes a living by being correct with a spread they offer to the betting public.

Keyshawn Johnson might say he likes the Cowboys to win Sunday, but he has no repercussions if he’s wrong. If a Vegas sports book director says he likes the Cowboys to win by 7, it has much more merit because he’s offered his opinion for others to bet against. If he’s wrong, he’s got the casino to answer to.

For almost 20 years “The Linemakers” producer, Nick Rhodes, had been toying with idea of putting the guys who make the odds on a show.

“I’ve always been amazed with how close the number was to the actual score and wondered who these guys were,” said Rhodes who was a founding executive for Prime Ticket, OLN which later became Versus and Speed-TV. “We got the concept down and gathered a few of the guys, shopped it and found a home on Velocity.”

The linemakers themselves are excited about this opportunity to share their knowledge with the public in a weekly forum.

“The initial appeal of the show for me was with the assembled group of colleagues,” said Magliulo, who ran sports books for Caesars Palace and Wynn. “Then there’s the fact that everyone nationally has a true interest in Las Vegas and a show like this would be intriguing to people.”

Intrigue is definitely the word, especially from sheltered areas that rarely discuss point spreads in the media despite large populations that have a major appetite for sports betting. While we may take it for granted here in Las Vegas where sports betting is a major topic regularly discussed on television and in print, other starving major cities don’t get enough of it – especially to the degree of real linemakers collectively discussing games.

The group of linemakers have all been friends through the years while working at competing sports books, but they’ve also developed a great on-air working relationship that gets more visible each week through candor and sarcasm.

Host Brian Blessing reels it all in effortlessly and seams together each of the segments like a seasoned veteran.

The show regularly tapes every Tuesday at the South Point sports book. In addition to discussing the weekend’s games, the linemakers also give an industry report and talk with sports book directors from all over the city like Jay Kornegay, Bert Osborne and Johnny Avello.

The 13th and 14th episodes will air this week. A special episode will air Wednesday night at 8 p.m. (ET/PT) to cover the Thursday and Friday holiday games and then on Friday they’ll have their regular show previewing Saturday and Sunday’s games.

“The Linemakers” is scheduled to run through the Super Bowl with a March Madness special also in the works.


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