All’s bright with Sunset Station’s Chuck Esposito

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You’ve heard of the middle-age crisis, right?

For Chuck Esposito, it was more like a mid-career curse.

Esposito had worked in the sports book industry a quarter of a century, including eight years as assistant vice president of race and sports at Caesars Palace, when he decided to join a team in 2008 that would open a mega-resort called Fontainebleau on the Las Vegas Strip.

“To build a race and sports book from the ground up was an intriguing opportunity,” said Esposito, who has advanced to the playoffs in Gaming Today’s Bookies Battle contest. “It was going to be state of the art, cutting edge.”

One problem: It never opened. The project went bankrupt during the Great Recession.

After spending eight months with Fontainebleau, Esposito moved on to the Tropicana, which was planning to open a sports book of its own. One more problem: Ownership canned the idea of an independent book and decided instead to enter a partnership with Cantor Gaming (now CG Technology), which significantly changed the role of management in the sports book.

Esposito then went to the ­Venetian. Yet another problem: The Venetian ended up going in the same direction as the Trop and also partnered with Cantor.

Three strikes and you’re out? Not for Esposito.

He turned back to his mentor, Art Manteris, the vice president of race and sports for Station Casinos, and the curse was over.

Esposito, 56, has been the race and sports director at Sunset Station since 2011. He’s also the assistant hub director for Station Casinos. The roller-coaster career path certainly led to some personal second-guessing after his decision to leave Caesars for Fontainebleau.

“You always do when stuff like that happens,” Esposito said. “It was a learning experience.”

Manteris was the one who had hired Esposito at the age of 21 to be a part-time ticket writer at Caesars back in 1983. Esposito then followed Manteris over to the Las Vegas Hilton (now the Westgate) a few years later to open the famous SuperBook.

“Career-wise I wouldn’t be where I am today without him,” Esposito said. “He saw something in me and that helped drive me.”

Esposito was born in Chicago and his family moved to Las Vegas when he was 11 years old. He played baseball and football as a kid, but his athletic days didn’t last long because, as he put it, “At 5-foot-7 on a good day, it was jockey or bust.”

Despite being more than 40 years removed from Chicago, he remains an avid fan of his hometown teams.

“Although I root for whoever we (Station’s sports books) need at kickoff, tipoff, first pitch, my heart’s still with Chicago,” Esposito said.

He was taking broadcast and hotel management classes at UNLV and the College of Southern Nevada when the ticket-writer opportunity emerged. Esposito was hooked. His first two jobs in the business were with unquestionably the elite sports books of that generation. He was the first phone writer at the SuperBook and worked his way up to director of race and sports before leaving to be in charge at Caesars.

He once told Manteris that he wanted to sit in his seat one day, which Esposito actually did when he took over his mentor’s former office at Caesars.

Esposito was in his late 20s, early 30s when he appeared on Proline, a national cable TV show, to read the weekly NFL point spreads. He’s gone on to become a mouthpiece for the sports book business and does numerous weekly radio spots, plus even more during major sporting events.

“My friends from high school and college say, ‘You have the perfect job for you,’” Esposito said. “I think I do. I love being able to talk about our industry. I appreciate that I’ve been able to be part of it for my entire career.”

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