Bookmaker Spotlight: Bally Bet’s Jay Rood Discusses Sports Betting Industry’s Transition to Digital

Jay Rood is an old-school bookmaker who personifies the sports betting industry’s shift from the casino environment into the digital space.

Starting his career in the early 1990s as a ticket writer, Rood ascended the ranks to become sportsbook director at MGM Resorts in Las Vegas in 1998. A few months after leaving MGM in May 2019, he landed at Bet.Works, the sports betting platform acquired by Bally’s in 2021. Rood is now Senior VP of Risk & Trading at Bally’s Interactive.

Bally Bet is live in six states – New York, Arizona, Colorado, Iowa, Indiana, and Virginia – with an Ohio launch and an Illinois license pending.

Rood looms in seventh place in Bookies Battle 2022, and when asked if we’ll chat again soon, he quips, “We’ll talk again because I’m going to win Bookies Battle,” also noting he has some friendly side action in the contest with some of his former MGM colleagues.

MGM Mirage, Las Vegas, March 2019
2019 March Madness at the Mirage in Las Vegas, the last NCAA Tournament Jay Rood booked at the property (photo by Marcus DiNitto)

We caught up this week over the phone with Jay, who discussed where traditional sportsbooks are lagging but why they will remain an important part of the industry, what it’s like to be a small fish in this big pond, and women being key to sports betting’s growth.

Gaming Today: I’m curious about the transition. You came from an old-school Las Vegas book, now you’re in a world that’s more digital. What have been the challenges and surprises, and how has that transition gone for you?

Rood: That is one of the bigger challenges for kind of a dinosaur. I’m used to doing face-to-face transactions and understanding the players. You see body language and stuff like that. Here, where everything is virtual and digital, it’s a little different.

You’re reliant on technology for control, and in years past, your crew was your control — the frontline supervisors — and we knew who the sharps were, we knew who our high-end VIP casino customers were, and you handled business accordingly.

Here, you’ve got a multi-front attack that you’re having to adjust to. We keep saying our thought process leads us down this one path, and we stop and go, ‘Are we just dinosaurs here? Do we need to keep adjusting our way of thinking here?’ We end up finding maybe we need to progress our thinking rather than try and make the customer do what we want to do. It’s a little bit of a learning curve for sure.

Gaming Today: What about the sheer number of markets that are offered on the app versus at brick and mortar?

Rood: We’ve kind of been amazed that Vegas hasn’t caught up to what the rest of the country’s doing. If you look at most of the Vegas offerings, it’s still kind of locked in 2015. There’s not nearly enough player props. … A lot of the operators in Vegas and a lot of the operators across the country just aren’t adopting that. … Customers just don’t want to bet pregame side and total and first half and maybe first team to score. They want a lot more than that

Gaming Today: All that said, do you think the retail environment is still an important piece of this industry?

Rood: Absolutely. I think it’s a critical piece because it’s the way Americans gamble. I’ve said that for years, ever since PASPA getting repealed was starting to get talked about, and you knew that the British invasion was gonna come. …

The American gambler is a destination gambler, whereas in Europe, they don’t go to these high-concentrated resorts to gamble for five, six, seven days at a time. It’s more a fabric of their lifestyle. They make a small bet here and there, and day in and day out, whereas the American gambler will show up with a satchel full of cash at the Mirage or Caesars Palace, and he’s there to gamble all week, and it’s high-intensity gambling.

I think that experience won’t go away because it’s the camaraderie, it’s the excitement. You can’t get that juice anywhere else. You can’t get that juice digitally sitting on your couch. It’s just something people feed on, and they love that.

Football Season at the Sportsbook

Gaming Today: How’s football season so far this year? How’s handle?

Rood: Handle’s good. Obviously, we’re one of the smaller fish in the pond right now, but we’re trying to get as big as we can. But handle’s been really good. We’re in New York, and handle continues to double month after month for us in New York. We went live there in July during the soft summer period and are really looking forward to the next two, three months. World Cup should be fantastic in New York.

And we’re looking forward to getting into Canada in the near future, before the end of the year.

We have quite a bit of sharp money on the app right now. So that’s what makes it a little more difficult, because the sharp money tends to be on the side that has been probably more beneficial this year than the public side.

Gaming Today: What do your Super Bowl futures look like? Any liability? What teams represent losers?

Rood: Our biggest liability is when we kind of got caught with our pants down when Tom Brady came back. We’re a loser to the Bucs. We had a few guys hit it before we got the info, but we caught it pretty quick and sort of dried up that channel and have been trying to juice up some of the other teams. So we’re cutting into that liability. They’re by far our worse scenario.

Gaming Today: Do you have a Super Bowl prediction?

Rood: It’s really, really early. I feel sorry for the young man, Trey Lance, that hurt his ankle, but I think the switch back to Garoppolo makes the Niners a dangerous team again. They could be in the mix.

Depending how the wide receiver situation progresses with the Buccaneers, I gotta think Brady’s gonna be down there in the mix.

If I was gonna make a prediction, it’s Bills and maybe a longshot like the Eagles. Bills against the Eagles or Bills against the Bucs.

Women in Sports Betting

Gaming Today: There’s been data that suggests there’s a lot of growth among women becoming sports bettors. They’re signing up for betting accounts at a faster rate than men. Are you noticing that trend?

Rood: We’re seeing quite a few female names on the screen, and I think it’s all legit, right? It’s not like husbands signing up two separate accounts, you know? Because a lot of times we look into that. We wanna make sure that our limits aren’t getting circumvented because two people are getting two accounts in the same household. There’s quite a bit of female participation in sports betting right now.

Gaming Today: How about handle on women’s sports? The women’s basketball final with South Carolina and UConn set records. No handle records really should surprise anybody now just because of how many states are legal, but are you seeing growth there?

Rood: We are. And we’re pushing it, too, as much as we can. We’re putting up the LPGA, WNBA is probably the brightest light of women’s (sports), (along with) NCAA women’s (basketball). MMA women’s fights draw really significant handle. We do almost equal money to women’s fights as we do men’s fights at this point.

There are very sharp-driven types of markets, too. The sharps are very involved in the WNBA.

Career Influences

Gaming Today: As a sports betting Hall of Famer, who would you say has been the most influential person in your career?

Rood: Probably Robert Walker (now with USBookmaking). He and I got along fantastically when we worked together (at MGM Mirage). I drew a lot of good info off of him. … Robert taught me the asset management side of things, to be a little bit more careful with the sharp play. I probably used the sharps a little bit more than Robert did in the past. He had a little bit more of an adversarial relationship with them than I have over the years.

Gene Kivi, who brought me into this business, was at MGM Grand for many years and then went to Mandalay Bay. I learned a lot from him, too. Learned a lot of gamble through him. He was a bit more of an old-school gambler.

Even (some) guys I didn’t have the opportunity to work with have had great influence. I have the utmost respect for Vic Salerno (a fellow 2020 Hall of Fame inductee, who is now President at US Bookmaking). He’s carried himself well. He’s been a great ambassador for sports betting here over the years in Nevada.

Also, another great casino operator here in town, Bill McBeath. He was my first direct-report boss when I got promoted to the top position at MGM. He taught me a lot as well about don’t sweat the small stuff. There’s gonna be weeks where you get beat up. … He’d give me a ring on Monday morning (after) a poor weekend when the public won and (the casino) did great in the table games, because everyone cashed their tickets at the sportsbook and then went to the table games.

Advice to Sports Bettors

Gaming Today: What advice would you offer to people new to sports betting?

Rood: Bankroll management is the biggest. If you’re doing it more than recreationally, and you’re trying to make money, that’s the key. It depends on what sports betting is to you. If it’s a guys’ weekend in Vegas for a bachelor party and you don’t normally do it at home, you bet to whatever your budget is and you have a good time and you can spread it out.

Keep it simple: Bet straight bets (rather than parlays). Maybe take a small percentage of your bankroll on a big score.

Bet teams that you’re familiar with. If you live in Southern California, betting the Atlantic 10 is probably not in your wheelhouse. If you’re a Pac-12 person, you probably have a better chance at being successful betting teams in the Pac-12 than the Atlantic 10.

If you’re a big fantasy guy, maybe you focus on player props and not worry about what the game is. There are so many wagering opportunities now, you don’t have to stick to point spread, total, or moneyline.

And if you can’t figure something out, maybe that’s a game that you don’t bet. You don’t need to bet every single game. Bet the games that come to you. You don’t need a bet on the game just because it’s on Monday night. That’s the worst thing somebody can do.

Also read: BetMGM’s Jason Scott in the Bookmaker Spotlight

About the Author
Marcus DiNitto

Marcus DiNitto

Managing Editor, News
Marcus DiNitto was news managing editor of Gaming Today. In past roles, he has been managing editor at national sports websites SportsBusiness Daily, Sporting News, and The Linemakers, as well as with licensed sportsbook operator USA Sports Gaming. Marcus graduated from the University of Wisconsin-Madison, earned his MBA from the University of North Carolina-Charlotte, and studied sports and entertainment marketing at New York University.

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