Big move across street

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Having spent most of his life in Las Vegas, Edgar Hernandez was familiar with casinos and sportsbooks. He just never envisioned himself working in one.

The 30-year-old had been working in what he described as a “dead-end job” at a rental car counter at McCarran International Airport when he decided it was time for a career change. His mom was working at the Excalibur and he decided to apply for work there and join her.

That was in 2016. Today, he oversees the BetMGM sportsbook at Park MGM.

“I was always around casinos but I wasn’t into sports,” Hernandez said. “But I found the sportsbook business fascinating. There was so much excitement. And now, it’s my life.”

Hernandez was working at Excalibur, first as a part-time ticket writer, then a full-time writer, then a supervisor. A few weeks ago, he moved over to Park MGM, which was recently in the news when it reopened as the Las Vegas Strip’s only non-smoking hotel and casino.

“It’s a great property,” Hernandez said of Park MGM, which sits across the street from T-Mobile Arena. “We have a nice sportsbook and I try to make sure our customers are having a great experience.”

As part of the BetMGM network, Hernandez doesn’t have to worry about adjusting the betting lies. that’s done for him in New Jersey by Jason Scott and his staff. Still, he has to know his clientele and keep track of things on his side of the counter.

“It’s a lot of responsibility,” he said. “I need to make sure our guests are informed and it’s important to know what’s being bet.”

One big difference Hernandez has noticed in his new location from his previous one is Park MGM doesn’t have a race book.

“We had horse racing at Excalibur and that side was always busy,” he said. “That’s probably the biggest difference for me”

Hernandez is still the Excalibur’s representative in Gaming Today’s 2020 Bookies Battle contest sponsored by Station Casinos. He has done remarkably well over the first half of the NFL season and was sitting in fifth place overall heading into Week 9. But despite a 5-9 stumble, Hernandez is sporting an impressive 72-58 overall record.

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“I was in the contest last year but I didn’t do too well,” he said. “But it’s a lot of fun and honestly, I think my success so far is sheer luck. With (COVID-19), you have guys out, facilities getting shut down. You never know who’s playing.You turn your picks in on Tuesday and by Friday, everything can change. So it’s a little tricky.”

Still, Hernandez has thrived. He tries to analyze the results from the prior week, gather as much information in a short amount of time, look for teams that are going well and stick with them while avoiding teams that are struggling.

His one exception? The Philadelphia Eagles. His picks always include the Birds. But how does a kid from Vegas become an eagles fan?

“Kobe,” Hernandez said, referencing the late Kobe Bryant. “He’s my favorite basketball player. He’s from Philly and the Eagles were his team, so I adopted the Eagles as mine.”

Hernandez still can’t believe Bryant is no longer alive. Bryant, his daughter and three others died in a helicopter crash on Jan. 26.

“It’s still tough,” he said of his hero being gone. “But I just try to reminisce and remember all the good things.”

He kept a positive attitude when the Excalibur and all the casinos in Nevada were shut down on March 17 as the coronavirus spread and became an international pandemic.

“It was hard, but I handled it like everybody else,” he said. “I spent more time with my 8-year son Joshua. I learned how to cook and get out and do things.”

His specialty?

“My spinach artichoke dip,” he said. “It sounds easy but it’s really hard to make. But I have a friend who is a chef and he helped me out.”

With restrictions gradually being eased by the state of Nevada and his own company, Hernandez is looking forward to the day when things are truly back to normal, spectators are allowed back to events at T-Mobile Arena, particularly for the Golden Knights, and things will become busier in his book.

“I really didn’t follow hockey,” he said. “But then the Golden Knights came to town and I became a fan. I’m excited to see how things will be on game night when they come back.”

Hernandez said he feels blessed to be in his situation. He’s learned a lot in the four years he has been in the sports betting business.

“I was fortunate to have a great mentor in Glynis Mickelian when I was at the Excalibur,” he said. “She taught me so much. But I know i still have a lot to learn.”

About the Author

Steve Carp

Steve Carp is a six-time Nevada Sportswriter of the Year. A 30-year veteran of the Las Vegas sports journalism scene, he covered the Vegas Golden Knights for the Las Vegas Review-Journal from 2015-2018.

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