It’s been a banner year for South Point Sportsbook Director Chris Andrews, who was inducted into the Sports Betting Hall of Fame as part of its Class of 2022.
Andrews joined fellow Pittsburgh natives Art Manteris (his cousin) and Jimmy Vaccaro as Hall of Famers. His uncle, Jack Franzi, started the Pittsburgh pipeline to Las Vegas and paved the way for all three bookmakers’ legendary careers in the industry.
Football season has been profitable for the South Point, where Andrews has overseen sportsbook operations since 2016.
“So far, so good,” Andrews said. “I think we had one bad weekend, but even made some money once the dust all settled. But we’re having a good year, no complaints. The handle’s been excellent.”
Gaming Today caught up with Andrews recently as he was driving around Los Angeles for this wide-ranging interview.
Pittsburgh’s Legacy in the Bookmaking Industry
Gaming Today: You’re a Pittsburgh guy through and through. What’s the lesser of two evils right now: Kenny Pickett or Mitch Trubisky?
Chris Andrews: Kenny Pickett. I don’t know what happened to Trubisky because as a rookie I thought he was really good. He was a hot pick that following year to be MVP, and things kind of went south. It looks like he’s lost his confidence.
Gaming Today: How do you explain the prominence of Pittsburgh bookmakers in the industry — Art Manteris, Jimmy Vaccaro, and you chief among them? Did that thread start with your Uncle Jack?
Andrews: Yeah, it really did. Pittsburgh’s probably like a lot of other cities. New York certainly has its share, and Chicago. Gambling is no secret in any of the big cities, especially with any kind of ethnic population. Jack was the first one, and he hired Jimmy, and then Art came out here, and I came out here. You see a couple guys apply for a job, and (say) “my high school played his high school, so let’s hire this guy.” There was no shortage of guys from Pittsburgh, but that added to the proliferation of Pittsburgh people. It just kind of fed on itself after a while.
Gaming Today: South Point owner Michael Gaughan brought you back into the business in 2016. We assume he’s had a big influence on your career, but who else has helped you through the years?
Andrews: Jack Franzi, certainly. Warren Nelson hired me at Cal Neva (in Reno) and was a big advocate of mine. In our business, there’s lots of ups and downs. You have to have somebody who understands not just the way the gambling business works but the way the sports business works.
A lot of guys who run casinos, they’re looking at slot machines and table games where there’s a built-in percentage. But sports isn’t like that. It’s a really bumpy ride along the way, and you have to have somebody that will advocate for you. Warren was that for me. Jimmy Vaccaro, of course. Roxy Roxborough, Vic Salerno. I’ve had a lot of guys who’ve been instrumental in helping my career. I’m probably leaving some people out, but those guys come off the top of my head as being good mentors and partners throughout my career.
Behind the Scenes at South Point During Football Season
Gaming Today: What’s been the biggest bet you’ve written on football this year?
Andrews: I had a guy come in last week, and he didn’t bet as much, but he was betting these $50,000 parlays that can come back pretty strong. He’s usually a straight bettor. I don’t know what got into him this last weekend. But he usually bets me like $100,000 a game.
Gaming Today: So $100,000 on an NFL side or total isn’t unusual?
Andrews: We wouldn’t do it on a total, but on a side. I wouldn’t say it’s common. It’s not usual, but we definitely take them.
Gaming Today: Where does the South Point stand on limits for betting the NFL? Is it fair to say there’s no blanket approach, but they differ from customer to customer?
Andrews: You definitely have to consider the faces besides just the money, which can be a little bit of a trap because sometimes they send in different people, and you don’t always know who you’re dealing with. It depends on what kind of rock-solid number you have. There are certain guys I know who move money for some of the big outfits. We don’t let them go crazy, but we certainly take a decent bet off them. Maybe $20,000 or $30,000. But other guys, we tell them to come up and ask what you want, and we’ll see what’s happening. We’ll take a pretty big whack.
Michael has never once given me a hard time for taking a bet at the counter. (Laughs) Now, I’ll tell you right now, and everybody in town knows this, Michael does not like the phone app. He likes people to come into the casino. He will give me some crap about the phone app but never at the counter.
Gaming Today: Do you have NFL limits that are posted on the app?
Andrews: Yeah, we take a $5,000 bet on the NFL on the app.
Gaming Today: Any Super Bowl liabilities at the South Point?
Andrews: Yeah, the Raiders (laughs). Nothing too bad. I have some liability on Cleveland to win the AFC, but not the Super Bowl. Other than the Raiders, nothing I’m really sweating all that much, and I don’t think I have long to sweat the Raiders either.
Gaming Today: What’s the worst bad beat you experienced in front of or behind the counter?
Andrews: Let me give you the worst monetary beat I ever had. Trent Green was quarterback for the Rams (in 1999). They were a big longshots to begin with, and he got hurt, and they’re bringing in this guy named Kurt Warner. Nobody ever heard of him, he’s coming from Northern Iowa, and he was stocking shelves in a grocery store.
I said, you gotta be kidding me. I had them like 300-to-1 to win the Super Bowl, the longest shot on the board, and you always get money on those kind of bets. If the Rams won, it was gonna be bad, and if they won by 7, it’s gonna be a total disaster. Of course, they scored that TD late, and I was just praying when they were driving, “Just kick a field goal for God’s sake.” And they didn’t (the Rams beat the Titans 23-16 in Super Bowl 34). (Laughs) Warner turned out to be a Hall of Famer.
Gaming Today: Where were you working at the time?
Andrews: I was an owner at Cal Neva, so I knew exactly how much I needed for my dividend. Probably 75% of my pay was based on a bonus for how much we won. I know how much to the penny that we lost, and it was a big, big number. I don’t know if it’s the worst beat, but it’s the worst financial beating I ever took in my life.
Industry Musings & Personal Reflections
Gaming Today: What has surprised you the most when it comes to the massive growth of legal sports betting in recent years?
Andrews: Well, it surprised me how all these casino owners fell for these European companies that came in and tried to sell them a bill of goods. We met with some of them. They’re coming in and telling us how to run our business. It’d be like me and Jimmy Vaccaro going over to London and telling them, “You don’t know a goddamn thing about booking cricket. We’re gonna show you how to do it.”
Gaming Today: In-game betting has really flourished. The South Point doesn’t use an automated system to book that, right?
Andrews: No, I have two people that I use for in-game. We’ve done very well with it. Michael bought into it. He does not want to change. He’d rather just control it in-house, and that’s what we’re doing.
Gaming Today: You’ve become a fairly prolific writer in recent years. Tell us about the new novel and the process of creating it.
Andrews: I’m pretty well-read, and I like to read a lot of different books. I saw certain books, and thought I could do a better job. (Laughs) I tried it, and the first couple drafts were terrible, to be quite honest with you. As I did more writing over the years, I have a good friend of mine who’s an editor at a major paper. I would send him some stuff, and he said, “You’ve really found your voice.” I respected that. I actually rewrote the entire novel from beginning to end. I think it’s really good, and so far it’s selling well. I really put my heart and soul into it.
You were inducted into the Sports Betting Hall of Fame this year, but it doesn’t sound like you’re treating that like any sort of culmination. You have no desire to retire?
Andrews: No, I don’t want to retire. I laugh with Michael Gaughan because he confides in me with some stuff that I don’t know if he tells anybody else. But he and I have known each other for so many years, and I know what he’s been offered for the South Point. And it’s a massive number, but he says to me, “If I sold the joint, what would I do?” Well, I’m kind of the same way. If I retire, what am I gonna do all day? I enjoy my job, I really do. I know it sounds kind of cliche, but in my case it’s true.