Jason McCormick compared the task of succeeding Sports Betting Hall of Famer Art Manteris at Station Casinos to replacing Coach K at Duke.
McCormick was named Station Casinos VP of Race & Sports last year. He’s making his own mark, but McCormick will be the first to tell you it’s not a solo mission.
“I learned under one of the all-time greats in Art Manteris,” he said in a phone interview with Gaming Today on Tuesday. “It’s been a lot of fun bringing in Chuck Esposito, Jason Simbal, and Bert Cirincione. Those are the guys on our leadership team here. We’re building a team that we can run with into the future that can focus on all aspects of the sportsbook business.”
Station Casinos’ business is growing with the addition of two new properties next year: Wildfire Fremont and Durango Station. For now, all of the company’s properties remain in Nevada.
“We’re exclusively in Nevada at this time,” McCormick said. “We’re always kind of looking (to expand), but we haven’t ventured out yet. We’re waiting for that right opportunity.”
McCormick, who is competing in Bookies Battle 2022, covered a lot of ground in this wide-ranging interview.
On Career Longevity and Replacing a Legend
Gaming Today: You’ve been at Station now for close to 20 years. That’s rare in the industry. How do you explain that longevity?
McCormick: Yeah, it’s amazing you say that. I have my 20th anniversary this coming January. No. 1: I love the job that I do. I’ve always put everything I have into it, and try to build great relationships. I think when you work hard, you get opportunities. They’ve given me a lot of them, and I kind of grew up with the company. I’ve managed several of the properties and got to open Red Rock when they opened it here. It just ended up being a great place to work.
Gaming Today: You started as a ticket writer at Bally’s under the tutelage of Johnny Avello. I imagine both Johnny and Art had big impacts on your career.
McCormick: Yeah, that is an understatement. To be able to break in at Bally’s and Paris under Johnny and learn the business as a young man from him — and then Art in his days at the Hilton — I learned under two guys at the pinnacle of our industry.
Football Season has (Mostly) Been a Boon for Stations
Gaming Today: How has football season treated Station so far?
McCormick: Up until this past Sunday, it had actually been fantastic. The results for the first three weeks were really, really good particularly on the NFL. This past Sunday was the first rough one where we actually had a losing Sunday. We were able to bounce back a little bit (on MNF) with the 49ers winning. But, overall it’s been absolutely great.
Our handle continues to be on the incline, especially with the in-play market, and we continue to see people gravitating toward that market. Not only with our over-the-counter operations but our mobile operations, and something that’s been a real surprise for us from a handle standpoint is the amount of action that we get at our kiosks. We’ve got just short of 60 kiosks at all of our properties. The kiosks see a vast majority of play on Saturdays and Sundays.
So, our handles are great, and the win is above what you would expect. We’re over-holding at this point in time.
Gaming Today: Is your limit on NFL bets still $20,000?
McCormick: We really don’t have posted limits anymore. That was one of the things I did when I took over last May. We’re open to business, and we’ll take $20,000 from anyone off the street whether we know who you are or don’t. Obviously, if you’re a casino player or we have history with you, those dollar amounts aren’t limited anymore. We’ve actually expanded our wagering limits both over the counter and on the mobile application. We’re seeing much more activity than we did in years past.
Gaming Today: Any liabilities with Super Bowl futures?
McCormick: I know that we’re grossly sweating the Raiders (laughs). We weren’t really sweating it after the first three weeks (when they went 0-3 overall and ATS). From the standpoint of being in Nevada, unfortunately the books aren’t going to be fans of the Golden Knights or Raiders. We’re always kind of torn on a weekly basis because as much as we’re booking the games, we’re also fans, and we live in Nevada and want to see these guys play well.
There’s not really much (liability) from a Super Bowl standpoint for the Raiders, but just about everything else you can imagine from ‘will they make the playoffs’, over-under season wins and props on the guys. When the Raiders do well, it’s not gonna be good for the books. When the Raiders underperform, it’s normally going to spell a good day for the sportsbooks.
Hockey Handle Grows ‘Exponentially’ with Knights in Town
Gaming Today: You mentioned the Knights. It’s hard to believe they’ve already been in Vegas for five years. What was the level of interest in hockey before they came to town, and how has it changed now?
McCormick: I think the level of hockey probably went from 5% to 505%, especially with their success in the inaugural season. I’m originally from Chicago and a die-hard Chicago Blackhawks fan. It’s probably my favorite sport, so it was awesome to see the Knights come in and enjoy success. Once the Knights got here, all the other games took that much more in handle, too. The Knights drew attention to hockey in general, and fans of the Knights became fans of the NHL and fans of wagering on hockey. Our hockey handle has grown exponentially.
Gaming Today: We’re guessing that live betting has also helped grow your business in recent years?
McCormick: It’s continued to grow year over year, and we’re continuing to offer more and more (live betting markets). The wager types on the in-play continue to expand. Sports like tennis, where we would book some of the majors on the in-play, we’re now literally booking every tennis tournament under the sun, and every match that’s being played in the tournament.
Gaming Today: Mobile’s all the rage these days. What things have you had to do to keep retail sportsbooks relevant?
McCormick: We’re super focused on our retail operations because of being in Nevada only and wanting to make sure that we’re providing the best products and services to our guests. We live in that local market. When you walk into our books, you know that these are destination sportsbooks that people want to come to throughout the week and on Saturdays and Sundays to watch all this football. So, we’re still hyper-focused on our over-the-counter operations, and not just from a sports standpoint but from a race standpoint. I think the race book has become a lost art, especially in a lot of the newer books that are being built. We’re still really focused on our race books.
But I think you’re naive to think that you can live and succeed in this world without the mobile product. Even our guests that are Las Vegas locals, we need to be able to put a phone in the palm of their hands to have that wagering opportunity with them non-stop. You have to make sure you’re putting the best products and services in people’s hands. That’s really what we’re trying to do on both fronts. We let them choose how they want to do it: over the counter, at a kiosk, or on mobile.
Check Out the Weekly ‘Book Ends’ Podcast
Gaming Today: I enjoyed some of your “Book Ends” podcast this past week. What was the thought behind that?
McCormick: We try to share a bit of the past week’s results and how the books are doing. What are our liabilities, and what are we sweating? During baseball season, we were on the podcast crying multiple times about how poorly we were doing. We’re just trying to give people a glimpse at what goes on in the back office and have a little fun with it.
Gaming Today: What’s the worst bad beat you had either in front or behind the counter?
McCormick: I’m obviously going back through 20 years at Station, and I don’t remember too many of them where we’ve won money. I remember the bad beats where we lost money. One of the worst bad beats had to be this year, the way the national championship finished up with Kansas and North Carolina (the Jayhawks won 72-69 but failed to cover -4.5). Stepping out of bounds, and Kansas not getting to go shoot free throws, that’s gonna remain in my mind for quite some time. Just the amount of money that was on the line at the end of that game, and the way for that to go down, that was one of the bigger ones in recent memory. And that one actually did go in our favor.
Also in the Bookmaker Spotlight: BetMGM’s Jason Scott | Bally Bet’s Jay Rood Discusses Transition to Digital