The Golden Nugget and Tony Miller are a perfect match. Both old-school legends have found a way to adapt and thrive in the fast-paced era of mobile sports betting.
Miller, 66, is the sportsbook director at the Golden Nugget. He still enjoys the distinction of working for a stand-alone shop that’s not affiliated with any other sportsbooks.
“I’ve been there since 2006, and we’ve always been a free-standing shop,” Miller said in a recent interview with Gaming Today. “I make my own numbers at the Nugget.”
Miller, a Bookies Battle 2022 contestant, noted how sports bettors today benefit from a wealth of information that wasn’t available to punters of his generation. He labeled them “really smart” as a result.
“Watching things change over the years with social media and all the things you can wager on like in-game, to see it happen right before my eyes compared to when I was writing tickets back in the day and grading them myself, it’s just amazing,” he said. “I can’t wait to write a book one day.”
It’s All About Football This Time of Year
Gaming Today: What are some of the challenges and rewards that come with being a stand-alone shop? It must be nice to have that flexibility.
Miller: Yeah, it’s really good. My biggest challenge is more or less transportation and people getting downtown. Our numbers go up on Don Best. When I create my own numbers or move my own numbers, I can be a stand-alone book with a different number than everyone else in town.
It’s just not that easy to get to the Nugget, but with the mobile app now — I encourage people to sign up and get that — it’s good to have with a freestanding shop. There are a lot of times where I will put my own opinion into a number, and I’ll go out and be the first one there to create some action or balance off games. Being a freestanding shop, and me with the ability to do that, it’s really good for us.
Gaming Today: Give us a peek behind the curtain. What’s the weekly process look like when you’re putting up NFL lines?
Miller: When it comes to NFL football, we put up our numbers on Monday mornings. I don’t like to do it on Sunday night, only because the numbers are so volatile. They move quite a bit on Sunday night to Monday morning. I just don’t go out on a limb like that. I put them up Monday morning when they’ve gone pretty solid. I look at the numbers offshore, and I look around town.
Again, if I have an opinion on something and don’t think that number’s right, I won’t put up that same number. I have my own power ratings for every sport. I compare my numbers to what comes out, and usually it’s pretty close, but there are times when I think my number is a lot better than the opening number.
Gaming Today: How has football season gone for you this year?
Miller: The month of September was probably one of the best Septembers I’ve had since I’ve been in the business, and I’ve been in the business a long time. It was really good for us — college and pro. The start of the season has probably been second to none.
Gaming Today: Any Super Bowl futures liabilities at the Nugget?
Miller: No, just the usual suspects. We’re gonna lose on the Raiders, of course. There’s a lot of support for the Raiders. Believe it or not, the Golden Nugget is like a Midwestern state, like Minnesota or Wisconsin. (The Packers), the Milwaukee Brewers, Bucks, and Vikings, all those teams tend to get bet every year, and every year we lose on those teams. Wisconsin and Minnesota, for some reason, really have a following here. I’m probably the lowest odds downtown because I know they’re gonna bet them, but no matter what bad number I put out there, they still like it.
Gaming Today: How is your 2022 football contest shaping up? Did you get a lot of contestants for that?
Miller: Yeah, we beat last year. The thing with ours is that it’s the only contest in town with college and pro. That’s the kick for me. A lot of people don’t like betting on college games, and if you just want to do pro, there’s a lot of other choices out there. Our contest has grown steadily year after year. We do pretty good with it and get a lot of compliments on it. It’s gonna get bigger and better for us.
Gaming Today: What’s your favorite sport to book and why?
Miller: Oh, boy, that’s a good question. I’m gonna say football — NFL and college — because of the handle. With the amount of money that comes in each week, and with games that start on Thursday and go all the way through Monday, it’s non-stop action. I love that. I love how fast the numbers move, booking the first half, halftimes, and the props that go with them. You’re constantly busy, and I love this time of year. Football is the best as far as me being able to make a lot of money. We do good with it, and it’s fun to book. It brings out more action and more guests.
Golden Nugget Still Sees a Lot of Sharp Action
Gaming Today: Does the Golden Nugget still take a lot of sharp action?
Miller: Oh, yeah. A good example is the Packers as a solid 8 across the board (in Week 5 vs. the Giants in London). If I should go to 8.5 or 9 or 7.5 the other way as the only one in town, my phones light up like crazy. I’ll warn my staff that I’m going out on a line, and as soon as I do, you’ll see the computer in the back room go bing, bing, bing, bing. It comes in fast and furious, but that’s what it’s all about. We get a lot of sharp play. Most of the good sharp players in town are signed up with us, and I don’t blame them. They get some good opportunities sometimes.
Gaming Today: And you still get a good number of tourists that play at the Nugget, right?
Miller: Oh, yeah. The Golden Nugget was one of the jewels of downtown. It always has been, and we’ve got really good clientele. Our home base is in Houston (Landry’s), and we get a lot of guests from Texas that come in and from all over the place. Every Sunday, you’ll see people out there that are brand new to the Nugget in my room. We get a lot of counter play, especially during football season.
Gaming Today: You’ve seen and done so much over the years. Is there a favorite story from your days as a runner that stands out?
Miller: (Laughs) I was running numbers in the early 80s. People ask me what’s the difference between now and then, and I don’t know where to start. Running up and down the strip with a pocket full of quarters and going to all the pay phones! No cell phones back in those days. Getting my first job was probably one of the highlights of my life, as far as doing it legally.
Art Manteris got me started in this business way back in the mid-80s. He hired me as a ticket writer at Caesars Palace. He taught me a lot, and I owe him everything for what he’s taught me all these years. But I think my favorite thing with bookmaking over the years was getting the opportunity to open up a sportsbook in England and showing the Brits how to book American sports in 2004. That was a really good experience.
Reflections on the Industry’s Brotherhood in Las Vegas
Gaming Today: You mentioned Art Manteris as a mentor. Who were some others that had a big influence on your career?
Miller: Besides Art Manteris, “Muggsy” Muniz was the race and sports director at the old Barbary Coast. He taught me a lot as far as how the race side goes. He was a character, and he was one of a kind back in the day. Everybody knew Muggsy.
Over the years the people I’ve worked with in the business, there was me and Chuck Esposito. Me and Vinny Magliulo started together at Caesars. There’s just been so many names that are still in the business and names we’ve lost like Brian Blessing recently. It’s a family. They’re all my brothers. Jimmy Vaccaro, Chris Andrews, I could go on and on with all the names. I love all these guys. It’s just been a little bit of everybody for me. Hopefully, now the young kids can learn from me, and I can share all these things with them.
Gaming Today: What’s the worst bad beat you’ve had in front of or behind the counter?
(Editor’s note: In 2014, Seattle recorded a safety in the first quarter of the Super Bowl against Denver, which created major liability for the Golden Nugget.)
Miller: I was standing next to Mr. Tilman Fertittato, our owner, and I looked at him, and he could tell that something was wrong. We just lost a ton of money on that stupid safety. It was a double hit. Will there be a safety, and will it come in the first quarter of the game? No matter what happens in this football game, we’re not going to win today. It was such a bad feeling.
Gaming Today: You’re only 66, but have you thought about retirement at all?
Miller: Yeah, but I always say to myself, ‘What am I going do once I’m done? Am I going to be happy just sitting around watching sports and not being a part of it?’ It’s in the back of my mind. I don’t know if it’s gonna be next year or the year after. I don’t know exactly when; I know it’s coming. I’m looking forward to it, but then again I’m not because I’ve always done this since college. I can’t see me not being a part of it, but I know it has to happen.
Gaming Today: Do you ever get nostalgic thinking about simpler times?
Miller: Oh, my God, the days where I just had a No. 2 pencil in my hand and a clipboard. You know what I mean? No computers. All I did was book the game and maybe halftime. There were no props, no in-game. Now, look how it’s changed. I’ve got two different cell phones in my hands with different things on them. Everything’s computerized. I never thought I would be a computer whiz, but you have to be.