Every transplant has a story about why they moved to Las Vegas, but not many are quite like that of Jeff Davis.
It was November 2005 and Davis, now the risk manager for Caesars Entertainment’s sports books, was living in Stonington, Conn., spending most of his time playing poker.
“Me and a few buddies had rented this old, awesome farmhouse,” Davis recalled. “It was probably 150, 200 years old.”
Davis said it rained for six straight days without stopping. The roof over the master bedroom eventually collapsed from all of the rain. The owner of the home was elderly and planned to sell the property rather than repair the roof and everything else that was breaking down.
“We needed a place to move on the fly,” Davis said.
The first thought he and his friends had: “Screw it, let’s go to Vegas.”
“We kind of laughed it off and then over the next 12 hours, we couldn’t come up with a better idea,” Davis said. “So we booked a flight for the next day. Came out here for two weeks, found a place, been here ever since.”
Davis, 41, is part of a Caesars team that has established itself in recent months as trendsetters among Las Vegas bookmakers.
The Westgate SuperBook has been widely known as the most innovative sports book in town. South Point carved out its niche the last couple years by taking bets on college football opening-week games three months before kickoff, along with selected games of the year plus season win totals on every FBS team.
Other sports books have their occasional moments being out front, but for the most part there’s a wait-and-see approach until the lines show up first offshore.
Davis, who left CG Technology to join Caesars in August 2017, doesn’t want to be one of those, as he calls them, “afterthought” sports books.
“We just decided we’re going to be one of the leaders of the industry,” Davis said. “We’re always trying to think of something new, different, thoughtful that will drum up interest in not only the $50 guy but the bigger bettors as well.”
Caesars, behind college football/basketball specialist Matt Lindeman, was the first to post lines for all of the bowl games, on the same day the matchups were announced.
They’ve also been creative with a wide range of props, including over-under bowl wins for each conference, college basketball season win totals for selected teams, updated NHL season point totals posted during the league’s Christmas break (the Vegas Golden Knights were 94.5) and over-under PGA Tour wins for some of top players.
That’s just a small sampling, too. Caesars is pumping this stuff out on a regular basis these days.
“We’re just really lucky to work somewhere that they trust us and are willing to let us take some chances,” said Lindeman, 30, a Kentucky native who worked with Davis previously at CG and rejoined him about five months ago at Caesars.
Being first to the market has its risks, of course. Caesars opened Houston as a three-point favorite over Army in the Armed Forces Bowl. Army closed at -6.5, partly because Houston was without a standout quarterback and defensive lineman, and the Cadets rolled to a 70-14 victory.
Nevertheless, win, lose or push, the publicity generated by beating everyone else to the market can be invaluable. Davis said he also strongly believes in offering attractive odds on all futures.
“If you have the best price in town on 18 of the 30 teams, you’re going to take bets,” he said. “The more bets you take, the more money you’re going to make. That’s generally the case.
“But if you’re aggressive, you have to watch them closely (for injuries, recent trends, etc.) It’s one of the things I enjoy doing. In this business, the clock doesn’t stop.”
That’s especially true at Caesars because its mobile app, unlike most others, is open 24 hours a day. The message being sent by Davis and company is clear.
“We’re here,” he said, “and we’re not going away.”