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Not everyone gets to live their dream. Then again, not everyone is Derek Stevens.

The owner of the D Las Vegas and the money and power behind the under-construction Circa Resort and Casino always wanted to run his own sportsbook. He loves sports and betting on them. He also loved the idea of being on the other side of the counter.

Saturday at the Golden Gate on Fremont Street in Downtown Las Vegas, Stevens’ dream becomes reality. Circa Sports, the newest sports book operation in Nevada, will take its first bets after receiving approval from the state’s Gaming Commission last month.

In addition to the Golden Gate operation, Circa Sports will have its book at the D in mid-June after breaking away from its partnership with William Hill, which had run the book there for Stevens while he attempted to get licensed as a bookmaker.

And it’s all a prelude to the big one — the multi-level megabook at Circa come December 2020.

“We’re ready to go,” Stevens said. “The final details are being worked out and we’re really excited.”

With sports betting growing throughout the country (Tennessee became the latest state to approve legalized sports wagering last week), the timing for Circa Sports in Nevada couldn’t be better.

“We can do it in a positive environment,” Stevens said. “With the Supreme Court’s decision a year ago and sports betting legal throughout the country, people look at it in a much different light.”

Much of Stevens’ clientele is from out of town and a good number of them come from areas where sports betting still hasn’t been approved. Circa Sports will afford them an opportunity to make a bet and feel comfortable about doing so.

“We’re going to make everyone feel welcome,” Stevens said. “Whether you’re a big bettor or a small bettor, doesn’t matter. We want you to come in, place a bet, catch the games, have some fun.”

Catering to sharps

The big bettors are a big part of Circa Sports’ vision. Stevens wants to return to the old days of Las Vegas where the mantra was “If you can bring it, you can bet it.” He has had conversations with several known professional sports bettors, including Gaming Today columnist Bill Krackomberger. And they provided Stevens some valuable input as he goes forward with his Circa Sports venture.

“We’re not going to shy away from the big bettors,” he said. “I’m not a guy who forgets this is gambling.”

How can he do it? How can he afford to take such risks?

By being a private company rather than a publicly held and/or traded entity, Stevens can pretty much do what he wants. He doesn’t have a board of directors to answer to or a bunch of stockholders to explain his decisions. He’s calling the shots. If it works, he reaps the rewards. If he gets beat, that’s on him.

“I’ve never been afraid to take risks,” he said. “We’re going to take their action. We’re going to welcome them in.”

Stevens is entrusting Matt Metcalf, his sportsbook director, to make sure everything goes smoothly. Metcalf has extensive experience in the industry and his risk management decisions will be essential to Circa Sports’ ultimate success.

$1 Milllon contest

The other thing that could help Circa Sports succeed is its pro football contest this fall. Starting Saturday, you can sign up for its “Circa Million Contest.” The contest has a $1,000 entry fee and you can have as many as three entries.

The overall winner will take home $1 million.

The contest, similar to the Westgate Las Vegas’ SuperContest, requires picking five NFL games against a point spread every week. Points are assigned to the results — one point is awarded for a win, half a point for a push and zero point for a loss.

The prize pool has a guaranteed $1.5 million based on 1,500 entries. Stevens believes the contest will exceed the 1,500 number.

“We expect a lot of participation,” he said. “We think it’s going to be very popular.”

Stevens said there’s a wrinkle that makes Circa Sports’ contest different from the others in Las Vegas.

“We’re going to have quarterly winners,” he said. “That makes us unique.

“If you get behind by week eight and there’s 3,000 people in front of you, it’s tough to catch up. But you can get hot for four weeks and win the quarter. We’re essentially giving people four chances to win.”

Like the other football contests, you must sign up in Nevada either in person or through a proxy and your weekly plays in the contest must also be done within the state or via your proxy.

Mobile app in play

Stevens is also excited about the Circa Sports mobile phone app. He is cognizant that in-game wagering and the ease of placing a bet without a trip to a brick-and-mortar establishment is a fact of life in 2019 and he wants his app to be user friendly, convenient and secure.

And while he wants people to visit the books, he also knows that sometimes that’s not possible. But the app is a way to maintain his customers’ business.

“It’s going to be a unique way for people to get involved,” he said. “Sure, we’d love for them to come visit us at the Golden Gate and the D, and eventually, when we open the book at Circa. But the phone app is very popular, especially for young people, and that’s an audience we’re trying to attract.”

The app can also be used to put in a contestant’;s weekly emntries into the Circa Million Contest.

As for Circa itself, Stevens said everything is proceeding as planned for the 777-room resort which is being built on the site of the former Las Vegas Club on the corner of Fremont and Main Streets.

“Everything’s right on schedule,” he said. “it’s all good.”

No Vig promotion

As an incentive to get customers to come visit Saturday, Circa Sports will not apply a vigorish to bets made at the Golden Gate property.

The zero-cent lines will apply to the NBA Finals, Major League Baseball and the Champions League soccer final between Tottenham and Liverpool.

To get the No-Vig promotion, you must show up at the Golden Gate and make your wagers over the counter.

The promotion is for Saturday only.

And as he prepares to get into the sports betting business, Stevens was not closing a blind eye to a couple of national stories involving the industry.

He is following Las Vegas sports bettor James Holzhauer’s exploits on Jeopardy! where Holzhauer has won over $2 million. Stevens has reached out to Holzhauer to let him know his business is welcome at Circa Sports.

It would be a public relations coup for Stevens if Holzhauer takes his action to Circa.

“I think it would be great,” Stevens said.

The other story involves the Disney Corporation’s plans to have ESPN align itself with Caesars Entertainment and have a studio at the Linq. For years, Disney, which owns ESPN, had deep concerns about gambling content being aired on ESPN. Now, the network has its own shows dedicated solely to sports betting.

Stevens, who will have a studio at Circa for the Vegas Stats and Information Network (VSiN) when it opens in 18 months, was glad to see the move by Disney.

“For Disney to get involved is great,” he said. “Having their brand accept sports betting helps all of us. Sports betting has really come out of the shadows and this is another example of that.”

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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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