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Matt Metcalf doesn’t know George McPhee. But he has more in common with the Golden Knights’ president of hockey operations than he realizes.

As McPhee built an NHL team from scratch, Metcalf did likewise building a new sportsbook operation — Circa Sports. And like the Knights, Circa is off to a good start in its inaugural year.

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“We’ve done well,” Metcalf, Circa’s Director of Sports said at the book inside the Golden Gate, one of two properties Circa is operating in (The D Las Vegas is the other). “We’ve put together a great team and we’re excited about football season.”

When owner Derek Stevens hired Metcalf from the Westgate Las Vegas SuperBook in June 2018, it was with the vision of bringing back the old days of bookmaking. Good lines, high bet limits, excellent customer service and a feeling from the bettor’s standpoint that he or she is getting a fair shake.

So far, the vision is being realized.

“Derek’s vision is the customer comes first,” Metcalf said. “But he wants us to be true to the old way of booking. That means not turning people away, putting up a solid number and staying true to that number and not being afraid to take a hit once in a while.”

Stevens said: “It’s been great to see Matt Metcalf grow and develop the team at Circa Sports. When we opened on June 1st, we knew we had to evolve and grow to be fully ready for football season. I feel comfortable he’s put together a great, great team”

Circa does have limits for the upcoming football season. When the numbers come out at the beginning of each week, it’ll be $5,000 max for college football and $10,000 tops for the NFL. As the week goes on and the initial lines have been bet into and the numbers settle, Metcalf said those limits will increase.

See Circa Sport’s 2019 MLB Futures

“We’re here to write bets, not turn people away,” he said. “If you come in and you want to bet the limit, you can. You can ask for more and maybe we’ll let you and maybe we won’t. But you’ll always be able to bet the limit, no matter who you are.”

Metcalf has 40 employees working for him at Circa and he has assembled a strong cast of experienced managers to help craft the numbers and run the operation. Chris Bennett worked with Metcalf at the SuperBook. Jeff Benson is a veteran of the industry. Mike Van Ermen has been with Stevens for four years. And Matt Lindeman, the most recent acquisition, comes from Caesars Entertainment.

Metcalf said the time he had to prepare to launch Circa in June was well spent and well worth it.

“We didn’t have to rush things,” he said. “We were able to take our time, figure out exactly how we wanted to do things, design the sports books (at Golden Gate and the D) and get our staff put together.

“I think our biggest challenge is by starting from scratch, there’s no established customer base. We’re going up against a lot of strong competitors — South Point, Westgate, Boyd, Stations, all these places that have been doing things the right way for a long time.

“We’re taking our cues from the industry and trying to do things a little different.”

And unlike bigger operations, it’s easier for Circa to pivot when it comes to crafting the starting numbers and adjusting the lines.

“In the boardroom we all have a say,” he said.

Metcalf said Circa is no different than any other book when it comes to formulating an option on what the numbers should be for college football. It’s a challenge trying to make the right number on so many games in a given week compared to the 16 NFL games.

“We struggle to keep up with the wiseguys,” he said. “Fortunately, we have access to the same information as they do. But college football is challenging, no question. Trying to get the right power ratings for all the teams those first two weeks is hard.”

Circa has also gotten into the high-end football contest business. Its Million Dollar Contest, which offers $1.5 million in prize money and no rake, has had around 600 sign up so far. The entry fee is $1,000 and contestants have to pick five NFL games against the point spread set by Metcalf and his staff, numbers that will differ slightly from what is on the boards at Circa.

Metcalf was hoping for at least 1,000 contestants while Stevens was hoping for 2,000. But despite the slow start, things are picking up and the next two weeks will be critical toward boosting the numbers.

“I think we’ll be O.K.,” he said. “We’re seeing interest pick up and we think it’s a heck of a contest to get involved in. I don’t know where we’ll ultimately end up in terms of participants but we’re committed to the contest.”

The deadline to sign up is Sept. 7. And if you live outside of Nevada, no problem, you can hire a proxy service to handle your weekly transactions in the contest.

As Metcalf and Circa go about their daily business, across the street from the Golden Gate, the Circa Resort is making progress in its construction. The 777-room hotel and casino will have a two-level sportsbook when it opens in December 2020 and Metcalf admits he gets excited when he sees the project’s continued growth.

“It’s going to be amazing once it’s completed,” he said. “We’re looking forward to it.”

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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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