Happiness in Indiana

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The growth of the sportsbook industry across the country has allowed veteran book managers, supervisors and writers to stay in the game, so to speak. It also allows them to work in different locales.

Hugh Aufill has an impressive resume. He can count the Stardust, Sam’s Town and other Boyd Gaming properties as part of his industry experience.

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And he has put that experience to good use in running the Hollywood Casino and Hotel’s sportsbook in Lawrenceburg, Ind., not far from Cincinnati.

“It’s a fun and exciting time,” Aufill said of the Hollywood sportsbook. “We’ve got five windows, 10 kiosks with six more on order. We’ve got 300 seats and 42 TVs in the area.”

Aufill (pronounced Ahh-fill) is representing his property in Gaming Today’s Bookies Battle contest. He has been scuffling a bit as he tries to climb to .500 (he’s at 43-49) through six weeks of the 2019 NFL season.

“I got to do the contest years ago when I worked at Sam’s town,” Aufill said of the Bookies Battle. “I did all right. I didn’t win but I was above .500.”

Aufill, 45, has spent the last 3 1/2 years with Penn National Gaming, which owns and operates the Hollywood property in Indiana. But the Las Vegas native who has a degree in business management from UNLV, said his real education was from his days working as a ticket writer at the legendary Stardust book for Joe Lupo.

“It was fantastic,” Aufill said. “We are the most scrutinized place in the country because we hung the first numbers. We’d have people lined up Sunday night for the lottery and you had to be sharp with your numbers because the guys on the other side of the counter were just as sharp, and in some cases, even sharper.”

The most important thing Aufill said he learned working for Lupo was surrounding yourself with good people and allowing them to do what you hired them to do.

“Joe Lupo taught me the importance of putting a good staff together and staying focused,” Aufill said. “In this business, things can change very quickly. So you want smart people and let them do their job.”

The location of the Hollywood sportsbook is ideal. Sitting near the Ohio River, the property can draw from bettors from three states — Indiana, Ohio and Kentucky — and business has been good since last month’s opening.

“We’re really busy on the weekends as you can imagine with the NFL and with college football,” Aufill said. “But I think it’s going to really pick up when basketball starts.”

Indeed. With college hoop blue bloods Kentucky and Indiana and their fan bases in the area, the Hollywood sportsbook could be a very lively place during the winter and into the spring when march madness rolls around.

“I’ve already got people talking about March Madness,” he said. “I expect it to be very high volume during basketball season and I think the excitement of having college basketball all the time is going to be big for us. I’m already working on some promotions and contests.”

The real excitement was just getting the book open in time for football. Aufill knew from experience that his place would be busy every weekend and he had to do some educating of his superiors.

It took just three months to build out the book and make it operational. But Aufill said it was worth the rush.

“I had to explain to my bosses what it’s like on the weekends during football season,” he said. “The long lines. The betting. The energy in the sportsbook. But now that they’ve seen it first-hand what happens, they’re really happy.”

Aufill wishes he could be happy with his picks. He admitted handicapping the NFL isn’t easy. But he is staying true to his handicapping formulas that he developed years ago.

“When i worked at the Stardust, I had a formula that if I found a number that’s a bit off, I’m going to play it. I make my own numbers so I work off of those.”

Aufill’s daughter is attending the University of Cincinnati so he’s close by. When he gets a chance, he enjoys a round of golf and just being out in the fresh air. 

“There’s a lot about Vegas that I miss,” he said. “The mountains — going to Mt. Charleston or to Red Rock. The heat never really bothered me. But I’ve really enjoyed it out here. i work for a great company. I’m near my daughter. I’m running my own book. I couldn’t be happier.”

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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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