There are a couple of sports books in Nevada that have to shade their line toward the NBA’s Utah Jazz and the Utah Utes in college football and basketball on a regular basis.
Welcome to the CasaBlanca Resort & Casino and the Virgin River Hotel & Casino in Mesquite, an 80-mile drive from Las Vegas up Interstate 15. It’s located near the borders of three states – Nevada, Utah and Arizona.
Justin Lull, a supervisor at both properties and also a contestant in Gaming Today’s Bookies Battle, has heard the request many times: “Are you guys going to have the Jazz game on? Are you guys going to have the Utes’ game on?”
A large percentage of their bettors come over from Utah.
“We could make the line outrageous and they’ll still bet it if it’s the Jazz or the Utes,” Lull said.
CasaBlanca and Virgin River are sister properties with independent sports books that are run by Zach Franzi, son of the famous former Las Vegas bookmaker Jack Franzi. There’s no mobile app offered, but the limits are respectable for properties of their size – $1,000 on sides and $500 on totals for bettors not using a player’s card, and higher amounts depending on the sport for regulars who do use a card.
Lull, who works four days a week at Virgin River and one day at CasaBlanca, moved to Mesquite with his family from out East in 2016. He was born in Staten Island, N.Y., and grew up in New Jersey.
“Got tired of the snow and the crowds,” Lull said of the family move.
Talk about two different worlds.
“You go from a city of 8 million people to 20,000 people living here in Mesquite,” he said. “Maybe the most traffic I’ve seen is three cars. Both places have their benefits. Mesquite is definitely a slow pace. You get that small-town feel. But Vegas is only an hour away. We can go to Vegas and come back out of the chaos there.”
Lull, 26, was a sports fan but didn’t know much about betting, especially horse racing, when he took a job as a ticket writer a little more than two years ago. He has a bachelor’s degree in finance from Rowan University in South Jersey and considered a slot technician job before moving into the race and sports book scene.
“I’m really happy I chose the sports book,” Lull said. “Sports betting is a good conversation starter, especially with the locals around here.”
If you see someone behind the counter in the Casa or Virgin sports book “air-drumming,” it’s undoubtedly Lull. He played drums in his high school’s marching band and continues to be a music fanatic.
One of his trips to Vegas was to see the Irish rock band U2 at T-Mobile Arena. He has a trip planned next year to the San Francisco Bay Area for a Rolling Stones concert. His favorite musician is Bruce Springsteen.
Lull is also an avid outdoorsman who enjoys hiking and biking. He visited all five national parks in Utah, from Zion to Arches, Bryce Canyon, Canyonlands and Capitol Reef.
“They were all different, all different terrains and geology,” Lull said.
His approach to making his weekly contest picks is, well, interesting.
Lull admits he’s not that into the NFL, so he looks for people at work who are big fans of their teams.
“One writer, Jen, is from Detroit, so I pick the Lions sometimes,” Lull said.
Or if someone walks by him with a Denver cap, he might take the Broncos that week.
“I look for signs,” he said.
If that were true with the NBA, he’d be betting the Jazz all season long.