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Normally, when it comes time to handicap a weekly NFL schedule, you reach into your tool box and apply the tried-and-true methods.

You make your power rankings. You look at the injury report. You add or deduct points for current performance. And on and on.

But this year was anything but normal, so it required some tweaking. And for those participants in Gaming Today’s Bookies Battle contest sponsored by Station Casinos, it required some extra attention. It meant paying attention to the coronavirus as it pertained to availability, not just of players, but head coaches and coordinators as well.

It also meant downgrading home field advantage since many teams weren’t allowed to have fans inside the stadium. And for the few that were able to open the gates, the numbers were so minuscule it didn’t really have an impact on visiting teams.

Jason McCormick realized that and he adjusted. The race and sportsbook director for Red Rock Resort managed to thrive in the Bookies Battle, finishing in the top 10 and earning a spot in the Bookies playoffs.

“I didn’t have any real bad weeks and I think that helped keep me in the top 10,” McCormick said. “Normally, I would pick in patterns — ‘dogs on Thursday night, ‘dogs on Sunday night and ‘dogs on Monday night. This year, I focused on ‘dogs in most of the games and I didn’t worry about home field advantage because frankly, there wasn’t any.”

McCormick, 46, is one of three playoff contestants representing Station Casinos. The others? His good friend Chuck Esposito of Sunset Station and Michael Smoller of the Wildfire Boulder.

“It’s like a competition within the competition,” McCormick said. “It’s great to see Michael doing so well and obviously, Chuck and I are very close so we have our own battle for bragging rights.”

The two Chicago natives also co-host a weekly podcast called “Bookends” that airs every Thursday and is recorded from Sunset Station’s studio at its Club Madrid lounge. It is educational, informative and funny.

“We started it as a way to explain what we do and try to answer questions we hear from the public all the time,” McCormick said. “In the two years we’ve been doing it, it’s grown into talking about games, talking sports and adding and adding. Our producer, John Schumacher, does a great job filming it and getting it up on the Station Casinos website.

“It’s so much fun. I look forward to the podcast every week.”

The show even has its own mascot — a ceramic basset hound cookie jar nicknamed “Teaser.” who sits on a ledge between the co-hosts.

“He’s our guy,” McCormick said of Teaser. “Being in the industry that we’re in, we’re always cheering for the underdog. So why not have a dog for a mascot?”

McCormick is looking forward to when things can get back to normal in his industry and his shop where people don’t have to wear a mask, socially distance, where large gatherings can once again take place and the energy level in the sportsbook is once again high.

“Unfortunately, we’re not going to be able to have any Super Bowl parties and we won’t have any March Madness parties either,” McCormick said. “That makes me sad because it’s such a big part of what we are and what we do. But I’m so proud of our team for the way they adjusted and took all the protocols seriously when we reopened last June. We had no choice but to be strict and follow the policies and they’ve been tremendous in following everything and keeping the customers and themselves safe.”

McCormick stayed busy during the 78 days Red Rock was closed.

“I was in every day working on getting ready for our return,” he said. “It was very strange not seeing our customers in the building. But when we reopened June 4th and I saw our customers back, it was a great feeling.”

McCormick said the STN app has turned out to be a lifesaver.

“We had so many people sign up, especially on the race side,” he said. “We knew there would be long lines because there was a pent-up demand to bet and the people who had the app, for both race and for sports, didn’t have to worry about that. They could just sit at their seats and bet and avoid the line. Or they could bet from home.”

And with the Super Bowl around the corner and March Madness not far away, McCormick said signing up for the app is the way to go.

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“We’ve got a full menu on the app,” he said. “We have in-game (betting). We have props. We have futures. Everything you want to bet on if you walk into the book is on the app.

“We’re also working to make the horse app more efficient. We know people get frustrated when they make a (Daily) Double or a Pick-3 or Pick-4 bet and can’t watch all the races on the app. We’re trying to adjust that.”

McCormick said no matter how things turn out in the Bookies playoffs, where the winner will receive $500, he’s glad to be a participant.

“It’s cool to see the legends in the industry participating,” he said.


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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