When the calendar flips in 23 days to 2021, it will be cause for celebration throughout the world. Suffice to say, 2020 has been a terrible year.
Tony Miller would agree. The race and sports director at the Golden Nugget in downtown Las Vegas found himself fighting for his life after contracting the coronavirus in mid-September. He was hospitalized for nine days and he didn’t know if he would survive.
“I was in shock,” he said. “To this day, I’m baffled how I got it. I stay away from the customers. I have very little interaction with the staff. Who knows how I got it?
“But I knew I had something when my temperature was 104. I was thinking to myself, ‘I may never see my wife again.’”
Fortunately, his care at Southern Hills Hospital and Medical Center helped him overcome his malaise and he is grateful for it.
“The folks there were tremendous,” he said. “They gave me such good care. In fact, I’m going to give plasma this week.”
With his COVID-19 issues behind him, Miller has focused on trying to keep his independent book going. With games being postponed or canceled altogether in the NFL, college football and college basketball plus with the NBA set to start and alterations to its schedule a near certainty, Miller and his staff have learned to roll with the changes.
“Thank God for the (mobile) app,” he said. “We’ve had a lot more signups and that’s helped us a lot.”
Usually, this is a busy week for the city with the National Finals Rodeo in town. A lot of visitors tend to congregate downtown and that means fun times at the Golden Nugget.
“It’s a bit slow,” Miller said. “Not having the National Finals Rodeo with the cowboys drinking and whooping it up is definitely different.”
Speaking of Cowboys, Miller isn’t exactly whooping it up over the play of his favorite team — the Dallas Cowboys. Mired in last place in the subpar NFC East with major injuries to their personnel and a first-year coaching staff which is struggling, Miller has resigned himself to the fact that the season is lost.
“To be honest, I can care less at this point,” he said. “I’d rather them lose and move up in the draft.”
Fortunately for Miller, he can pick against his team every week in Gaming Today’s 2020 Bookies Battle contest sponsored by Station Casinos. He had worked his way into the top five going into Week 13 and at 104-84, Miller has something to feel good about this football season.
“It’s been a while,” he said of his being in the upper echelon of the Bookies Battle. “I’ve been in it since 2006. I’ve never won it, but I’ve been close.”
Miller admitted picking games in a normal year is difficult. But 2020 has been particularly challenging with players and entire teams dealing with COVID-19 issues.
“I’ll be honest, a lot of my success has been luck,” he said. “But it’s been the Year of the ‘Dog and I’ve been betting a lot of ‘dogs.”
Miller had a theory as to the run of underdogs covering and even winning outright this year.
“I think it’s a time and age of parity,” he said. “There’s all the injuries and the bad coaching we’ve seen, plus with no fans in the stands or limited fans, visiting teams aren’t as intimidated. It’s unprecedented. You’ve got to pay attention to the injuries and the coaching matchups.”
“We’re getting people from the Strip who would never come downtown,” he said. “A lot of people who visit Circa walk across Fremont Street and visit us and we’re glad about that.
“Derek’s done a terrific job downtown and his place is amazing. It helps all of us.”
As for his place, Miller said things are good, even though the Golden Nugget book is dwarfed by Circa’s.
“We have our loyal customers and they’re comfortable here,” he said. “Being an independent book, we’re able to make our own numbers and props, which makes us attractive to bettors.”
And Miler’s glad to be back at work.
“This is serious stuff,” he said of the pandemic. “I wouldn’t wish what I had on anyone.”