When opportunity knocks, you open the door, even if you’re not quite sure what’s going to happen.
Chris Robichaud took that leap of faith at his place of employment — The Brook Casino in Seabrook, New Hampshire. The 44-year-old from Windham, Mass., was content working at the casino’s manager for poker and table games when the state approved legalized sports betting.
Robichaud loves sports. But he didn’t know much about operating a sportsbook. But he did know people and understand the importance of good customer service.
“I saw it as a great career opportunity,” said Robichaud, who is representing The Brook in contest sponsored by Station Casinos. “Everyone I know has been asking ‘When are we getting sports betting?’ so when the governor (Chris Sununu) )approved the bill and New Hampshire was going to have legalized sports betting, I knew we were going to get involved.”
Partnering with DraftKings, Robichaud had some expert advice to lean on in getting the book at The Brook operational. So far, the partnership has been great for both sides.
“Being associated with DraftKings has been great,” Robichaud said. “They’re easy to work with and they’re so knowledgable about the business. If I ever have a question about something, I get an answer right away and it’s always the right answer.”
New Hampshire launched sports betting late in 2019 with mobile apps. The Brook, which is located on the site of the former Seabrook Greyhound Track and is owned and operated by Eureka Casino Resorts in Mesquite, became the state’s first retail sportsbook when it opened for business on Aug. 12. The timing turned out to be good given there were no sports to bet on from mid-March through late July due to the coronavirus pandemic.
Nothing better than Wings, beer, and football here at #TheBrook ! Join us and watch all your favorite NFL teams on the big screen while placing your #bets with @DKSportsbook ! #sundayfootball #wings #beer #DraftKings #bets #livefreeandplay pic.twitter.com/5ORrQPnQlG
— The Brook Casino (@TheBrookCasino) October 4, 2020
“It was absolutely perfect timing,” Robichaud said. “It gave us time to set things up with DraftKings, get our staff educated and we were able to hit the ground running.”
With the NBA and NHL playoffs going on, baseball in full swing and the NFL looming, traffic at The Brook was steady. As the state’s lone retail operation and sports betting still not a reality in neighboring Massachusetts, Business was good.
“People in the area love sports,” Robichaud said. “People were excited about being able to bet on the Celtics in the playoffs and with football now in full swing, we’re getting a lot more visitors. Our handle is getting bigger every week. We’re getting a lot more folks coming by to check us out. We’ve seen people who haven’t been in in a while and they’re amazed by what they see.”
What they see is a full service race and sportsbook with VIP seating, kiosks, individual seating with TVs, huge screens that can adjust to a number of games.
“We’re very proud of our race and sportsbook,” Robichaud said. “It’s a perfect complement to the casino and it’s easy to get to and find one you’re inside.”
This is Robichaud’s first time competing in the Bookies Battle and like all rookies, he is finding it challenging.
“It’s not easy,” he said. “Getting the picks in on Tuesday is a challenge. But I do enjoy it.”
Through the first quarter of the season, Robichaud’s record is 31-31. He said trying to come up with a system that works in what is quickly emerging as an abnormal NFL season is difficult.
“I’m kinda going by feel,” he said. “I have an idea who’s hurt. But when players test positive (for COVID-19) later in the week and you already turned in your picks, there’s not much you can do about it.”
Robichaud said one idea that seems to be helping him is his reliance on proven head coaches.
“I’m leaning on the veteran coaches — Bill Belichick, Mike Tomlin, John Harbaugh, Pete Carroll, those type of coaches,” he said. “It seems that when and if there’s a crisis, they are better prepared to deal with it than a rookie head coach.”
As for escaping the pressures of work, Robichaud tries to engage in outdoor activities as often as possible.
“I live by Hampton Beach, so it’s easy to want to do things outside,” he said.
Still, it’s indoors where Robichaud’s focus currently is. The baseball playoffs are underway. College football is picking up steam and the NFL is, well, the NFL.
“It’s a dream job,” he said. “I love all sports and to be involved with it is all I could have hoped for.”