Walk into any race and sports book on a Saturday or Sunday during football season and you’ll find that the dominant decibel levels come from the sports betting fans as they ooh and ahhh each play. For the serious horse player that likes to handicap a track or regional race by race, nothing is worse for them than having their concentration broken by the loudness on the sports side.
Of course race fans like to make noise as well, but it only lasts for a few seconds as they root their horse in – with imaginary whip in hand – down the final stretch. The differences between the race and sports bettors is that the race players feel more vested in the property they choose to visit daily, while most of the sports bettors seem to only come, or stay for an event, one or two days a week. Many race players contend that since they are there daily that they should have more control over the priorities of a book on busy sports days, and in some ways, they are absolutely right.
Pari-mutuel race players are at a premium in the casino and regarded very highly, first, because the players are becoming scarce, and secondly, because the house never loses at horse racing like they can in sports.
A race book is guaranteed to make an average of 18% on all bets through the windows, money that is disbursed through a local dissemination company which goes straight into the track pool. With guaranteed money at that high of a percentage, it is one of the more fool proof gaming ventures for a casino, so why not try and capitalize on it.
Issues that always arise on a football weekend usually center around seating, where the race players are constantly protecting their turf from the invading sports bettors. The Sports Book rarely has enough seats to accommodate the overflow of fans on an NFL Sunday. Once the two sides start mixing and matching, with the sports guys yelling closer and closer to the race players, that’s when some fuses pop.
The South Point Race Book recently broke away from the busy Sports Book side when the casino expanded its floor, which also includes a beautiful new poker room. The move comes with perfect timing, just before football season starts. The new race book has its own feel now, and isn’t bothered by the sights and sounds of sports. For the true old school race player and anyone who has spent considerable time at an OTB parlor, this is how they like it.
It doesn’t come as a surprise that South Point would be the place to have this type of approach because the owner, Michael Gaughan, is one of the last remnants of old school Las Vegas. He’s a hands-on owner who consistently shows by his actions throughout his casino that he truly values every person that walks in through his doors. When players get that honest vibe from an owner or president of a hotel/casino, it creates brand loyalty forever.
Gaughan’s South Point still remains the only casino to have its race and sports books run by separate directors, which further emphasizes the importance he places on the race players. Rather than have a director bogged down by moving sports lines on a busy day – neglecting a large portion of the operation on the race side – he has one person handle the race operations with no other interference on a daily basis.
This works well with the sports side as well, as the director there can concentrate solely on making good numbers and being on top of everything in that area rather than settling a seating dispute from the race side. It’s a win-win operation for everyone, but most importantly for the players.
Gaughan also has one of the only race books I have seen that has live feeds from every major track piped in to every hotel room. Hotel guests can get a phone account and bet right from their room if they like.
If you haven’t been there yet, and you love horse racing, go check it out. Just about everything they did well while neighbors to the sports book still remains including taking the .75 hot dog cart with them. It’s now just more of an intimate race book with a touch of old school.