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Before he arrived in Las Vegas in 2006, Derek Stevens was a low-key individual.

Working in Detroit, he became accustomed to wearing dark suits and plain white shirts with conservative ties. He was never a flashy guy, simply preferring to be known as a quiet businessman.

Then he came to Las Vegas. He bought the 51’s, Las Vegas Triple-A baseball franchise now known as the Aviators and wanted to market the team effectively. Knowing the glitz and glamour of Sin City is much brighter than Motown, the flash and pizazz of his persona was born.

Now, many years after placating to baseball goers by walking up and down the aisles of the stands at Cashman Field and shaking their hands while wearing colorful suits, Stevens is still a fan of his people.

Which is why he won’t let the coronavirus pandemic infiltrate the two football contests at The D’s and Golden Gate’s Circa Sportsbook.

Registration for the Circa Sports Million II and Circa Survivor pro football contests began on March 6. One week later the country was turned upside down, beginning with the cancellation of college and pro sports, and registration numbers stalled.

As of Tuesday, there were 1,012 entrants in the Circa Sports Million II contest, and 441 entered in the Circa Survivor pro football contests contest, with a guaranteed combined payout of $4 million, including the $1 million top prize in each contest.

“Everybody started asking if we were going to back off,” Stevens said. “I’m not going to back off on this thing.

“We’re going to give gamblers what could be the greatest gamble in the history of football. We’re opening Circa Las Vegas at the end of October, so I’m not going to back off the contest. It just means we gotta adapt and maybe spend a little more in advertising.”

If the season began with those entry numbers, Stevens would be on the hook for approximately $2.5 million. And he’s not backing off his promise to Southern Nevada. If there’s an overlay in the contests due to not enough contestants, so be it.

Last Friday, the D Las Vegas hosted a “little goofy social media event” as Stevens puts it, where last year’s winner of the Circa Sports Million, Isaac Meier, faced off with the 2019 Westgate Las Vegas SuperContest, Matt Kucera and Eric Jensen as if they were all headed into a boxing match. Then they all signed up for the contest.

“All the downtown casino owners … we all get along really well,” Stevens said. “We all got pretty similar personalities. I might like sports more than one guy, one guy might like something else more than the other, but we all get along really well. And our whole goal was to get people down here. There’s a certain amount of camaraderie. And I like that environment.

“I love Vegas for a lot of reasons. I like it for business, I like it for pleasure, I love sports, but the element about downtown, there’s a certain community which was pretty cool. It’s a big, well-known city, but it’s still kind of a small town where a lot of people get to know each other. I love all Las Vegas.”

Stevens has always been a man of his word, especially when it revolves around his passion for sports and sports wagering. But he’s also held a near and dear passion for downtown Las Vegas and said he would never do anything to jeopardize the relationship he’s built with his patrons, colleagues, and fellow downtown casino owners and operators.

Which circles back to sticking by his word — and guarantee — that the promised $4 million in prizes will be paid out at the end of the season, to two contest winners.

“I had a mentor a long time ago that said ‘if you worry about the money too much, it’s gonna be harder for it to show up’ and I believe that,” Stevens said.

About the Author

W.G. Ramirez

W.G. Ramirez is a 32-year veteran covering sports in Southern Nevada, and resident of 46 years. He is a freelance reporter in Las Vegas and the Southern Nevada correspondent for The Associated Press.

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