Suncoast’s Lewis stays optimistic

For Mike Lewis, the arrival of the NFL season has brought joy as well as trepidation.

As the race and sportsbook manager at the Suncoast, Lewis is thrilled to have his customers frequent his place of business to watch and wager. But Lewis is also a Detroit Lions fan and that means another season of likely disappointment.

“It’s tough,” Lewis, 51, said. “I’ve rooted for the Lions my whole life and they have won one playoff game in my lifetime. So my expectations for them are always low.”

Growing up near Ann Arbor, Lewis has had some cause for celebration and hope for his Detroit teams. He has seen the Tigers win a World Series. He has seen the Red Wings capture four Stanley Cups and the Pistons win three NBA titles.

“It hasn’t been a total wash,” Lewis said of his fandom, which can be seen on the walls of his office with all sorts of memorabilia. “I’ve seen my teams win.”

And while Detroit’s pro sports teams are going through a lull, Lewis’ place of business is rebounding from the 3 1/2-month shutdown from the coronavirus. Business continues to pick up at the Suncoast which celebrated its 20th anniversary on Sept. 12. Lewis, who is representing the property in Gaming Today’s 2020 Bookies Battle Contest sponsored by Station Casinos, has been there from the beginning.

“We have so many customers who’ve been with us since Day One,” said Lewis, who was hired by original owner Michael Gaughan. “It’s really a friendship, not just a customer relationship. I hear about their families, their kids, and they know me and my family.”

Lewis has tried to create a family atmosphere with his employees. That was the case when Gaughan owned the Suncoast and has carried over under Boyd Gaming, the property’s current owner.

“I take a blue-collar approach to the job,” he said. “You get up every day, go in and put in an honest day’s work.

“But you also have to have fun. I want our staff to enjoy themselves. I honestly don’t look at it as work.”

But trying to pick winners in GT’s Bookies Battle? That can be hard work, especially when there’s less information than in previous years.

“I’ve seen a couple of things early this year,” said Lewis, who was 11-5 last week. “One, Kansas City is still the best team. Two, the Seahawks may be the favorite to represent the NFC in the Super Bowl. I think Russell Wilson is the best player in football. I also think Arizona is a fun team to watch and they’re worth keeping an eye on.”

And the Lions?

“They’re in midseason form already finding ways to lose,” he said of his team, which is off to an 0-2 start.

The other thing Lewis has noticed about the NFL and the Suncoast is for the first time, Las Vegas has its own team.

“I never thought we’d see the NFL here,” he said. “But having the Raiders here has changed things. I see more people wearing Raiders gear who they come to the book. There’s definitely been an uptick in betting on the Raiders; actually, I’ve seen that the last two years ever since they announced they were moving to Vegas (from Oakland). We get big crowds for their games and we put every Raiders game on the biggest screen in the book with the sound on.”

Lewis believes that had the Golden Knights not preceded the Raiders in Las Vegas, the city might still be waiting for major league pro sports.

“The Golden Knights and the NHL knocked the door down and paved the way for the Raiders and the NFL,” he said. “Once the Knights came here and were successful, all the worries about Las Vegas and sports betting seemed to go away.

“I think we’ll see the NBA here and probably (Major League) Baseball at some point now that we have the NFL and the NHL and the WNBA in Vegas.”

Lewis said the other contributing factor to having the Raiders in Las Vegas is the growth of legalized sports betting throughout the country. It forced the NFL to accept the fact that betting wasn’t evil.

“It’s good to see they’ve embraced it,” he said. “The funny thing is we want what they want, which is integrity for the games being played.”

Lewis said having sports betting across the country can help the industry, including Nevada.

“It’s great,” he said. “When people come to visit, they are more comfortable with the process because they’ve experienced it where they live.”

And with his native state, Michigan having launched sports betting and the Big Ten preparing to play football in the fall after all, Lewis is getting the sense that things are slowly starting to feel normal again.

“It’s been a crazy year for sure,” said Lewis, who took advantage of the time off to spend some unexpected quality time with his 4-year-old son Chase. “But it’s getting better. We had no sports and a little horse racing when we first reopened (in June). Now, we have all the major pro sports, much more horse racing and people are excited. They’re definitely into it.” 

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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