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In a time where there is so much uncertainty in the world and much concern within the casino industry, things in Tony Nevill’s world are golden — literally.

The race and sports director at TI has a new workspace — the Golden Circle — and it is spectacular. Not only are there plenty of places to sit and watch while wagering, there are additional amenities, including a full service bar, food service and other wagering options, including Blackjack, Roulette, War and the Fortune Cup horse racing game.

Phil Ruffin, the owner of the TI, had a vision for upgrading the race and sports book to fall in line with the entire property’s renovation. Nevill, who has been with Ruffin since 2009 and has worked in the sportsbook industry since 1981, was in charge of overseeing the project.

“Mr. Ruffin loves horse racing and he understands the importance of sports betting to the casino,” said Nevill, who is representing his property in Gaming Today’s 2020 Bookies Battle Contest sponsored by Station Casinos. “We wanted to have it ready for football season and it was a blessing that we were able to facilitate the customer experience by having it ready.”

The area, located where the buffet used to sit, had a soft opening a couple of weeks ago. The entire Golden Circle is expected to be completed by early October. But patrons can already take advantage of many of the highlights. The hi-def TV screens are state-of-the-art. The boards with the odds are bright and easy to read. The individual seats are adjustable, making it more comfortable for individuals. There are eight self-serve betting kiosks that have the entire menu of wagering options. And there’s a lower ceiling than the previous race and sportsbook, keeping the sound in the room and adding to the energy level.

“This is hard to believe but we were the only sportsbook without a bar,” Nevill said. “But the bar we have is beautiful and we now have a multi-faceted operation.”

What’s hard to believe was the Golden Circle managed to open as planned. When the state ordered all casinos to close on March 17 due to the coronavirus, Nevill and his entire staff were laid off. Nothing was done for the next 78 days.

“Everyone was in shock,” he said. “Nobody knew what was going to take place. We all had to file for unemployment so it was all up in the air.

“But I felt like greater minds than mine would find a solution. And as I’ve grown older, I’ver learned that patience is a virtue.”

When the casino reopened June 4, Ruffin brought Nevill back and work began in earnest on the Golden Circle project. Some recalculating was done on where to place certain things but the original plan was pretty much intact. And as the pace picked up, suddenly, a more optimistic picture emerged.

“As it started to take shape and the work continued, I started to believe we were going to make it in time (for football),” Nevill said. “And while it wasn’t 100% completed when we opened, the majority of the work was done and I’m so proud of what we have built.”

Nevill said while the weekdays are slow due to the lack of convention business, the weekends have been good at the TI.

“We’re still a long way from normal but we’re getting steady traffic in the book,” he said. “The feedback I’m getting is totally positive and being right off the casino floor with easy access to our garage where the parking is free, we’re getting people stopping by and checking it out.”

The TI’s book is one of only a handful of independent operations around Las Vegas these days. It allows Nevill to make have some built-in flexibility in crafting his own numbers, establish different limits with different players and knows his boss has his back.

“It allows us to be a little different and have a certain amount of freedom I might not have elsewhere,” Nevill said.

As for his handicapping skills, Nevill has had success in Bookies Battle. In 2015, he finished in a tie for second place. In crafting his weekly picks, he relies on his own power rankings and trying to figure out which teams are in the best condition to play.

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“The biggest factor to me was with no preseason, who’s in shape?” said Nevill, who got off to a good start in Week 1 with a 12-4 record, one game behind leader John Lindheimer of Harrah’s Hoosier Park. “You have to stay on top of it and see who’s injured, if anyone tests positive (for COVID-19) and the depth of the rosters.”

Nevill has friends in the contest so there will likely be some kidding and needling, all while being socially distanced, of course.

“I saw the list of who’s in it and there are some names that I don’t recognize and a lot that I do,” he said. “Hopefully I’ll get to meet some of the new contestants.”

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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