Vegas sportsbooks shine for March Madness

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People from all corners of the country are going to be meeting and gathering in Las Vegas sportsbooks beginning Thursday when the NCAA Tournament tips off.

It’s become the most lively four day stretch the books will see all year, so preparation is paramount for every book director.

“It’s certainly more challenging than the Super Bowl,” said Westgate Las Vegas SuperBook VP Jay Kornegay. “It’s the weekend where I tip my hat to all the ticket writers around town who feel the brunt of the pressure right up close, non-stop for 10 or 12 hours a day, four straight days.”

Sportsbook staffs around the city got somewhat of a dress rehearsal last week with the conference tournaments, but there really isn’t anything that can prepare them for the real thing. The pressure felt to get every wager taken in is felt from the ticket writer to the line supervisor to the bookmaker and then the director. It’s a chain reaction and the books that do the best at this process are quite noticeable. The SuperBook is one of those.

“We have a veteran staff – it’s not their first time around, but it’s still good to get acclimated a bit for the rush we’ll see (this week),” said Kornegay.

Communication with the staff and other departments is a big part of his prep process.

“I’ve sent some prep memo’s around to various departments – security and food and beverage for the waitresses – just to get them ready. I sent an internal memo out (last week) to our staff just to remind them about what we’re going to see, which is a lot of novice bettors where you have to be patient and professional, but also get them through the line as fast as possible.

“One of the other reminders to our staff was in regards to Title 31 and to I.D. anyone that doesn’t look 21, and it doesn’t matter if they have a bet ticket already or a beer in their hand. It’s each writer’s responsibility themselves to ensure no one underage is betting.”

Another thing Kornegay included in the memo was to make sure everyone on his staff knows about what kind of promotions they’re running.

“I want them to know everything about Hoops Central and that we’ll have three betting stations open in the showroom. I want them to relay that we have a free ‘Madness’ t-shirt given away for every $25 parlay card wagered. And maybe most of all, I want them to inform everyone to get a phone account. Why wait in line and possibly get shut out? Get a phone app and never be frustrated with long lines again.”

The SuperBook opened wagering on their phone app on Jan. 9 and because of their unique numbers in all sports, their handle is rising daily. The person who lives in the Vegas outskirts of Summerlin or Green Valley that scoffed at the idea of driving to Paradise and Sahara to bet the SuperBook’s numbers in the past now has it right in their hand.

Even if having the phone app, Kornegay still wants to see everyone at his property having fun next weekend.

“This is our first go-around with the NCAA Tournament in the new SuperBook and we’re looking to create the best atmosphere possible for all our guests.”

The cost to rebuild the new SuperBook was nearly $12 million. It’s still the largest sportsbook in the city and now its arguably the nicest. In addition to the hundreds that can be seated and standing inside the book, Kornegay’s Hoops Central has an additional 1,500 seats inside the showroom, the same room where Elvis Presley used to sing twice nightly.

South Point Madness

There will be a big party throughout their property as well. In addition to parties inside the book and every casino bar, they’re also opening up the ballroom upstairs Thursday through Saturday, which accommodates up to 4,000 people. They’ll have five betting stations open in the ballroom as well as their nine sports-only windows in the books.

They’re running a couple promotions for the week including a contest card for Thursday’s games and another for Friday’s. The cards cost $5 each and there is no limit. There are 16 games for each day and you simply select the winner – no points. Sometimes no points can be more difficult than a pointspread because of all the upsets. Whoever has the most winners per day wins a guaranteed $10,000 in addition to any contest entry fees accepted that go over $10,000.

Another big promotion there begins with Saturday’s second round action. The sportsbook will be offering -105 reduced juice on straight bets for all NCAA Tournament games. This promotion will run through the Championship Game and is also available on their phone app.

It’s a nice touch by new sportsbook director Chris Andrews, a northern Nevada booking legend. Welcome back to Vegas, Chris, and thanks for the great deals.

Last Man Standing

How does $50,000 sound? That’s what Station Casinos sportsbooks are giving away, guaranteed to the lucky person who picks winners against the spread the most days consecutively in their Last Man Standing elimination contest.

For a $25 entry fee, you can get yourself entered in the contest and pick one game against the spread each day of the NCAA Tournament. When you lose a game, your contest is over. When you win, you stay alive and advance until ultimately there is just one person remaining.

All monies collected by Station after the $50,000 prize is collected go in to the pot as well. The final prize pool is always over $50,000.

If you’re watching the NCAA Tournament, you might as well have a little bit of action on it. The only negative is you have to go daily to the book to put your picks in (winning $50,000 does require a little work). A Station sportsbook is located almost on every corner around town, including the El Cortez downtown, so the excuses not to play is a really short list. Get in on the action.

What’s Osweiler worth?

The Denver Broncos worst case 2016 scenario was realized Wednesday when QB Brock Osweiler signed a four-year, $72 million deal with the Houston Texans, just two days after Peyton Manning announced his retirement.

With the most important position on the field being a huge question mark now for Denver, Las Vegas sportsbooks made a few adjustments on their futures.

“We’re moving the Broncos from 15-1 to win the Super Bowl up to 25-1 and we’re dropping the Texans from 40-1 down to 20-1,” said Wynn sportsbook director John Avello. “It’s a significant blow to the Broncos’ chances, and a huge upgrade for Houston. Their QB play was awful last year and Osweiler could be their missing piece. They’ve got the coach, the defense and now they’ve got a QB.”

Houston’s defense kept them in most games last season, seven of which they allowed opponents to score 10 points or less. The Texans also bolstered their running game by signing RB Lamar Miller from Miami to a four-year, $26 million deal.

The Broncos have more troubles ahead. They also lost DT Malik Jackson to Jacksonville, which will weaken its No. 1 ranked defense from last year.

Linebacker Danny Trevathan is gone and his back-up, Brandon Marshall, and DB Omar Bolden are also awaiting deals from the highest bidders. The offense might lose C.J. Anderson to Miami (Denver has until Tuesday at 1PM to match offer  sheet) and back-up Ronnie Hillman could be gone too. Starting tight-end Owen Daniels was released as well.

Despite the transactions that occurred, and those that will happen, the Westgate Las Vegas SuperBook didn’t make any adjustments to their futures.

“We’re not sold on Osweiler enough to make any adjustments on our futures,” said SuperBook assistant manager Jeff Sherman. “We didn’t have any change in our ratings from Osweiler to Manning last season and their run through the playoffs was keyed not by its quarterback play, but its defense. Denver should be able to plug somebody in there at QB to be just as effective as their QB play was last season.”

Existing liability also played a part in the SuperBook not moving off 12-1. Sherman said Denver was their third highest risk to win next year’s Super Bowl behind Minnesota (16/1) and Carolina (12/1). The Texans are still 40-1.

William Hill’s top bookmaker Nick Bogdanovich also kept the Broncos at 12-1 and Houston at 40-1 on their odds board.

“We didn’t do anything just because we think the book is still out on Osweiler,” said Bogdanovich. “He started only seven games in his career. I don’t think that’s enough time to really gauge his worth.”

Osweiler, entering his fifth season out of Arizona State, went 5-2 as a starter last season, including two huge overtime wins against the Patriots and Bengals, which helped give Denver home field throughout the playoffs, and essentially gave them a nice path to the Super Bowl.

So who does Denver get to play QB? Ryan Fitzpatrick is the highest rated QB still available, and then there’s Robert Griffin III. What about Johnny Manziel, a Texas A&M buddy with Super Bowl MVP Von Miller? After that the pickings get real small with the likes of Kellen Clemens, Matt Cassel, Jimmy Clausen and Matt Flynn.

Suddenly, the prospect of an aging Peyton Manning returning for another doesn’t sound so bad for the Broncos.

Micah Roberts is a former Las Vegas race and sports book director, one of The Linemakers on SportingNews.com , and longtime motorsports columnist and sports analyst at GamingToday. Twitter: @MicahRoberts7 Email: [email protected].

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