To book or
not to book

Mayer’s point

Mar 1, 2005 8:02 AM

My esteemed colleague is protective of his previous life as a sports book manager and so he should be. But he makes my argument for me. Things have to lighten up.

The books have changed over the last 10 to 15 years and, don’t get me wrong, I like the corporates just fine. The bottom line is making everyone happy. I just think the players need to get a few more breaks, otherwise there will be fewer customers and that hurts the gaming business.

On the subject of prop bets, why shouldn’t the player have the right to win a parlay that books may consider a disadvantage to the house? Parlays are difficult to win in any form. Hey, you can go 3-1 (75 percent) and lose. The minimum number of teams you can parlay is three, which gives the house a distinct advantage. And, that’s fine. No problem.

When dealing in baseball and the run line vs. the "over/under" comparison, the player doesn’t necessarily have an edge. The books are scared there would be a massive loss should a Randy Johnson-Curt Schilling match-up wind up "under" and either the Red Sox or Yankees win, say 1-0, 2-1 or 3-2.

Why not throw the players a bone? There are no guarantees in betting. If the house is so concerned about losing big, they can do one of two things. Either place a cap on the amount a customer can parlay, or don’t put up the match-up at all.

The sports book managers and directors are quality people and totally professional to deal with. They do come under enormous scrutiny from their superiors, as they should because of the large amount of money they handle each day. That’s understood and appreciated.

When I reflect upon what Vegas used to be, I recall the number of times my dad was comped at the Sands in Atlantic City. He would never tell me just how the hotel room was paid for: a trade-off for table game bets (he was a craps player). All I knew was that we were treated well and I always had fun.

That’s the way it was when I came to Vegas for the first time on my own. I wasn’t comped at first, but when I decided to sit at a $25 blackjack table the free deck of cards and extra night stays started coming my way. Again, that’s part of the method to make the customer happy and want to come back. That’s the way it should be.

Things have changed to some degree. The sports book managers are less likely to speak about policy because of the conservative nature of the higher-ups to clear all information. That policy relates to interviews and to wagers.

The smaller books, particularly the one-man operations, are more likely to cut the player a break. The Plaza is more likely to have a nickel line in baseball than the major Strip hotels. It’s the Plaza’s way of bringing the people downtown, and that’s intelligent marketing.

I have no general beef with the sports books or in the way Las Vegas gaming is run. Vegas has always been able to stay one step ahead of the other guys — that’s why this town is the entertainment capital of the world.

What I do believe is that Vegas bosses can’t be afraid to sometimes take one step back in order to take two forward. Throw the bettors a few lines and they’ll bite. Be more liberal with comps for the squares and let’s have more 99¡ specials not just early morning breakfasts.

A little of the old won’t hurt a lot of the new. The house is concerned with making money. Taking some of the restrictions off parlay betting will make that happen.

I’ll put 3-to-1 odds on that.