NASCAR’s 15 minutes of fame

Mar 8, 2005 9:02 AM

Football, basketball and baseball are the most highly wagered sports in Las Vegas over the course of a year. But that doesn’t mean an event unrelated to the Big Three can’t steal the limelight in a particular week.

Enter, the Las Vegas 400 stock car race.

Forget the sponsors, they mean nothing to our interest. Fans know the event as the 400 and they swarm to places like Terrible’s to bet on their favorite drivers.

"When Vegas has a home event, there is definitely a difference in the volume of bets we take in," said Doug Beil, race and sports director at Terrible’s. The NASCAR race here is an unbelievably big betting event. I would say that 80 percent of the people going to the race will place a wager."

If so, that’s more than 120,000 bettors.

"NASCAR is the one sport on the rise in popularity here," Beil said. "We’ll take 10 times more action on the Las Vegas 400 than for the Daytona 500. It’s an unbelievably big event for us."

In terms of volume, Beil ranks the Las Vegas 400 only behind the World Series, NBA playoffs, college football BCS bowls, NCAA men’s basketball tournament and the Super Bowl in importance. The Super Bowl has accounted in the past for as much as 20 percent of the yearly sports betting volume in Las Vegas.

"I find that the numbers soar when Las Vegas hosts an event, whether it’s boxing, NASCAR or arena football," Beil said. "Otherwise, the betting action is minimal compared to that of football, basketball and baseball."

The hometown Las Vegas Gladiators do a reasonably good betting business for home games in the Arena Football League, but Beil says that the NHL gets more action even if that’s minimal at best.

"Arena football is thrown into the other ”˜secondary sports’ as far as wagering,’’ he said. "Actually, soccer is very successful for us, particularly the Mexican League. There is also a lot of support for the English and Spanish Leagues, along with the Euro Cup. Of course, the World Cup is huge for us, but that’s every two or three years."

Stations, especially Palace Station, has always pushed NASCAR. The Imperial Palace has sponsored Wednesday night NHL packages for years. Terrible’s has done well promoting soccer futures and PGA golf matchup wagering has gained in popularity. But together, they make up less in volume than baseball and not even in the same ballpark as basketball and football.

"We have had positive response advertising our early baseball props," said Mike Colbert, sports director at the Plaza. "But, football rules and probably always will."


A SPECIAL VOICE

Chuck Thompson ranked with Vin Scully, Chick Hearn, Marty Glickman, Jack Buck and Marv Albert as the best announcers ever. Baltimore sadly lost Thompson at age 83.