Long-time bookie manages the risk

Jun 14, 2005 4:43 AM


Even after three years, the Charles Barkley Super Bowl bet remains a signature event that Nick Bogdanovich would give anything to erase.

"I understand that people are interested and that it gave me quite a bit of notoriety," he said. "But, I wish the whole thing would just go away."

Golden Nugget did its part to ease the pain, hiring Bogdanovich last year to work side-by-side with race and sports book director Chris Andrews. The two have formed a 1-2 punch second to none in the betting industry.

"I loved working for Tim Poster and Tom Breitling here at the Nugget, but now we are sort of in limbo with the new owners, who have been in the restaurant business," he said. "There are a lot of us excited about the prospects for improving our book, but at the same time we’re concerned about our jobs."

Since coming to the Nugget, Bogdanovich has been influential in organizing football’s richest handicapping contest, which featured a $5,000 entry fee for choosing five games a week and one best bet.

"We drew over 95 entrants with only two or three weeks to put it together last year," he said. "We were primed for a really great football contest again, but I don’t see it happening this season due to our uncertain situation."

Bogdanovich is cautiously optimistic that the Nugget’s race and sports book staff will remain intact. And he’s ready to forget the Barkley bet.

"I have rehashed the Barkley bet two million times, like beating a dead horse," said Bogdanovich, who ran the book at Mandalay Bay where Barkley made his infamous $600,000 wager on New England to beat St. Louis.

"Management thought I handled the transaction poorly, which I probably did," he said. "I just didn’t go through the proper channels and they penalized me. However, I don’t think it should have led to termination. I just assumed management had approved the bet."

Bogdanovich, who accepted Barkley’s marker without approval from the casino manager, became the fall guy when Sir Charles won his bet and walked away with $1 million.

"Working at Mandalay Bay was a great job," the Las Vegas native said. "I was there to book and nothing else. I remember we had more meetings during those 16 months than in the nine years I worked for Jack Binion at the Horseshoe."

Bogdanovich became involved in gaming through his love for sports, but had no prior experience in the industry until gaining a job as a ticket writer at the Sands under Rick Herron.

"At 23, I got a job writing tickets at the Sands under Rick Herron and went on to the Horseshoe in 1989 as a supervisor," he said. "When Tommy George left, I pitched the idea to Jack to run the book. He said okay and I did so for nine great years."

It was for Binions that Bogdanovich, at age 28, built his maverick image as a risk taker.

"I had a lot of freedom, thanks to Jack," Bogdanovich said. "He understood about bookmaking. We didn’t have mega suites and shows, just gambling. Binion’s was a four-window joint that had the biggest business handle next to The Mirage."

It was the unlimited size of bets, coupled with the World Series of Poker, that made Binion’s popular and Bogdanovich a rising star in the industry.

Bogdanovich admitted that he had a lot of offers to work offshore, but declined due to his Vegas roots.

"I was born at Sunrise Hospital and lived my whole life in Las Vegas," he said. "My wife and kids love it here. I wouldn’t want to be anywhere else."

When asked if he had any regrets, Bogdanovich took a moment and reflected one last time on that bet.

"If I had to do it all over again, I would have called upstairs to get it approved," he said. "I didn’t at the time because it was Barkley, a famous celebrity, and he was already with two casino people.

"Hindsight is 20-20," he concluded. "It was just one of those things. A miscommunication that got botched up."