More betting, less steroids, Artest, T.O.

Dec 27, 2005 5:33 AM

When GamingToday next prints it will be 2006, a year that figures to be even more successful in sports betting than the one just ended.

Before getting to what matters to Vegas bettors, it’s only right to acknowledge my choices for the best and worst sports had to offer in 2005. Just two graphs is all the room we need.

Chisox winning the World Series and breaking a draught (88 years) almost as long as the Boston Red Sox from the previous year edged Lance Armstrong’s seventh straight Tour de France title and Danica Patrick’s breakout season in Indy cars Hopefully Danica’s success and looks will put that boring gender hangup to rest.

The pits of 2005, which the mass media and sports radio clones blew up and beat to death, were: steroids, Terrell Owens, Ron Artest on and off court fighting, Brett Favre retirement, the Colts unbeaten chase and, of course, the Heisman. The biggest story in 2006 will likely be one the media "creates," rather than reports.

Back to Las Vegas, thankfully. Sports wagering had a banner year in 2005, if you subtract the last three months. People tend to remember how the favorites since October collected in record amounts (now 58 percent) during the NFL season, forgetting that more than 20 percent of the house revenue along The Strip for the entire year is generated from the Super Bowl wagering.

"The house did great from that result and total (New England beat Philadelphia 24-21) in terms of winnings," said Micah Roberts, race and sports arena director at Sunset Station. "I think overall, it was one of the best volume years ever for the books. Betting was up in all sports across the board, not just football."

The first quarter of 2006 will bring further development of South Coast and the late March opening of Station Casinos new hub at Red Rock in Summerlin off I-215 and Charleston.

"There are very few stand alone places in Vegas now," said Roberts, whose Sunset venue is a ”˜satellite’ to the current ”˜hub’ at Palace Station. "Creating a new hub, such as Red Rock, is a major moving process. The big plus is the number of new jobs created."

Rampart’s astute race and sports director Eric St. Clair said that the consolidation of megaresorts such as Harrah’s (with Caesars Palace and Bally’s) along with MGM (with Mirage and Mandalay Bay) will remain the trend in 2006 and throughout the decade.

"Having a sports managers job at a satellite book is very good to have," St. Clair said. "The only difference between that position and one at the hub is in terms of making lines. Here at Rampart, we post the number on all sports. Our satellite (Cannery) uses the same number. The relationship works for both and our business is doing well."

South Coast has become the first gaming locale to have an equestrian center, which will be utilized throughout the year.

"There’s no wagering on events at the Center," said Jeff Turnbull, sports book supervisor at South Coast. "It’s not treated by Gaming Control as a sport, much like poker. Our goal in 2006 is to increase the draw for overall sports betting. We want to outdo the numbers from the Orleans and Suncoast. So far, our book has been packed."

Interactive betting was brought into the Palms to end 2005 and will be a top story follow this coming year. Wagers are taken on a play-by-play basis on NFL games at terminals so customers won’t have to leave their seats to place bets.

"Something similar was tried at Excalibur a few years back," Roberts said. "Naturally we will be keeping a close eye on how the Palms does."

Next year will again focus on offshore books and how their numbers affect Las Vegas books.

"Obviously it does take away some business," Roberts said. "Vegas has no equal, especially during Super Bowl week."a play-by-play basis on NFL games at terminals so that customers won’t have to leave their seats to bet.

"Something similar was tried at Excalibur a few years back," Roberts said. "Naturally we will be keeping a close eye on how the Palms does. Management does a great job there, and if it is profitable we might very well be interested in doing it at Sunset."

Next year will again focus on offshore books and how their numbers affect Las Vegas books.

"Obviously, offshore has a big business," Roberts said. "It does take away potential customers and business from us, but Vegas can’t be equaled in terms of the betting experience. People come here for the Super Bowl parties. Atlantic City, California or anywhere else can’t match it. Plus, you get an immediate payoff here. Not so offshore."