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Fontainebleau on schedule for late fall opening

Feb 3, 2009 5:05 PM
by Mark Mayer |

The $2.9 billion Fontainebleau resort isn’t in an Iowa cornfield or a remake of its famed sister property at Miami Beach. Rather, it’s seen by one as the dream job of the Las Vegas race and sports industry.

"I was looking for a property where I could put my fingerprints on a book and take it to the next level," said Chuck Esposito, who will take over as race and sports director when Fontainebleau opens sometime around Nov. 1. "I am so excited to be in a position to create a special place that will take race and sports books to the next level."

Esposito’s desire to be at the grassroots of a project came with a price. He left Caesars Palace after eight years as one of the most recognized and respected managers in the race and sports industry. And, he left with no regrets or hard feelings.

"Caesars is just a phenomenal property and always will be special to me," Esposito said. "It was my first opportunity to oversee a book. I made tremendous friends going back to Art Manteris, who gave me my big break in the industry."

A few months before Esposito left Caesars, the resort became the hub for all 12 Harrah’s properties when the two mega resorts merged. So being the head of 12 books made Esposito’s choice to leave even harder.

"With 12 properties around the state we achieved a tremendous amount of success industry wide," he said. "I left with mixed emotions because Caesars Palace is probably the marquee book around here."

But that’s in the past. Harrah’s hub is now at the Rio. And, ahead for Esposito is a chance to create a book that has a chance to revitalize the north end of the Strip.

"Moving to a new place from a technology, creativity and décor standpoint makes it special," he said. "The many TVs, positioning of screens and location of the race and sports bar are so important. We want every seat in the book to be like you’re on the 50-yard line."

The numbers on the Fontainebleau, according to its website, are huge. It will have 68 floors, stand 735 feet high with 3,812 luxury rooms, a 100,000-square foot casino and a 3,200-seat performing arts center among other amenities. It is on 24½ acres north of the Riviera where the El Rancho and Algiers stood.

"I look at this book basically from a technological standpoint," Esposito said. "The audio visual presentation is by far one of the most important things you can achieve. Yes, you can have comfortable seats and beautiful décor around the room but customers won’t remember that as much as the audio-visual. We’ll have a sound system that is just electric for every game and race track."

Similar to Station Casinos, newest resort (Aliante in North Las Vegas), the Fontainebleau book prides its bar as a signature piece.

"This will be a destination bar," Esposito said. "It will be elevated and overlook the race and sports room. It’s going to edgy, sexy and with an attitude. We want it to be the place where our customers will come to watch games again and again."

The Fontainebleau book plans to make its own betting lines, take an aggressive approach to props and futures odds along with emphasizing customer service.

"From the players’ prospective, a big part of the race and sports book experience is our customer service," Esposito said.

"Las Vegas gives sports bettors a service they can’t get anywhere else," Esposito added. "You want to give people an experience that says wow. No matter if your customers are $10 bettors or $10,000, you want them to have fun and think they can make a little money."

Esposito said the book will have a stadium type feel with 75 race carols having individual TVs along with a number of sports seats available for viewing. He plans to hire between 15 and 20 ticket writers.

"We look at the property as a way to invigorate the north end of the Strip," Esposito said. "We aren’t far from Wynn, Encore, Venetian or Palazzo. We will bring people over to the northern end."

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