When Ed Malinowski joined the Stratosphere four months ago, he came with the goal of taking the race and sports book to new heights. Like 1,149-feet up to the Tower.
"I wish," laughed Malinowski, who became director of race and sports operations after 10 years of learning at the MGM MIRAGE properties. "It is challenging to get people in our book, but knowing we have that Tower as an attraction is an advantage no other resort has."
For sure a race and sports book would definitely be a perk inside the tallest free-standing observation tower in the USA (only the CN Tower in Toronto is higher in the Western Hemisphere). But that’s for dreamers. Reality is raising the stature of the book from the bottom up.
And the improvements are already noticeable.
"Since I’ve gotten here, we’ve put in new carpet, new chairs, taken out slot machines, reduced the noise level and created more open air," he said. "We added six new race terminals with monitors. Our race and sports location is right near the front door which allows you to be in and out in 15 minutes with valet parking."
The book is also greatly enhanced by nearby Lucky’s Restaurant, a throwback to the Rat Pack days of Las Vegas with pictures of celebrity greats. There’s even a few tables near Jack Benny.
"Burgers as good as you will find," Malinowski said. "People really are surprised with just how nice things are here. It’s just a matter of getting them to come."
And to do that, Stratosphere is expanding the betting menu.
"We offer money lines for the first and second half of basketball games," he said. "We’re going to be adding props for baseball, including putting in five-inning lines for the first time. We have more boxing and MMA (Mixed Martial Arts) than just about anyone in town. Simply, we want to cater to the sports fans."
The Stratosphere lines are the same as those at sister properties Arizona Charlie’s East and West (Boulder and Decatur sites) along with Aquarius in Laughlin. With Stratosphere being the hub, the aggressive nature of lines starts there.
"We do have a different approach," Malinowski said. "We’re aggressive at stopping people from just coming in to take advantage of a line. We basically back them off. We want to make sure the right people are here to gamble and this book will go out of its way to take care of them."
For instance, Malinowski said his book normally takes a limit of $5,000 on an NFL game. But there is a great deal of flexibility.
"We will take $10,000 for known players or guests of the property," he said. "And we can double that. If you are a legit casino player who wants to play here, we’re not scared to take a wager. We can do $20,000 for NFL."
Limits are a bit less for basketball, but reasonable – $2,000 for NBA sides, $1,000 for totals and money line. In college basketball, it’s $500 on totals.
"I feel our limits are competitive and we’re flexible," Malinowski said. "I’m always on property, a phone call away if a bettor wants to go higher."
Malinowski sees the Las Vegas Hilton and Palace Station as his prime competition.
"We get a lot of customers who use us and the Hilton," he said. "Palace Station has one of the busiest race books in the city so we’re looking at ways to bring horse players here. We’re not the Las Vegas Hilton or MGM MIRAGE so do the bells and whistles. Player development and good comp packages are what we can give our customers."
Malinowski would also like to see the race and sports industry take advantage of the Internet.
"I think this industry is somewhat stagnant," he said. "There is a lot of technology around that we haven’t taken advantage of. Most everyone is computer savvy. There has been in-game wagering in the UK (Great Britain) for some time. Why can’t we be an OTB (Off Track Betting) for everyone? Seems more can be done."
In the meantime at Stratopshere, Malinowski endures with a staff of seven ticket writers, an ad man and three supervisors.
"It was necessary to reduce to the bare minimum with the economic situation, but we’re fully staffed on weekends," he said. "We hope to get state of the art boards here, but it’s a matter of the economic crisis easing. We want to get people saying, ‘Why wouldn’t you want to play here?’"