Economy forces closing of Bally's sports book

Apr 7, 2009 5:00 PM
by Mark Mayer |

The closing of Bally’s Race & Sports Book last Tuesday came as a surprise to everyone, especially the man who oversees the operations for Harrah’s Properties.

"I thought it was an April Fool’s joke," said Dave Pemberton, in charge of race and sports operations for Caesars Palace, the Flamingo, Imperial Palace, Harrah’s, Rio, Bill’s Gamblin’ Hall & Saloon, Harvey’s (Reno), Paris and Bally’s. "I was caught by surprise. There are a lot of really fine people who work over at Bally’s."

The official statement released from Harrah’s said that fewer than 10 employees were affected by the temporary closure.

"The management team at Bally’s Las Vegas anticipates a tentative re-opening date of Fall 2009," the release stated.

Paris, whose resort is accessible from the inside of Bally’s, will be taking on the extra customers during the closure.

"It’s very disappointing for me personally because I used to work at Bally’s," Pemberton said. "The book had that stadium setting with its own reserved parking for the customers. We’re hoping to see Bally’s back for the start of the football season."

Pemberton said that the Bally’s closing was an isolated incident and would not have a "ripple effect" on the race and sports industry in Las Vegas. However, at least one race and sports director has some doubts about Bally’s reopening.

"I remember when Johnny Avello ran Bally’s it was one of the busiest books in town," said Mark Dufty, director of race and sports at Jerry’s Nugget. "The closing is a bad by-product of what is going on in this terrible economy. I sure hope Bally’s re-opens, but I’m skeptical."