The story regarding betting interest in the Nevada teams is that there’s no story.
“Things would be different if (Jerry) Tarkanian was back,” said Rob Akers, race and sports book manager at The Venetian. “The only interest here is that one of our ticket writers is a UNLV season ticket holder.”
Both University of Nevada, Las Vegas (UNLV) and University of Nevada, Reno (UNR) owned 2-2 straight-up records entering the weekend. Neither school plays a schedule exciting enough to generate any interest.
“UNR has no following at all down here,” Akers said. “I believe UNLV would do better if they were a Top 20 team, but they’re not. This town has always needed a winner. There’s so much to do here from an entertainment standpoint that people just aren’t going to support a team that isn’t winning enough.”
Akers has been in Las Vegas for 18 years and remembers the Tarkanian era when the Running Rebels were one of the nation’s premier programs.
“It certainly was fun back then,” Akers said. “There was Gucci row where people were sitting in the front row betting nickels ($500) and dimes ($1,000) on the game when it wasn’t legal in the state. We were glad to see the ban removed last February, but honestly it hasn’t made much of an impact.”
Asked what would change the mood of the betting customer, Akers replied, “a flashy coach.”
“This is no knock at all on Charlie Spoonhour, who did a fine job at Saint Louis, but he just doesn’t bring the type of flair and flamboyance that would attract fans to the UNLV program. Losing to Cincinnati again certainly didn’t help and then falling at New Mexico State made it worse.”
Akers admitted that upon first seeing UNLV and UNR appear on parlay tickets was strange, but the rule change was a positive one for local gaming.
“The rule to ban Nevada schools from being wagered upon was hypocritical and we were glad to see the NCAA finally back off,” Akers said. “Unfortunately, the way things are right now, we haven’t seen much of an impact.”
Akers expects college basketball to go through its usual pattern of increased interest beginning in February once pro football concludes.
“The NFL has always taken precedence,” he said. “College basketball has been the year of the upset so far. The interest is there, but it doesn’t really surface until just before March Madness.”
Akers said that if Rick Pitino had decided to accept the UNLV coaching job, betting interest may have picked up.“Pitino brings the charisma that Tarkanian did,” he said. “Bill Bayno was a great recruiter, but not much of a game coach. Rollie Massimino was a good coach, but just wasn’t the right fit. Too bad Tarkanian can’t come back. People still love him.”