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Bettors turn out in droves!

Jan 7, 2003 5:47 AM


The NFL playoffs got off to a wild start at Las Vegas sports books last weekend as many shops reported record action and enthusiastic bettors.

The Wild Card games, in fact, produced one of the "biggest wins ever" for sports books as the heavily-favored Green Bay Packers were unceremoniously ousted by the upstart Atlanta Falcons, according to the supervisor of a popular locals casino.

The heavy action on playoff games also contributed to Station Casinos enjoying its "best football season" in many years, according to a shift manager at the popular casino on West Sahara.

Other sports books around town, both on and off the Las Vegas Strip, reported heavy betting action on the NFL playoffs.

The news was a mixed bag, however, for the recently concluded college bowl season.

Ohio State’s spectacular upset win over Miami in the national championship game last week merely provided a band-aid to a growing wound on the Las Vegas Strip.

"College football bowl wagering is off from past years and it is disappointing both to me and the business," said Jay Kornegay, race and sports director at the Imperial Palace.

"It’s especially bad for the New Year’s Day games," Kornegay said. "The New Year’s crowds are younger and the whole holiday has drawn more drinkers than bettors. Unfortunately, young fans in Vegas pass on New Year’s Day betting. Whether it’s table games or race and sports, kids are coming to Vegas to do otherwise."

Off the Strip, however, was a different story.

"We have been doing a jam-up business nonstop since Christmas Eve," said Eddie Ricca, race and sports manager at Suncoast in Summerlin. "This is the place to bet sports. We are up at least 25 percent in handle from last year."

Kornegay is concerned that his property, along with other Strip resorts, are not only losing business to the local casinos, but drawing different types of visitors with other priorities.

"The casinos off the Strip get the regulars, while we have become a great big nightclub," Kornegay said. "Look at the streets on New Year’s Eve. The crowds are very young. They’d rather go clubbing than gaming."

Meanwhile, Ricca was basking in a wonderful handle for the Fiesta Bowl where both the house and bettors came away with good feelings.

"It was kind of a push," Ricca said. "We were all entertained with a good game. The house did well on parlays, but quite a few people liked Ohio State on the money line and seeing the game go over with the double-overtime."

Those fortunate enough to wager on Ohio State were on the winning side of a +375 money line total, or approximately a 4-1 takeback.

"We fired up six stations in our book with people 10 deep at each station a few hours before gametime," Ricca said. "We showed the game on large screens in our Showroom. This was the perfect lead-in for the NFL playoffs."