Calm in the eye of a hurricane

Sep 21, 2004 8:16 AM

Bob Scucci is a calm guy and on Sunday mornings that helps because for several hours, he’s in the eye of a hurricane.

Scucci, the race and sports book manager at the Stardust, says that as football betting reaches its peak during those hours, it’s "like being on the trading floor of the stock market" where everything happens at once.

During those times there are any number of people demanding his attention both in person and on the phones and they can become, shall we say, quite insistent.

"I think it’s an adrenalin rush for me and all things considered — yeah, there’s a lot of stress and pressure," Scucci says. "But a lot of people would like to have the job of sports book manager, especially this one."

Indeed, sports book manager at the Stardust, considered one of the leading sports shops in the industry, is a plum assignment. Scucci, 40, has had the position for two years; he’s been in the sports betting industry for 15.

The job is without doubt very demanding. He routinely works 12 to 14 hours on weekends and 10 during the week. He tentatively gives himself Wednesdays off, but even those plans can go by the board if the job demands.

His office, surprisingly small but functional, is down a narrow passageway behind one of the walls that are covered by the big boards listing all the games.

The big boards tell the story at the Stardust as the point spreads, the ones Scucci and his assistant are responsible for setting, reverberate not only all around Las Vegas and throughout the state, but even across the country.

"There’s nothing on the board that I’m not aware of," says Scucci, who reports to Stan Roth, director of casino operations for the Boyd property.

"You question a lot of the lines you make," Scucci continues. "You feel that weight on your shoulders. You have a responsibility to the whole (sports book) industry."

Part of that weight comes from being the line-maker at the Stardust, which has long had the reputation of being the leader in the field.

Of course, line-making isn’t an exact science and Scucci has felt the sting of that reality.

For instance, two years ago the Raiders were made a four point pick over Tampa Bay in the Super Bowl, and the Bucs won in a blowout. It was "one of our worst Super Bowls," Scucci says.

Then there was a proposition bet the Stardust put up for the 2003 Masters, in which Tiger Woods was listed at 200-1 that he would play a complete round of golf without shooting a birdie. "Who would of thought Tiger would play the whole first round without a birdie?" Scucci says. "We got hammered."

Traditionally, the Stardust’s sports book has been the first to go out on a limb and post the lines for the next week’s games. The lines are up by 5:30 on Sunday evening and they attract a crowd. A second crowd shows up early Monday morning to see how the first wave of bettors affected the Stardust’s line.

"I knew about the reputation of the Stardust and the Stardust line," Scucci says. "When I was a kid I never dreamed I would be in this spot, which in my mind is the most prestigious" in the industry.

Growing up, Scucci learned a lot about odds and bookmaking from his parents in New Jersey. The family later moved to Las Vegas where Scucci’s father worked at Gary Austin’s sports book in the long-gone Rose Bowl on Las Vegas Boulevard; his mother was a race book manager at the old Showboat.

Scucci was a star athlete at Basic High School where he played center field for the state champion baseball team in 1982 and was a running back, cornerback and punt returner for the football team. He then went on to USC where he graduated with a degree in broadcast journalism.

He started in the sports book industry as a teller at Sam’s Town and then moved to the Fremont, where he worked under Robert Walker, who is now the sports book director at The Mirage. He then moved on to become assistant manager under Joe Lupo at the Stardust and with the exception of a quick one month tour of duty at the Hard Rock, he has been at the Stardust ever since.

The biggest influence in the sports betting industry has been the emergence of offshore books, he says, adding that offshore books have driven a lot of money into other venues. However, he doesn’t believe offshore books have been a purely negative development.

"Business is as strong as ever in Las Vegas," he says, adding that offshore books could actually stimulate interest in Las Vegas books.

"There is a whole new generation who enjoy going to Las Vegas and the whole sports book environment," thanks to the offshore books, he says.

Overall, Scucci says Las Vegas can do more to promote itself as the only legal jurisdiction that allows sports betting.

He adds that legal sports betting could be extended to regions outside of Nevada. "I would like to see out-of-state Internet betting legalized and filtered into Nevada," he says, assuming the technology was in place that would prevent illegal and underage gambling.

When Scucci finds the time to escape the sports book pressure cooker, he relaxes by playing a lot of golf and tennis. When he wants to socialize, the smart looking bachelor hangs out at Mandalay Bay. "That’s why I don’t get much rest on the weekend," he says.