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Long Gaughan: Cortez hits homer

Nov 2, 2004 5:58 AM

 

A race and sports book with the look of the old Desert Inn and the comfort of Bellagio in downtown Vegas? Brilliant!

"We’re really excited about the El Cortez," said Mike Nolan, the general manager at the storied casino hotel off Fremont and 6th St. "Our remodeling is down to the fifth floor from the 15th and includes new rooms, a Chinese restaurant with buffet, a brand new bar as you enter the casino and, of course, an upgraded race and sports book."

The book was one of the first steps in a long-ranged plan to convert Jackie Gaughan’s stylish but aging venue into a prime example of a renaissance in Mayor Oscar Goodman’s downtown vision.

"I think this is the best betting place in town, pound for pound," said recently hired race and sports director Frankie Turco. "Our big screen TVs are up real close to the customers. Only Bellagio had better seating in the sports book than we do. Hopefully, next year we will be able to stay open 24 hours for football."

Turco, who got his seasoning at Barbary Coast and Station Casinos, was ecstatic about getting the chance to operate a book he felt was "pound for pound, the best in Las Vegas."

"My goal was to come in and make a difference," Turco said. "The additions to the race and sports book make us competitive both in luxury and in what we offer in odds. We are doing over four times the business and with 10 TVs in our sports area and 12 in the race book, our customers can bet and watch without having to move very far."

The old antiquated book has been replaced by electronic boards, upgraded computers and a homey atmosphere.

"Our lighting is improved, we have 43 race seats and 24 in sports," Turco said. "I think we have the best view of games in town. We have the option to knock down a wall and enlarge the book, which I think we will use."

Turco heads a staff of nine employees, who work from 7 a.m. until midnight on weekends and from 8 a.m. through 10 p.m. during the week.

"We have been able to add many more tracks in trotters and dogs, which has kept the race book busy all day," Turco said. "In sports, almost every college football game we put up has a money line attached. We are now paying out $84,000 in parlay cards and having two-team college teasers at even money is one of the best buys in town."

Typically, the rising popularity of El Cortez has been accomplished through word of mouth.

"We’re a bit off the Fremont Experience," Turco said. "But, we look at the Fremont and Golden Nugget as our top competition. Now we believe we can compete with both and are very excited about the future of the hotel. For us to make $20,000 a day in the race book is something we are very proud of."by electronic boards, upgraded computers and a homey atmosphere.

"Our lighting is improved, we have 43 race seats and 24 in sports," Turco said. "I think we have the best view of games in town. We have the option to knock down a wall and enlarge the book, which I think we will use."

Turco heads a staff of nine employees, who work from 7 a.m. until midnight on weekends and from 8 a.m. through 10 p.m. during the week.

"We have been able to add many more tracks in trotters and dogs, which has kept the race book busy all day," Turco said. "In sports, almost every college football game we put up has a money line attached. We are now paying out $84,000 in parlay cards and having two-team college teasers at even money is one of the best buys in town."

Typically, the rising popularity of El Cortez has been accomplished through word of mouth.

"We’re a bit off the Fremont Experience," Turco said. "But, we look at the Fremont and Golden Nugget as our top competition. Now we believe we can compete with both and are very excited about the future of the hotel. For us to make $20,000 a day in the race book is something we are very proud of."