Suncoast to join sportsbook high-def club
January 31, 2017 3:00 AM
by Dave Dye
The Suncoast Hotel & Casino soon will join this wave of race and sportsbook upgrades to take advantage of the latest video technology.
The makeover, scheduled to begin in early April, will include a new high-definition video wall.
Nothing is more important inside a sportsbook these days than the clarity of the video presentation. Unless it’s spectacular, bettors will choose to watch at home or elsewhere.
“I told them they need to be done before the Kentucky Derby,” said Mike Lewis, director of race and sports for the Suncoast, located on the western edge of Las Vegas, near Summerlin.
In the meantime, Lewis and his crew are gearing up this week for Super Bowl Sunday aka “The Big Game,” for fear of litigation from the NFL for using their “Super Bowl” trademark.
Like all casinos, the Suncoast’s 150-seat sportsbook won’t be large enough to accommodate the crowds that show up on the biggest day of the year in sports.
Lewis said the party will expand to the Boyd Gaming property’s showroom, which has a capacity of 500. The event will be hosted by 97.1 The Point, the area’s popular classic-rock radio station.
“They’re going to have a ton of giveaways,” Lewis said.
The radio station will broadcast live from the Suncoast. The giveaways are expected to include concert tickets. Food and drink specials naturally are on the agenda. Betting stations will be available inside the showroom.
The party is open to the public for free, but here’s the catch: Seating tickets will be handed out Sunday beginning at 9 a.m. The showroom doesn’t open until 1 p.m. Kickoff is around 3:30.
“It’s something like a Southwest Airlines type of thing,” Lewis said. “You come in and get a boarding pass and come back at what time it tells you to get your seat. It helps crowd control a little bit.”
Lewis, 48, grew up in Michigan and is a Detroit fan. Forgive him if he doesn’t know much about Super Bowls. The Lions have never been to one. But he is a self-proclaimed “hockey nut.” In fact, every Tuesday the Suncoast hosts Hockey Night in The Game, which is a sports bar located behind the sportsbook.
On Tuesday nights, which typically feature a heavy NHL slate, The Game shows every hockey game on its big-screen televisions. They also have NHL jersey giveaways on the last Tuesday of every month.
Lewis moved from Michigan to Las Vegas in 1993 because he wanted to get into the sportsbook business. He started as a ticket writer at the old Aladdin casino, located where Planet Hollywood now stands, and eventually worked his way up in the industry at Boyd.
“I’ve been a hockey fan forever,” he said. “Still a diehard Red Wings fan. Could be a long season, but it had to happen sometime. I think it’s still an untapped market out here. I see it in betting (since Las Vegas was awarded an NHL team). There’s far more interest in hockey now. It’s a great opportunity to make The Game a real place to watch all hockey games.”
Lewis is also trying to tap into the horse-racing market with a special offer for the Kentucky Derby prep races leading up to the big race in early May. The promotion starts Feb. 25 with the Risen Star Stakes from the Fair Grounds Race Course in New Orleans.
Every $10 wagered on one of these selected prep races earns the bettor a ticket into a drawing that pays out $3,000 (“win”), $2,000 (“place”) and $1,000 (“show”).
There’s no cap on the number of tickets, either. If you bet $1,000, you get 100 tickets.
Lewis said they previously used to run a similar promotion just for the Kentucky Derby. What concerned him was that the people who won only showed up for that one day. He wanted his everyday players to have a better chance at the prizes.
“I started this last year,” Lewis said. “People like it. It’s geared toward your loyal bettor. It also really helps with handicapping the Derby because you’ve watched all of these horses run a few times.”
The Suncoast is also planning a similar special for all of the Breeders Cup Challenge qualifying races with that winner getting a trip to the Cup in November at Del Mar Racetrack near San Diego.
For everyone who doesn’t win, they’ll be able to watch on the Suncoast’s new video wall by then.
Dave Dye is a former sportswriter for the Detroit News and FoxSportsDetroit.com. He has covered six Stanley Cup Finals, five Final Fours, three NBA Finals, three Rose Bowls and one World Series. Twitter: @Dyedave