Arizona Charlie's Hughlett enjoying her journey

Arizona Charlie's Hughlett enjoying her journey

December 05, 2018 3:03 AM
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Sports books don’t hesitate to hire ticket writers who have little, if any, knowledge of sports betting. Sometimes it works out better than other times.

In the case of Cindy Hughlett, it turned out just fine.

Hughlett, 48, one of the contestants in Gaming Today’s Bookies Battle, took over a couple years ago as the manager of race and sports at Arizona Charlie’s Decatur on the west side of Las Vegas. It was a promotion that when she moved to Las Vegas from California two decades ago would have been considered a long shot, comparable to UNLV winning a national championship in football. 

“I didn’t even know what a football looked like,” Hughlett said, laughing. “I knew nothing about sports at all. I wouldn’t even sit and watch the Super Bowl. I might go have a drink and make a plate and then I’m leaving.”

She has a much different perspective these days.

“Now I love sports,” said Hughlett, who finished tied for 10th in the Bookies Battle in 2016, her first year in the contest. “I have been converted. I can’t imagine being anywhere else. I tell everybody, ‘You don’t have to be a handicapper to work in the sports book.’”

Hughlett didn’t even know the nicknames of NFL teams when she started. One man came up to make a wager and it turned into an Abbott and Costello routine.

“The guy wanted Tennessee but my list only showed Titans,” Hughlett said. “I’m like ‘Who’s Tennessee?’ We went back and forth for what seemed like forever. It was like ‘Who’s On Third?’ He finally realized I didn’t know the Titans were Tennessee.”

When she first came to Vegas at age 27, Hughlett was a waitress and bartender, but she suffered a torn ACL and was out of work for several months.

“We were playing darts,” she said, describing the injury, “and I missed so I tried a karate-kick move on the dart board.”

Friends later suggested she apply for a sports book job. One thing led to another, and Hughlett ended up at Texas Station before moving on to Santa Fe Station. Her mentor along the way became Kitt Langvad, a long-time sports-book employee at Arizona Charlie’s. Langvad is the only woman to ever win the Bookies Battle, taking the title in a tie-breaker in 2014.

When Langvad retired, Hughlett was promoted from supervisor to sports book manager to replace her.  

“I just kind of followed in her footsteps,” said Hughlett, who started working at Arizona Charlie’s 12 years ago. “She took her stand in an industry that was not always welcoming (to women). She taught me when to put my foot down on what I need, and to let other things slide by. She kind of helped me get a little tougher skin, not-so-soft skin.

“You have to be a strong woman, but a strong woman with a soft touch is really hard to be in this business.”

Arizona Charlie’s is owned by Golden Entertainment, which recently cut a deal for William Hill to take over all of its sports books sometime next month. Hughlett said she’s optimistic about the change because Arizona Charlie’s will add a mobile-app service, which it currently doesn’t have, and will be “more aggressive” in taking bets and also offer more wagering options.

“You’re scared of the unknown,” admitted Hughlett, whose role could change, perhaps even be expanded to other properties, “but I’m ready to see what the future brings.

“From what I’m hearing, we’ll be one of their highest-volume sports books. We’ll also be the farthest west in the valley for all William Hills. I’m excited.”