Sunset's Esposito excited for sportsbook renovation
May 17, 2016 3:01 AM
by Dave Dye
Chuck Esposito’s passion for the race and sportsbook scene is undisputable, even after more than three decades in the industry. He was that up-and-comer back in the early 1990s who would read the old Las Vegas Hilton SuperBook’s NFL lines during the Pro Line handicapping TV show each week.
Esposito is 53 now, married to his wife, Connie, for 25 years, has three kids, and is in his fifth year as the race and sports director for Sunset Station, a locals’ casino about 10 miles southeast of The Strip in Henderson. His voice can be heard often on the local airwaves, pumping up whatever sporting event is next on the card for the books around town.
These days, that excitement level is elevated even a little more than normal.
Esposito’s sportsbook is finally getting a much-needed overhaul. Asked if he’s been pushing for something like this from his first day on the job, he answered, “Absolutely, absolutely, absolutely.”
“I’m like the kid in the sandbox who’s getting a new toy,” said Esposito, who is originally from Chicago, moved to Las Vegas when he was 10 years old, attended UNLV and received an associate degree in hotel management and business administration from the College of Southern Nevada.
This Sunset makeover is part of Station Casinos’ recent project to upgrade many of its sportsbooks, which first began at Red Rock Casino in 2015. On the heels of that big reinvestment, Station Casinos then announced five more book upgrades. Boulder Station was completed before March Madness, GVR just concluded and Sunset Station is expected to begin after Memorial Day and should be completed by the end of June. After that comes Santa Fe and it concludes with Palace.
The current 60-inch TVs on the front wall will be replaced by 90-inch screens, and the 60-inch TVs on the upper back row will go to 80-inch screens. What’s more, two video walls (each about 15 feet diagonally) will be installed up front, one primarily geared toward horse racing and one toward sports. Two other smaller video walls (10 feet diagonally) will be added to the upper back row.
New individual TVs for the desktops on the race side are also in the plans, along with high-top seating tables for the sports area and two new full-color tickers providing continuous scores and other information. The LED odds boards will remain the same.
At a time when all of the Station Casinos are promoting their Sports Connection mobile betting apps more than ever, there remains a strong commitment to keeping the race and sportsbooks up to date with the latest video technology, too.
“For me, the video display is one of the most important things for race and sports,” Esposito said. “When you can bring the action to the guest on these big screens, where every seat becomes the 50-yard line, center court or the finish line... when you can see the rocks in the dirt or the ivy up close, you actually feel like you’re at one of those events. “I’m a little bit biased but if you can’t be at any of the games, there is no better place to be than one of our race and sportsbooks industry wide. I think it’s better.”
While the recent Westgate SuperBook’s renovation wisely included flipping the room to make the sportsbook a bigger emphasis over the race side – simply because sports betting has become more popular than horse betting – Sunset isn’t changing. It will continue to make the race side the more dominant of the two with the desk tops on that end.
“We still have a really large seating area in sports here,” Esposito said. “You have what appears to be more race seating, but it transitions a little bit, especially the middle (desktop) seating, throughout the course of the day, as tracks end. “During bigger events – pro football Sunday, the Super Bowl, March Madness – we also kind of divide the room differently (with screens on the race side showing more sports).”
Any type of renovation typically becomes a short-term inconvenience for the customer but it’s clear that this one will come with long-term benefits.
“We’re going to try to have the impact be minimal,” Esposito said. “A lot of the pre-wiring has already taken place. It will probably be in phases. A lot of it will be done in the middle of the night. We want to make it as seamless as possible.”
The kid in the sandbox can’t wait for his new toy.
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. Email: DaveDye@GamingToday.com.