Esposito, director of race and sports, comes full circle at Sunset

May 15, 2012 3:00 AM

Chuck Esposito was not in Las Vegas then, he wasn’t heavy and he’s not my brother. But the smash hit applies to arguably Las Vegas’ most quoted and noted sports book operator on the national scene.

“It’s great to be back in the business,” said Esposito, who has come full circle with Vegas icon Art Manteris as the current director of race and sports book operations at Sunset Station. It was Manteris who gave Esposito his start in business when both were at the Las Vegas Hilton.

“I had some great experiences working at Caesars, Fontainebleau, Trop and Venetian,” Esposito said. “I have worked with some tremendous people and all great companies. I made a lot of friends for life.”

The Fontainebleau book was to be Esposito’s signature job, even better than his time at Caesars Palace. But construction stopped when the financial backing did and Esposito was suddenly without a job.

“I knew I was passionate about the industry and felt that another opportunity would come,” he said. “Yes, I was really excited when first offered the position at the Fontainebleau. It was an opportunity to work with people from the ground floor, build the book up from Day 1 and put my thumbprint on it.”

Doubly unsettling was the fact that leaving Caesars for the Fountainebleau was Esposito’s decision. Certainly second-guessing would be in order, but he wants none of that.

“I wouldn’t change anything I’ve done in the past,” he said. “I am passionate about the industry. I enjoyed the marketing end, the bookmaking piece and interacting with people on a daily basis. My job was always to provide the best service.”

Esposito was able to land a position at the Tropicana for a short time as a casino manager, but it wasn’t in the sports book where his passion and notoriety began.

Enter Manteris, the opening at Sunset and the sun has risen again in Esposito’s storied career.

“I was real excited when the Station Casinos deal presented itself,” he said. “I’m really glad to be a part of their team right now.”

Sunset did mark a significant change in that Esposito was now running a book off the Las Vegas Strip.

“Off the Strip is a transition,” Esposito said. “At a locals property, instead of seeing guests maybe twice a year you are seeing them every single day. You are able to build stronger relationships, more personal. It’s a better way to give them tremendous service. Station is a phenomenal company.”

The Esposito touch is always in evidence at Sunset with added emphasis on the horse race side, particularly the Kentucky Derby, as well as bringing in local boxers to put the fun back. Also the book is far more pleasing visually with the old wallboards gone, replaced by electronic graphics, and the new “dark Batman look” like Caesars.

“There are lots of fun marketing promotions in the works at Sunset,” he said. “The future is extremely bright. Richard Saber described our book as ‘the arena for race and sports books for its fish bowl curvature style.’ We do great business with 250 race carols. There’s a major effort to reserve seats for our guests on a daily basis.”

Esposito got into the gaming industry the way most did – a love for sports.

“I had the opportunity just after my 21st birthday to work at Caesars Palace right before they built their mega race and sports book.

“But, Art Manteris was my mentor so I opened up the Las Vegas Hilton SuperBook with Art, which was ‘the’ book at that time. I couldn’t have asked to work for a better person.”

Esposito would later return to Caesars and put that book on the map.

“I made a name for myself and the industry there,” he said. “To be able to work for Art again at Sunset is great. Having the outlet to be a voice in the industry is something I’ve really missed.”