St. Nick bearing gifts for El Cortez
December 19, 2017 3:00 AM
by Mark Mayer
VIP On the Mark | In football terms the El Cortez is Boise State – the undersized mid-major that can stand up to the big boys downtown. “We are a good option for locals,” said Nick Sfanos, who took over as race and sports manager last year.
In football terms the El Cortez is Boise State – the undersized mid-major that can stand up to the big boys downtown.
“We are a good option for locals,” said Nick Sfanos, who took over as race and sports manager last year after being a loyal soldier at Station Casinos operations both in Las Vegas and Reno-Sparks. “I know what ownership wants. I can sell you guest services.”
That’s what has made the El Cortez a hidden gem. From its iconic ties to Jackie Gaughan and LV’s gangster past to adapting with the ways of the millennial present. They are winning the battle both ways.
“I believe in old school customer service,” said Sfanos, whose roots are in the Pittsburgh area – the cradle of bookmaking legends like Jimmy Vaccaro, Chris Andrews, Scotty Schettler and GT’s Richard Saber. “From my dad, bookmaking was always in my blood.”
Sfanos brings a welcomed energy to a book that doesn’t get the notoriety of the Golden Nugget or the D Las Vegas and its flamboyant owner Derek Stevens. But make no mistake, the Gaughan aura will never leave, no matter how much change is in the works.
Nor should it.
“Most of the daily customers still remember Jackie,” said Sfanos who also runs the 24-hours-a-day keno operation. “We have a staff of seven in the book and this joint knows how to take care of its guests. We have people come out of their way to stop in because they know we do a nice business in a historical landmark building where old school plays.”
Yes, old school is unmistakable, but I believe it is safe to say that within a year players are going to see some big changes in the race and sportsbook that will stand up to any in Vegas, including those on the Strip.
“I wanted to get the Cortez fired up again,” Sfanos said. “This is going to be the destination spot downtown and in the whole city.”
And like Boise State, they came in as underdogs and wound up winners. Entering the Westgate Las Vegas SuperBook you see a brand, spanking new 2018 Cougar. At El Cortez you are greeted by a 1940’s Cadillac convertible. Both work for me as does the Meyer Lansky burger at Siegel’s 1954 along with some of the best craps and blackjack values around.
“I have the best job in town,” Sfanos said.
And part of Sfanos’ job is assessing the college football playoff picture. He’s forecasting a Georgia-Clemson final with Clemson prevailing as national champ for the second straight year.
“You can make a case for all four, but I like to traditionally play Unders,” he said. “I think Clemson gets it again.”
As far as the other bowl games, Sfanos said he is particularly interested in the ones involving Central Florida, Florida Atlantic and Florida International. And while Stevens at The D is a big Michigan man, Sfanos thinks the Wolverines are overrated.
“Their coach (Jim Harbaugh) is a hot-head,” Sfanos quipped. “I think back 15-20 years ago when the best players in Florida were going to Miami and Florida State. Now all the schools are prevalent and playing in bowl games.”
Yes, the little guy is very much at home at El Cortez. Affordable room rates, no added parking charge for valet. Good, plain business sense still plays here.
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