Perfect time to showcase Westgate Superbook
February 02, 2016 3:01 AM
by Dave Dye
The first time you look up to the massive video boards in the newly renovated SuperBook at Westgate Las Vegas – the old Las Vegas Hilton – your jaw might drop.
You will marvel at the clarity on what’s believed to be the world’s largest – 220 feet wide, 20 feet tall – indoor LED video wall.
It will undoubtedly make the SuperBook the place to be in Vegas for Super Bowl Sunday to watch Cam Newton’s Panthers take on Peyton Manning’s Broncos.
The question is how early you’ll have to arrive to get one of the 200-plus first-come, first-served seats in the main race and sportsbook, which has been undergoing a makeover approaching $13 million since the summer.
Jay Kornegay, Westgate’s vice president of race and sports operations, is making no promises.
“I don’t want to tell people 8 a.m. and they’re all filled up.” Kornegay said. “I’m saying the earlier, the better. That’s all I can tell you. I know people will be here at the crack of dawn in their seats.”
For sportsbook junkies, the SuperBook has always been a popular hangout, but the recent changes have taken it all to another level.
Most casinos prefer to devote the majority of their space to slot machines, which guarantee much more revenue, while offering a smaller sportsbook merely as sort of a courtesy to customers.
The SuperBook, however, is nearly 30,000 square feet, and considered the largest race and sportsbook in the world. After taking over the property in the summer of 2014, Westgate CEO David Siegel decided that big wasn’t enough.
“He didn’t just want the largest race and sportsbook,” Kornegay said. “He wanted the best race and sportsbook.”
He’s got it, by far.
The video wall is the most obvious upgrade, but the SuperBook has also added VIP luxury booths, a 100-foot bar and new betting counters, all part of Phase I in the renovation process.
Walter Collenette, 26, was visiting recently from Ohio and wished he was still going to be in town for the Super Bowl. He has no doubt where he would watch the game.
“God, yes, I would definitely come here,” Collenette said while staring up at the SuperBook boards, which he called “the sharpest ones I’ve ever seen.”
Phase II of the renovation is planned for spring/summer and will feature much-needed changes to the food-and-beverage options in the SuperBook Deli, along with new restrooms.
The VIP booths, located right in front of the bar toward the back of the book, will be reserved for high-end players for events such as the Super Bowl, but can be rented out at other times by the general public at a price to be determined.
Kornegay said as of last week management was still “fine-tuning the parameters it will take” to land one of those booths for the biggest sporting event of the year.
The VIP area can be set up as four bigger booths or up to eight smaller booths, with a combined seating capacity of about 70.
This is all a major game-changer for the sportsbook industry.
In the past, even the racebook was given top priority over sports in most casinos. The SuperBook has completely flipped that around to where sports now dominates.
“The popularity of sports betting continues to grow,” Kornegay said. “The challenges of the racing industry are reality. We based that strictly on the numbers we see on a daily basis.”
Kornegay has to be the envy of all sportsbook directors these days, right?
“I have no idea,” he said. “I had a few visit and they’re very impressed.”
The renovation has even surpassed Kornegay’s expectations. “I never would have thought it would be to this level,” he said.
Whether other casinos will respond remains to be seen.
Probably not. As Kornegay said, “To dedicate that type of capital to the race and sportsbook is something we don’t normally see.”
That’s what makes the SuperBook a must-see these days, especially on Super Bowl Sunday, if possible.
If you don’t get there early enough for a seat in the main book or at the bar, there are other options throughout the casino, including the nearby “Fan Cave,” along with “Football Central” in the International Theater, both free of charge and smoke-free environments.
In the end, it will be standing-room only in the book, Kornegay said, adding, “I don’t expect to see the carpet in this place.”
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.