Some high-roller customers over at Planet Hollywood were “throwing six figures down” recently on NFL games with Bill Sattler, the race and sportsbook director, who was trying to make decisions on exactly what and how much to take on the bets.
Two guys standing nearby were amused as they watched the negotiations take place. Both are Major League Baseball players making millions themselves, according to Sattler, although he naturally wouldn’t reveal their identities.
Once the transactions were completed and the high rollers had moved on, one of the baseball stars turned to Sattler and said, “Man, I thought I had the coolest job in the world.”
“That made me feel pretty good,” Sattler said. “A lot of us don’t realize that.”
Sattler, who turns 59 this month, is approaching three decades in the race-and-sportsbook business here in Nevada. Besides Planet Hollywood, he also currently runs the books at The Linq, Bally’s, Paris and Flamingo, plus a small kiosk at The Cromwell, along with handling the poker and keno rooms for each of those properties.
It’s been an interesting journey for someone who grew up on a farm in the steel town of Mineral City, Ohio, and then graduated from Ohio State with a degree in education.
“Farmer, steel worker, bookmaker,” Sattler said. “It’s hard to put all those together.”
In retrospect, Sattler was groomed for this career even as a kid.
“Growing up in northeast Ohio, gambling was part of the culture,” he said. “I remember doing parlay cards when I was 12 years old.”
He continued to “dabble” in parlay cards during college, which “paid for my (text) books.”
Still, Sattler was studying to become a teacher when he made his first visit to Las Vegas. It was as an Ohio State student during a trip out West for the 1980 Rose Bowl to cheer on the undefeated and top-ranked Buckeyes.
Charles White, however, rushed for 247 yards, including the winning touchdown with 1:32 remaining, to lead USC to a 17-16 victory.
Sattler and his friends decided to drown their sorrows by stopping by Vegas on the way home. Despite losing money on some NBA bets, Sattler recalled thinking to himself at the time, “I would like to live here someday.”
After graduating from, as Sattler emphasized somewhat sarcastically, “The Ohio State University,” he couldn’t find a job in teaching so he went to work in the steel mill for 2½ years before getting laid off.
A relative then helped him find a job working on a cruise ship dealing cards. Life on the sea was fine for a couple years – he even became a pit boss – but Sattler eventually “wanted to get my feet back on the ground.”
When the ship dry-docked in San Francisco, Sattler rented a car and drove to Reno. He walked into the Harrah’s casino and found out they had an opening for a race and sports ticket writer.
“I applied for it and I was writing tickets by the afternoon,” he said. “That’s the way it was back then. I had the gaming experience, so that helped.”
It only took a few months until he started to get promoted to management positions. He spent 13 years in Reno before being transferred to Vegas.
“Race and sports is my passion,” Sattler said. “What better job?”
Sattler, after 28 years with the Harrah’s corporation, is unquestionably a survivor in the business. He’s admittedly much more “under the radar” than some other local bookmakers such as Jay Kornegay (Westgate), Jimmy Vaccaro (South Point) and Chuck Esposito (Station Casinos), but Sattler seems to prefer it that way. TV and radio interviews aren’t his comfort zone.
He just likes the “low-key,” day-to-day grind of running his books and the poker rooms.
Don’t expect him to be sweating too much over the outcome of any game, even if the betting is somewhat one-sided. He’s been around too long.
“Once the ball is kicked off, there’s nothing I can do about it,” he said. “I’m hoping we do well. I hope the players have fun. I don’t want to whack them every time. I want them to keep coming back.”
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: [email protected].