After spending 10 years in the television news business, Al Beal wanted to become a writer. But he decided he didn’t know more about the world, so he decided he was going to travel.
He flew to Mexico City and began a five-month backpacking trip that ended at the southern tip of Argentina.
Beal was a director at a television station in Arkansas prior to embarking.
“In 1994, after Arkansas won the (NCAA) basketball championship,” Beal said, “I decided I wanted to see the world.
“I was hiking and hitchhiking and living on the land — I just wanted to see the world. I had been to Europe, but I wanted to see every country (in South America), and that’s basically what I did.”
When he returned to the United States, he spent six months in Los Angeles, making weekend trips to Las Vegas. During one of those visits, he met Chuck Esposito at the then-Las Vegas Hilton SuperBook. Beal moved to Las Vegas when Esposito offered him a job as a ticket writer.
Flash forward two-plus decades in Beal’s journey: He is race and sportsbook manager at Paris Las Vegas. He also supervises the books at Ballys and Planet Hollywood.
“Before my trip, I thought I needed more life experience,” Beal said. “And I did. I met a lot of people, and I never had one problem — not one time.”
He visited every country, save El Salvador, between Mexico City and Tierra Del Fuego. His favorites: Brazil and Argentina.
While he stayed in hotels or inns in the cities he visited, there were no such accommodations available in the jungle.
“There were bugs everywhere,” Beal said. “There was a naturalist in our group, so we had a list of what was poisonous. We also relied on the native people. Give them a few bucks and they would help you.”
Aside from a short bout of food poisoning, Beal says, he never got sick.
“It wasn’t like a weeklong trip to Europe,” Beal said. “You couldn’t get to, say, Chile and say, ‘Eh. I don’t want to be here.’ You had to see everything.”
These days, California is Beal’s No. 1 travel destination — especially the Del Mar Thoroughbred Club, for its summer meeting.
“I’ve been betting the horses my whole life,” the Hot Springs, Ark., native said. “My dad started taking me to the track (Oaklawn Park) when I was 5 years old. Of course, I couldn’t bet, but I’d tell him who I liked.”
The first wager he made himself was a win bet on Alysheba. But Beal didn’t get rich that day; the winner paid just $2.60.
His top pick for the upcoming Breeders’ Cup: Bricks and Mortar — if he runs in the Mile. Beal also likes Three Rings in the Juvenile.
With football, Beal, who was tied for first place in Gaming Today’s Bookies Battle through the first six weeks and is tied for second 61-45, says his handicapping strategy is simple.
“I keep up with it on a daily basis. I just decide who is going to win the game, and work back from there,” he said. “Obviously, when you have huge spreads, you have to adjust.”
The sportsbook industry in Nevada is adjusting to new ways to make wagers. Online and mobile apps put in-game wagering menus in the hands of people sitting on their own couches. But Beal says he believes those new options enhance sports betting while not detracting from brick-and-mortar books.
“Everything keeps changing (with sports wagering). I would say the learning curve is there is no curve because everything keeps changing,” Beal said, “and with all these states coming online with sports betting that will continue. A lot of people thought that would hurt Nevada, but it hasn’t.
“It’s entertainment. Even with (other betting options), people are still going to want to see games. They’ll still want to come bet and watch their own games. Who wants to be home alone when you can give somebody a high-five after your team scores?”