Given where he grew up in Pittsburgh and that city’s history of sharp gamblers and bookmakers, it seemed it was John Lindheimer’s birthright to be a sportsbook manager.
Of course, he might’ve been a professional wrestler. But working on four-figure bets is easier on the joints than a figure-four leg lock.
“I was born to work in the sportsbook industry,” said Lindheimer, 56, who is the manager of the recently opened book at Harrah’s Hoosier Park in Anderson, Indiana, about 30 miles northeast of Indianapolis. “This never feels like work to me. I’m truly blessed to be doing something I was meant to do.”
Lindheimer is representing the property in Gaming Today’s Bookies Battle contest and he is doing quite well. Through the first 10 weeks of the NFL season, he is 83-65 and is tied for second place.
“I love it because every game counts and you’re picking against the spread,” Lindheimer said. “I’m having a blast doing it.
“I’ve had success in contests before. When I lived in Las Vegas back in 1988, I was in the Palace Station’s (Great Giveaway) contest and I missed winning the home by one game. I got a boat for finishing second. Another year, I won a pickup truck.”
When Indiana decided to get into the sports betting business, Lindheimer was working in Biloxi, Mississippi at Harrah’s Gulf Coast. And with Harrah’s owning and running Hoosier Park, a 7/8ths mile harness track, putting in a sportsbook seemed like a natural thing to do.
“Robert Portwood hired me (in Mississippi),” Lindheimer said. “We both knew (South Point sportsbook manager) Chris Andrews and CalNeva in Reno in common. I had worked for Chris up there. Rick Moore, who was the vice president and general manager of Hoosier Park, hired me to be the sportsbook manager.
“I arrived in Indiana in late July and we had everything set up and ready to go by September for the opening. We have a beautiful book and we have a strong local base to support it. There’s 10 TVs, 45 seats, a state-of-the-art audio system. We’ve got horseplayers betting sports and sports bettors playing the horses. It’s been fantastic.”
So, about this wrestling thing. In Lindheimer’s neighborhood, he would see this big, barrel-chested guy jog by his house on a regular basis. The jogger was Bruno Sammartino, the legendary wrestler from the 1960s and ‘70s.
“He was a sweet guy,” Lindheimer said of Sammartino. “Guys like Bruno, they were larger than life. Back then, they’d beat the hell out of each other, then go out for a beer together. All the kids in the neighborhood looked up to Bruno.”
But instead of wrestling, Lindheimer chose a more genteel sport. He played tennis and played collegiately at Indiana University of Pennsylvania. He was coaching tennis and teaching in high school in Florida when the Supreme Court’s decision to overturn the Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act (PASPA) in the spring of 2018 had given him an idea.
“I had worked in Vegas, in Reno, in Costa Rica, I knew how the business of a sportsbook operated,” he said. “I understood how the wiseguy bettors think. I felt it wouldn’t be right not to use my experience.”
He could have stayed in Florida and continued to coach tennis at Viera High School — his boys team won a conference title, the first and only title in the sport in school history. Instead, he took his 32 years’ experience from both sides of the counter to Mississippi, then on to Indiana.
He said whether it’s Vegas, Biloxi or Anderson, the formula for successful bookmaking is edge times volume.
“You can’t have one without the other,” he said. “Basically, it comes down to the numbers you get. I have to manage the volume and Caesars handles the edge.”
Given it’s location and proximity to Illinois, it’s no surprise that a lot of the action is on the local and regional teams. In the NBA, it’s the Pacers. In the NFL, it’s the Colts and the Bears. In college football and basketball, it’s Indiana, Notre Dame and Purdue.
“The people are betting heavily on the local teams and they’re not shy about supporting the regional teams either,” he said.
Lindheimer and his wife Andrea, who he met when he lived and worked in Costa Rica, are raising their 7-year-old daughter Amelia Claire in Hoosier country in what he said is a great environment. For Lindheimer, setting a good example and also preaching the value of an education is important. To that end, he is enrolled at Eastern Florida State College and is pursuing a degree in Organizational management with a specialty in Sports Management.
“It’s a little weird working in the book all day, then coming home and doing homework, especially at my age,” said Lindheimer, who has a 4.0 grade-point average and is expected to graduate next year. “It’ll be worth it, though.”