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Bookies managing during quarantine

Like virtually everyone in the casino industry, those who work in sportsbooks have been on an unwanted hiatus for more than two months as the coronavirus forced properties across the country to turn out the lights.

It has been difficult and the fear of the unknown is a common thread for everyone in the business. Like most people, the bookies have tried to find creative ways to stay sane, catch up on things they’ve been putting off and have their eye on opportunities once life returns to some semblance of normalcy.

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Gaming Today recently reached out to a dozen individuals who have been participants in our “Bookies Battle” football handicapping contest. One, we wanted to see how they were holding up. Two, we wanted to take their temperature, figuratively speaking, on what they’ve been doing with their down time. Finally, we were curious as to what they were most looking forward to when they can get back out in the community and what they’ve appreciated the most about life during their self-quarantine.

“It’s definitely been something different to get accustomed to,” said Sunset Station’s Chuck Esposito. “I’m extremely driven and look forward to the daily challenges of work. I also love the relationships with guests and miss spending time with them daily although I have stayed in touch with many of them via text, email and phone calls. 

“On the flip side, it’s been nice to spend time with my family, tackle new projects and enhance my new hobby of cooking and grilling.”

Favorite daytime activity

With so many businesses closed, it didn’t leave a lot of options for things to do. For Esposito, Bellagio’s Kumbi Kadir, CasaBlanca’s Lou Martin and Paris Las Vegas’ Al Beal it’s walking, running or hiking. For Bet.Works’ Jay Rood, Rampart’s Duane Colucci and Mike Guernsey of Joker’s Wild it’s gardening and yard work. Norm Arnett of the Golden Nugget in Laughlin has killed time playing video games, primarily Call Of Duty.

“It’s been extremely therapeutic,” ­Esposito said of his regular five-mile walks. “It’s a great way first to spend time with my daughter Nicole, get some exercise and be thankful for the things that I have.”

Latest movie/TV show

Everyone has spent time in front of their television. Many have binge-watched shows. For Rob Portwood of Harrah’s Gulf Coast in Mississippi, it’s “The Wire.” Damon Clark of the El Cortez has “Mrs. America” at the top of his list. John Lindheimer of Harrah’s Hoosier Park has been watching “The Walking Dead” and “Better Call Saul” while Rood has been tuned in to season three of “Ozark.” Ed Malinowski of Draft­Kings has been watching “The Last Dance” series about Michael Jordan and the Chicago Bulls.

“I have always been a fan of Crime/ Mob dramas,” Colucci said. “I love old school classics like the Untouchables as well as the Sopranos. Gangsters like (James) Cagney, (Humphrey) Bogart, (George) Raft, (Al) Pacino are great crime genre actors.

“I enjoy watching these shows and movies with my Dad who always shared these gems with me.” 

Comfort food

We all have to eat, right? So what was everyone’s go-to quarantine comfort food?

Many opted for pizza. Clark’s favorite was chicken wings while Colucci’s is pasta. Esposito said “whatever is on the grill” while Lindheimer said a double cheeseburger from Dairy Queen is his choice. For Beal, it’s fried catfish. For Portwood, street tacos.

When asked why Dairy Queen for hamburgers, Lindheimer said: “They taste so good. I had been off Dairy Queen for a long time. One day, my daughter had a cheeseburger there and she didn’t finish it. I had the rest of it and I was like ‘Wow!’ It was really good.”

First place to visit

When things open up, where are the bookies going to first?

For Colucci and Rood, it’s a trip to the barber shop. For Esposito, Martin, Clark and Malinowski, it’s to a restaurant for dinner.

Kadir plans to hit the gym. Beal and Guernsey want to go to a casino.

Lindheimer has a trip planned to Conner Prairie, an outdoor museum in Indiana that is affiliated with the Smithsonian Institution and offers hands-on exhibits in science, art and history for visitors young and old alike.

“It’s a popular place for families,” he said. “We live real close to it and my daughter really enjoys going there.”

Quarantine appreciation

It’s not easy being cooped up, even if it’s with loved ones. When asked what the need to self-quarantine has made them appreciate the most about life, virtually everyone said family, friends and their job.

“The quarantine has been difficult for me as my life has done a 360,” Colucci said. “I went from spending large amounts of time at the Rampart Casino, working, socializing, helping, teaching, consulting etc., to basically no human socializing.

“Also not being able to offer our product due to basically a total sporting event shutdown is devastating. Yet my quality family time has increased and that is a great thing.”