A day in the life of a bookmaker | TahoeDailyTribune.com
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A day in the life of a bookmaker

When the Beatles sang their classic “Eight Days A Week,” it never occurred to me that 30 years later I would be praying for an extra NFL Sunday. Sunday morning’s alarm clock starts the adrenaline rushing, the coffee pot percolating and the mental preparation for the day’s action. Sunday is a day where the race and sports book can make a difference in overall casino revenues. Depending on a last-second touchdown or a 55-yard field goal, millions of dollars change hands between Nevada’s casinos and the betting public.

Walking from my car to the sports book, I see many familiar folks sipping their coffee and studying the parlay cards as they stroll into the casino. The valet parkers, early morning cleaning crew and regular customers are all talking about the early games.

Everyone loves to test their handicapping and analytical skills against the bookmakers, but the book always has the edge. Of course, there are a few “Wise Guys” who claim to grind out a profit, but everyone would agree it is a difficult way to make a living. But it’s a lot of fun and you never know what’s going to happen. That’s why they play the games.



The morning starts with setting up the drawers and ticket printers and the writers taking their positions behind the counters. The administrator sets up the wide screens, turns on the TVs and makes certain that the morning game schedule is posted for all departments. The lines begin to form and decisions are made to move point spreads.

Before computers, lines were moved based on money bet at each individual casino. With today’s technology and the ability to monitor 24 different locations, odds are determined not only on what’s happening in your casino or within the state, but on betting at locations in Costa Rica, Antigua, Mexico, England and the Bahamas. Based on a betting analysis around the world, a line is set for each casino.




On any given Sunday, Harrah’s network of casinos in Las Vegas, Laughlin, Tahoe and Reno will book in excess of $1,000,000. Although Douglas County accounts for just 2.7 percent of the Nevada’s legal sports betting handle, it’s still pretty big bucks. For the year between July 1, 2001 and June 30, 2002, Douglas County booked $54,117,000 in handle (volume) with winnings of $4,102,000. Statewide, including Douglas County, volume slightly exceeded 2 billion dollars with winnings of $111,008,000 or 5.53 percent.

Many people believe that sports book managers attempt to generate equal action on both sides of a game. This is far from the truth. It’s impossible to get balanced action when the Raiders are playing the Bengals.

In the NFL, there are usually a couple of games where it doesn’t matter who wins, 10 games where we have an interest and two to three games that will make or break the weekend. The big games are always top-rated teams going up against a non-performer. These are the games that appear to the public to be “a lock.” Due to inflated point spreads, the books win the majority of these games.

For sports book managers, an NFL Sunday is definitely not a day of rest. They ensure that both guests and employees are having a good time, that there are no service bottlenecks. Cash transactions have to be logged and currency reports completed. Gaming regulations are strictly enforced and all the T’s and I’s must be crossed and dotted. Of course, you definitely make sure your boss knows everything that’s happening.

Once this is completed, the really difficult part of the job begins: You have to kick back and watch football until you’re cross-eyed!


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