One of the biggest misconceptions the general public has with Las Vegas sports books is that the directors finally get some personal rest and relaxation with the NBA Finals being finished. Their thought process believes that with baseball being the only major sport in action right now that the book is in cruise control until preseason pro football start, which kicks on Sunday Aug. 5.
It’s true, there is only baseball for the next six weeks. However, the reality is that most sports book directors cram more behind the scene game planning into these next six weeks than they do for the entire year.
The game planning is for the college and pro football season which accounts for over 50% of most sports books annual revenues. It may sound like an easy process, just preparing for a season, but it’s not.
There’s a tremendous amount of pressure to maximize every possible resource available to increase traffic flow through a given sports book, which in turn, should create more volume in wagers. If a director fails this process by not having a strong plan of attack to gain their share of the market, it can have a crippling effect on not only the individual budget of the book, but also the entire casino. The sports book is the wild card of the casino, the ace in the hole. Their contributions to the overall casino win is minimal, but sometimes their small contribution of 4 to 5% of overall casino win is enough to push the aggressive green sheets into a reality, which ultimately means bonuses for everyone.
Unlike other parts of casino operations like slots and table games where forecasting revenues are pretty accurate, trying to forecast a budget for the sports book is harder than consistently picking a winning six-team parlay.
No part of the casino fluctuates with wins and losses more than the sports book and in football season, it’s magnified even more. This is why maximizing handle -- the preferred type, not sharp large action -- is so important. More action equates to a better chance at winning more.
The plan of attack starts with marketing and spending a budgeted amount that caters to both local and visiting guests. The director has to have all their contest rules, signage, print advertising, radio advertising and sometimes television spots ready to roll by the end of July.
Again, this may sound like a small task, but it is a time consuming process that consists of several meetings with company executives who eventually will have to sign off on the game plan. Despite the big bosses signing off, the game plan still rests on the shoulders of the director alone.
“Customer-wise, it slows down considerably in July,” says LVH Super Book vice president Jay Kornegay. ”But as far as the things I have to do, it’s a very busy month. We’re preparing for the busiest time of the year and we want to ensure that everything goes as planned.”
Kornegay operates the largest sports book in Nevada that has become internationally known for their high-end pro football ‘Super Contest‘, which turns the winner into an instant celebrity. It’s kind of like the World Series of Poker for sports. Because of the popularity, Kornegay and his staff are already working on a new promotion that coincides with Super Contest.
“I’m not going to reveal the details of the promotion right now, but let’s just say it involves the Super Contest and it’s something we’ve never done before. We had a record setting 517 entries ($1,500 entry fee) last year and we came up with an idea that will feed off that popularity this season and create even more of a buzz.”
Along with sorting through new promotional ideas, tidying up the cosmetics of the book to make it look its best for the season is also a priority. It’s said shoes offer the first impression of a man. For a sports book, TV presentation offers the first impression with a label that can grow large through word of mouth. Why would anyone show up at a book to watch games if their TV’s are bad? Worst of all, the book has probably lost that potential cash carrying guest forever.
Another aspect to dive into in the next few weeks is increasing a labor force that will be able to accommodate the thousands of frenzied bettors and cover the extended hours of operation from September through January.
“I’m always looking throughout the year for the best candidates to represent our book.’ said Kornegay. “I take all the applications and resumes accumulated and then go through a process to have those top candidates processed and ready to write tickets by mid-to-late August.”
Kornegay estimates his staff will increase 25% from what it is in July to what it will be in September.
One of the most important discussions over the next few weeks is finding better ways to protect the house. An angle Kornegay and many other book directors will be reviewing involves their parlay cards, an area that generated 17.6 million in state revenue last year, but would have been much higher without a certain element feasting.
“There are a lot more sharp players out there that have taken advantage of stale numbers on the cards that has now put us in a process of re-evaluating the odds we’ll be offering this season,” said Kornegay.
The betting public love football parlay cards and the sports books love offering them, as revenues indicate. A normal weekly process for the book is creating spreads for each game on Wednesday afternoon, sending them to the print shop and having them delivered by Thursday morning.
By Friday night, several steam plays have already occurred and changed the numbers drastically on the board, but the parlay cards remain the same with Wednesday’s spread making them very attractive to the sharp groups.
If a 10-team parlay has just five of the teams that have moved one or two points in their favor, the advantage of not only the spreads, but the listed payout odds dramatically shifts the edge to the players side. This is a delicate area the book has to balance out and do so with their core players in mind.
The last thing any sports book wants to do is take away odds from the small player, but they have to adjust with changes in the industry and one of the biggest changes over the last few years has been the growth of large sophisticated groups preying on favorable parlay card spreads.
It’s not uncommon for one or two 10-team parlays paying 800-to-1 odds to happen on a weekend, but when 10 or 12 are occurring like happened a few weekends in 2011, policy and pay charts are bound to be altered.
While all the future football plans are being put in motion, the directors still have to book the baseball games and nervously watch the scores knowing what their doomed four-team parlay result is for that day.
Baseball has the lowest annual hold percentage of all the sports because of true odds payouts and a .10 cent line. It’s not uncommon for the books to regularly lose the entire month of July as a result of the perfect baseball storm occurring from only one or two days of the month.
We only touched the surface of a few pressing matters a sports book director has on their agenda before the calendar turns to August. The reality is that their next legitimate chance at taking some time to relax away from the office will be after the Super Bowl.