Bob Scucci, vice president of race and sports at Boyd Gaming Corp., is preparing for a couple of 16-hour workdays to start the NCAA Tournament, and he couldn’t be happier about it.
Here are some excerpts from his question-and-answer session that touched on both sports betting’s expansion and the upcoming tournament.
What’s kept you in this industry for so long?
The love of sports, first and foremost, but the love of action is probably the bigger driver. And what I mean by action is having something riding on the game besides just being a fan. Having that extra dimension, element of having something on the game whether it be a personal wager, or on my end, on behalf of a company. Every sporting event over the years, there’s always drama you can’t get anywhere else.
What’s it been like to watch sports betting go from a taboo topic to widely embraced over the past few years?
We’ve made great strides in the industry trying to create the image that actually exists. For many years, people thought bookmakers like myself were cigar-smoking, visor-wearing people in the backroom somehow dictating the outcome of the event itself. We’ve spent a lot of years and a lot of time talking with regulators, legislators and media forums like this to say that’s not the case. We’re a business, a highly regulated industry just like any other, and we’re very good at what we do. That’s why people are saying, ‘How do you pick that point spread right down to the exact outcome?’ It’s just math; it’s just a formula. We’ve made great strides to get out of the basement and make that known.
Boyd now has sports books in five states. How has your job changed with the nationwide expansion?
It’s gotten away from the oddsmaking and bookmaking part to more introducing sports betting in new states, new jurisdictions, so it’s a lot of meeting with legislators who are drafting the laws for their states and looking to Nevada for its 40-year history of it.
Did you always anticipate this would eventually happen?
I always thought it would eventually come. I actually thought it would happen 10 years ago, when there was a big push in New Jersey. It seemed so close, and that’s when a lot of the European operators started making their in-roads to get to Nevada, because they saw it coming. The one thing that I saw over the years that left no doubt in my mind that this would actually happen was never meeting anyone who was vehemently opposed to sports betting. Anyone I encountered in any part of the country would have stories about their local bookie, and if they didn’t make wagers, they wanted to make wagers and were interested in it.
You’ve become kind of a celebrity in this space with people around the world stopping by The Orleans to get your autograph. Did you see that coming?
I didn’t see that coming. My colleagues, they laugh and say, “We should get a cardboard cut-out of you.”
We were fortunate enough to have someone from ESPN (author Chad Millman) spend about a year with us when we were out here at the Stardust, and he watched the process of making the lines in the back room and having the lines be put out, and saw the betting action being put in over March Madness. That book (“The Odds”) is about 20 years old now and people still come in with the book and want me to sign it or take a photo.
What advice do you give to the novices who fill sports books on the first weekend of the NCAA Tournament?
First is money management. It’s a marathon, not a sprint. You don’t want to go through your whole bankroll in the first half of the first day. You want to pace yourself, bet on things you understand what the wagers are. A lot of first-time bettors will just bet on who’s going to win the tournament, and that’s a good idea. It can give you action all the way through to the Final Four.
What teams have you amassed liability on and will be rooting against winning the national championship this year?
The teams we’re rooting against are the teams everyone else is rooting for because they’re the underdogs. Teams like Dayton and San Diego State that were at 100-to-1 and now can win it, that means bad news for the books. If they win the tournament, we’ll lose money.
What’s one game where you can remember the house losing a significant amount of money?
There are so many but I’ll tell you about a prop we booked when Tiger Woods was at his absolute highest peak. He had never played a round at The Masters without getting a birdie, so we decided to put up a prop of, “Which hole at The Masters will he get his first birdie?” Just on the off chance, we had to put up that there wouldn’t be a single birdie, so we put it up at 100-to-1. Sure enough, everyone was betting $10, $20 at 100-to-1 and I’m watching hole-by-hole and it’s no birdie — par, par, par. It was the first round of golf he ever played at The Masters without a birdie and we got absolutely annihilated.