Sports

No more bets: Q&A with retiring veteran Vegas bookmaker

After 43 years taking bets in Las Vegas, Art Manteris is hanging it up and heading into the bookmaker’s true dream: comfortable retirement.

Manteris, one of Las Vegas’ longest tenured bookmakers, announced his retirement this week from Station Casinos, where he spent that last 22 years overseeing the company’s race and sportsbooks. He’ll stay on with the company in a consulting role, but he says his days sweating big decisions are over.

“He’s loves the industry a lot more than I did, and I loved it,” iconic Las Vegas oddsmaker Roxy Roxborough said of Manteris, his longtime friend.

Manteris, 64, arrived in Las Vegas from Pittsburgh in the late 1970s. His bookmaking career started as a ticket writer at the Fremont Hotel & Casino in Downtown Las Vegas, before moving over to the fabled Stardust, where he worked the manually-operated oddsboard that resembled the old-school baseball scoreboards, similar to those at Fenway Park.

He would go on to run the sportsbooks at Caesars Palace and the Las Vegas Hilton SuperBook (now the Westgate), before finishing his career with Station Casinos. In 2019, Manteris was inducted into the SBC Sports Betting Hall of Fame.

In his last week on the hook, Manteris spoke with ESPN’s David Purdum about his goals, strategies and biggest sweats from a 40-year bookmaking career.

Q&A with Art Manteris

What are the goals of a bookmaker at a major Las Vegas casino?

Manteris: Driving handle (amount bet) and revenue (net win). It’s got to be both. It’s not easy. You have to drive business, and you have to drive results, and sometimes they don’t always go hand in hand.

What’s the biggest bet you’ve taken?

Manteris: One million dollars from Kirk Kerkorian (a prominent Las Vegas business mogul, who passed away in 2015). It was on the 49ers-Chargers Super Bowl. He had the favorite, and the Chargers had a chance cover in the closing seconds.

Please compare what would cause the point spread to move in the ’80s and ’90s to what causes the line to move in the current sports betting market.

Manteris: There’s big differences in what caused the line to move then versus now. Back then, line movement was primarily predicated on money, and moved the markets. Now, there’s so much following lines online that a small amount of money can have dramatic repercussions, moving the line across Nevada, across the country and across the world. That is not always a good thing. Knowing what’s causing that line movement and the credibility of a line movement is essential for good bookmaking.

Have bettors improved over the years? Are they tougher to beat now than they were in the ’80s and ’90s?

Manteris: They’re tougher to beat because theoretical advantages are thinner. Competition has led to a narrowing of theoretical house advantages, so it is more advantageous to the player. By the nature of the game, the player is tougher to beat. That said, the last three years were our most successful years ever, and I feel good about it.

What is your approach to setting lines and odds for Las Vegas’ local teams, like the Golden Knights of the NHL and Raiders of the NFL?

Manteris: Is it in the bookmaker’s best interest to inflate the price on the hometown team, knowing that there’s going to be local money on the hometown favorite? My answer is unequivocally no, it is not. It’s far better for the public and for your bottom-line results to book at the right price, not to intentionally inflate the price and thereby and incurring value betting on the other side by the sophisticated market players and by discouraging your bread-and-butter local players, who may know that the price is inflated. Certainly, your peaks and valleys are going to be more dramatic by booking to the right number in that circumstance, but that’s the business that you’re in. You have to gamble with it.

What was the biggest sweat of your career?

Manteris: The Vegas Knights, year one, the liability on them winning the Stanley Cup was enormous, and they came so dangerously close that I still get a chill down my spine when I think of it.

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