Las Vegas Profile: Jamie Shea, Sportsbook Director For The Hard Rock Hotel
Most top managers at sportsbooks in Las Vegas took the traditional route to get where they are today. The typical manager or sportsbook director is a long-time sports bettor who came to Las Vegas to get involved in the "legitimate" betting industry or someone who came to the city to try their hand at professional sports betting before deciding to move over to the other side of the betting window.
Jamie Shea, sportsbook director for the Hard Rock Hotel took an entirely different approach. The Florida native had always had the goal of becoming a teacher. She got her degree in elementary education and moved to Las Vegas to take some graduate classes at UNLV. In 1994, she decided to take a part-time job at the now defunct Sands in the race and sportsbook. She instantly loved the work and knew that a career in the sports betting industry was for her.
"On my first day, I absolutely loved it," said Shea. "I can pretty much say that if you would have asked any of my friends, they would say, 'she does what?' This isn't exactly what I was thinking I was going to do, but I am so happy I stumbled into it because it is the best job ever."
Shea was instantly a natural in the sportsbook. She moved up the ranks quickly at the Sands and when the hotel closed in the mid-1990s, she moved over to the Flamingo Hilton as a supervisor. She then took a manager position at the Venetian until her current position at the Hard Rock became available in 2002.
Despite the fact that there are not many women holding top positions in the Las Vegas sports betting industry, Shea said that was never much of a problem for her rising in the ranks from a part-time ticket writer at the Sands to the sportsbook director at the Hard Rock, one of the hippest and most popular hangouts in Las Vegas.
"There might be a little resistance (because of my gender), but people for the most part are pretty open minded and they are willing to give you a shot," she commented. "It hasn't been too bad for me. The guys in this business have been so good to me. All the different directors, I'm friends with most of them and they are so helpful. I think I have been really lucky. I can't say that being a woman has been a hindrance at all."
While most sportsbook managers are seasoned bettors by the time they get to Las Vegas, Shea had to learn the trade on the job. She did know about the race business because her father owned racehorses in Florida and used to take her to Calder Race Course and the Palm Beach Kennel Club as a youngster. Even though her father's horses never had much success, Shea admits the knowledge she gained from being in the environment has helped her in the sports betting industry.
Her clients at the Hard Rock are mostly tourists and inexperienced bettors. Therefore, a big part of her job involves customer service and education. Many of the visitors at the hotel are there for the atmosphere and the Hard Rock's wide assortment of clubs and restaurants. Visitors to the sportsbook usually aren't there to bet a lot of money and they often aren't even sure how to place a bet.
"Do they have tons of money to lay on the game? No," she said. "But I think we more than make up for it in quantity. We have so many people betting. We have such a young, hip crowd, that when they hear 'football,' they come running. There's not the same interest in baseball, admittedly. I think that's because (our customers) don't know how to bet it. We spend a lot of time teaching in our book. People come up and say they have never bet before and they need help. We go over what the different bets are and how you can bet the money line, how you can bet the point spread and how you can bet the total. In baseball, we show them how you can bet the run line or straight up. We tell them what the 'plus' and 'minus' mean."
The sportsbook receives a lot of business from California guests. Therefore, she is sometimes inclined to 'shade,' or add a point or so to the pointspreads for teams like the Lakers, Raiders, Chargers, 49ers and some California universities. Bettors looking to go against these teams could get some extra value by betting at the Hard Rock.
Although she would not reveal her betting limits she did say the Hard Rock will "take some bets." Shea said she has a good relationship with management and that they will let her try new things that she feels will help increase business - including taking some large wagers from casino players.
While most sportsbooks in Las Vegas will not hire inexperienced ticket writers, Shea won't hesitate to bring in employees that have never even placed a bet, as long as they are eager to learn about the sports betting industry. This helps her ticket writers relate to her customers, who often have never placed a sports wager themselves. One of the director's most recent hires was a former cocktail waitress at the Hard Rock pool.
"We have good solid numbers and great ticket writers who are eager to teach," added Shea. "They are very patient and are really good with people. A lot of our bettors are the novice bettors; they have never done it before and they are not quite sure how to go about it. A lot of people are intimidated. They don't want to come up and bother anybody or appear like they don't know what they are doing. Our ticket writers are really good about being able to see that. They really go over it and they are so friendly that the guest walks away eagerly anticipating (his or her) next wager."