Las Vegas Profile: Bob Scucci, Race & Sportsbook Manager For The Stardust
by Jeremy Martin
Bob Scucci learned much of what he knows about the sports betting industry at one of the most unlikely places: the family dinner table. That's because both his mother and father worked in Las Vegas sportsbooks. After the family moved to Las Vegas from New Jersey when Bob was in high school, his father took a job at the old Rose Bowl sportsbook and his mother took a post at the Showboat sportsbook. Dinner table discussions were a lesson in Sports Betting 101. And Scucci has used that knowledge to get where he is today, managing the Race & Sportsbook at the Stardust. Because of the history behind the hotel/casino and the fact that the book sets the first Las Vegas line for football, his job is one of the most recognized and revered in the industry.
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"My dad probably taught me the most, whether he knew it or not," said Scucci. "We would have conversations at the dinner table and it wouldn't even be like he was trying to teach me anything. It was just a normal discussion. And, over the course of those years, it just, by osmosis, sunk in. Some things are just second nature. You don't realize it until you are actually working in the industry that things kind of come naturally."
The Stardust sportsbook is famous for setting the opening Las Vegas line for football. At 5:30 p.m. on Sundays during the NFL season Scucci, with help from consulting services, posts the first lines and lets the professional bettors take the first crack at them. The sportsbook holds a lottery for line placement in order to avoid a free-for-all to the window. Bettors are allowed to make five wagers before they have to move back to the end of the line. During the first couple hours of action, the line on an NFL game can move as many as two points. The lottery, however, has decreased in popularity over the last several years.
"In recent years it seems like people want to think about it a little bit before they rush to the counter," Scucci commented. "So there hasn't been as many people that want to join up in the lottery. They just prefer to wait until the numbers are up and then gradually pick their spots. For the first hour and a half, the numbers are bouncing around all over. If you are talking about 1 ½ points on every game and you are taking $10,000 a whack, it doesn't take long to have a $30-$40,000 decision on each game."
Since the Stardust sportsbook is a favorite of professional bettors in Las Vegas, Scucci is used to sweating it out. While the goal of most sportsbooks is to get 50 percent of the action on both sides of a game, it doesn't always work out that way. The Stardust has taken some big losses in the years that he has been there (Scucci served as the right-hand man for former manager Joe Lupo, who took a position as vice president of operations at the Borgata in Atlantic City, for six years before taking over last October). Putting out the first line can be a liability, said Scucci, because there are no other numbers out there to compare to his lines and because the pros are usually there to attack a bad number. When the Las Vegas sportsbook industry does well, the Stardust usually follows suit, but when the industry as a whole has a bad week, Scucci usually takes a harder hit. "Occasionally, but not often, when the industry does well we may not do as well at all because we take all the early hits that the other casinos don't take," he added. "But I feel we can draw enough off of it that it's worth the liability."
One of the most unique things about the Stardust sportsbook is its ability to draw an even mix of locals and tourists. Now that the south end of the Strip is the place to be in Las Vegas, Scucci's sportsbook is still keeping pace with the big boys in terms of handle. Tourists want to visit the Stardust because of its history and atmosphere and locals like the wide variety of parlay cards and the chance to take advantage of the opening numbers. "We probably have the highest percentage of locals of all the Strip properties," said Scucci.
Limits for NFL games are $10,000 for sides and $2,000 for totals and college football limits are $5,000 for sides and $1,000 for totals. Scucci's philosophy is not to set the lines by predicting the outcomes of games, but rather set the number according to the way he thinks the public will bet. And he always has to be concerned about the professional bettors, who are lurking around every corner at the Stardust.
"To make money in this business isn't just to give the bettors what they want, because that's not in our best interest," he said. "However, knowing which way they are going to bet is always a help. There are a lot of factors that go into making the numbers. The whole key is to not give away too much value to someone who is making a living betting on sports. We know which way the public is going to bet, predominantly. The public likes to bet favorites, they like to bet a lot of home favorites and they like to bet a lot of overs. There's a pattern that we know the public will bet on these games and a lot of times we just have to go into a game knowing that they are going to bet this way but we let them bet it because we feel like this 2 ½ (as an example) is the right number. So we let them lay the 2 ½. If they win they win and if we win then so be it. But we are not going to move it to 3 or 3 ½ just because we know the public is going to bet it because at that point the sharp guys are going to say 'at 3 ½, it's a buy.'"
The sportsbook also offers two contests in order to attract business. The public is invited to play the weekly free All-American Football Contest, in which $10,000 is awarded weekly, and the Stardust Invitational is an annual battle among 16 of the best handicappers in the nation who compete for a $10,000 prize in a head-to-head format. The weekly contest takes place live in the sportsbook and always gathers a good crowd.
According to Scucci, the Stardust is the only sportsbook in Las Vegas that gives bettors the information they need to beat the house. The sportsbook offers its patrons a handicapping library with wall-to-wall information about sports betting. In order to make betting easier for locals, Scucci has implemented Sportscall, a telephone betting system that differs from traditional phone accounts in that it is geared toward the average bettor instead of the high-limit player.
Since taking over in October, one of the most difficult aspects of his new job, said Scucci, is following in the footsteps of Lupo, who was one of the most respected and well-liked managers in the industry. This will be his first full football season without his former mentor.
"He was great to work for - he really knew his stuff," said Scucci. "When somebody is that well respected you have some big shoes to fill and you've got to rely on your own confidence in your abilities to hopefully do the job that he did. You realize that everything falls on your shoulders now. I kind of felt like the first March Madness without him it was noticeable. From years of working with him and having that symbiotic relationship where we would bounce ideas off each other, I found myself, at times, turning to ask his opinion and realizing he is not around anymore. A couple of times I have felt like giving him a call in New Jersey and asking him 'what do you think about this or that?'"
*Jeremy Martin is the newest member of the Doc's Sports team. His work has been widely published in both print and online media. For more information or to contact Jeremy visit //www.docsports.com/contactus.html.