If you’re interested in sports betting and Las Vegas, then the name Derek Stevens should be known to. You may have heard of him as the owner of the D Las Vegas Casino & Hotel Downtown. Or maybe you watched some of his over-the-top sports betting, especially during March Madness. Two years ago, during a live broadcast of Vegas Stats and Information (VSiN) at South Point on Selection Sunday, he bet $ 11,000 on a side in every basketball game in an NCAA tournament, for a total of $ 352,000.
Although he was in poor health and losing a lot more than he won, by then almost everyone in the sports betting world knew about Derek Stevens. Confident without being bold, Stevens makes sports betting a part of his Las Vegas lifestyle. Now it will be part of being a bookmaker too.
In the field of sports betting, the extremely sociable Stevens works continuously with his buddy Mike Palm, his Vice President of Operations, to consolidate his position and that of the newly coined Circa brand as a pioneer in the growing sports betting marketplace.
Sports Handle spoke to Stevens in his recently opened Circa Sportsbook in his redesigned Golden Gate Casino in downtown Las Vegas. What kind of guy is Derek Stevens? He wanted to be interviewed on sports betting so he could keep an eye on his beloved Michigan Wolverines as they passed Texas Tech in the College World Series. This day is like every other day for Stevens – it’s in action.
Big personality, big ambitions
Betting on sports is obviously important to Stevens. This also applies to the building of Circa, the first new hotel / casino from scratch in downtown Las Vegas in four decades. This also applies to the health of the downtown gaming corridor, where Stevens, other business people, and the Las Vegas city government are taking and successfully reviving a declining part of the city. Now it’s an important addition to the more famous Las Vegas Strip. The “Old Vegas” vibe of downtown is attracting more and more visitors, and Stevens wants sports bettors to join them. Scheduled to open in December 2020, Circa will have 777 rooms, a rooftop terrace and amphitheater, six swimming pools, extensive parking, and a multi-story stadium-style sportsbook that Stevens said the Las Vegas Sun is the largest in Las history Vegas would be.
Wake up, eat, make a sports bet, sweat the game and repeat. This is Stevens. The Michigan native also runs his family-run casino / resort business. As his staff will tell you, “Oh Derek, he’s not sleeping.”
When talking to Stevens, it’s easy to get the impression that he just considers himself a normal guy, or at least a normal rabid sports fan. He is known for personally welcoming as many of his hotel guests as possible to The D, Golden Gate and soon Circa. He is also known for constantly interacting with his staff. He hangs in his “Long Bar” in The D and greets everyone.
Here comes the Circa Sports Million Pro soccer competition
Stevens and Palm say they will be many of the things that will set them apart in the crowded sports betting market.
“Let’s start with our Circa Sports Million,” says Stevens. “We think it’s special and unique that there will be quarterly winners. We guarantee the winner not only $ 1 million, but also $ 50,000 to the winner of each quarter of the season. We believe this will give a slightly greater incentive to enter. I’ve competed in a lot of competitions, and so has Mike. Sometimes in November you fall behind and don’t have a shot to catch up. So you stay in action all the time. So we think the competition is very special. “
Palm adds that the $ 1,000-per-entry “Circa Sports Million” contest, in which players make five NFL picks against the spread each week, is attracting additional attention due to the positive expectation.
“I know Derek thinks we’ll get there with the 1,500 entries, but we guarantee $ 1.5 million no matter what,” says Palm. “There is no rake. So not only is it an interesting competition, there is great value to the weather too. “
Circa is expected to have the largest large screen (125 feet) in any sports betting facility. The Circa sports betting (in Circa itself, not spending in the Golden Gate Casino or in D) follows Stevens’ mantra. Make it bigger and do it better.
Stevens seeks big money action and invites each of the big boys to bet with him. Its opening with no juice at the Golden Gate cost him between $ 100,000 and $ 200,000. Palm says it was worth it because people came from all over the country. “We handled nearly 1 million that day. We have the floor out there. “Stevens doesn’t cry over the loss.
“We wanted to attract sharp action and make our name known,” he says. “That was so far in the past (June 1st) that I don’t even remember it.” Like all weak sports bettors, the guy understands how to put a loss in the rearview mirror.
Stevens recalls that his first bet wasn’t even a sports bet. It was a quarter of 1989 in the old dunes on the Las Vegas Strip in the horse racing game Sigma Derby. This is the old mechanical monster where metal horses run in grooves around an oval and randomly produce winners. He put one of the last working versions of the once popular game in The D.
Oddly enough, he doesn’t remember his first, despite having completed thousands and thousands of sports bets over the course of the year. “While I don’t remember exactly what it was based on my budget at the time, it was probably only for $ 11.00.”
Stevens’ love of sports betting stems from two things he says: “I’ve always loved baseball and I’ve always loved math. If you love these two things, you always have an opinion. I love the element of gambling so it just happened that way. “
Sports betting is booming
At the opening of the Circa Sportsbook (Denise Truscello / Getty Images)
While recognizing that it faces stiff competition from well-funded and well-established rivals, he says, “The pie is growing so nationally that we have room. The growth in sports betting nationally is helping us and Las Vegas. “
Sports betting at The D was a book by William Hill. But Stevens decided he wanted to run it himself, as well as the one at Golden Gate and its Circa-Mega-Resort under construction. Circa is located directly across Fremont Street from the Golden Gate at the west end of the Fremont Street Experience multimedia light show, which is currently undergoing major modernization. “We always wanted to keep our own book when I bought the Golden Gate in 2006 and when we bought Fitzgeralds in 2011 (now The D), but we didn’t have the customer volume to do that.”
He continues, “Then we bought the Las Vegas Club and when we started our Circa project we saw what was happening to the apps and the explosion in mobile betting. The time was right to do this yourself. Now it makes more sense to run your own sports betting. “
Stevens says he’ll make himself comfortable to continue being a bettor (he’s not allowed to bet on his own books) and bookmaker too. He’s not afraid to say that his betting views could be reflected in the number of books he has. He says he will have an opinion on the sports he knows like baseball, but none on the sports he’s less familiar with, like soccer or NASCAR.
“We have hired a great sports betting manager in Matt Metcalf and it will be his job to find the right number,” said Palm. “We don’t really give our opinion. It’s more about injecting what limits we should go. Management (our book) has a plan and we let it execute. He (Derek) was very clear about letting her do her job. “
Unbeknownst to Stevens, financier Carl Icahn was reportedly known for repeatedly calling his sports betting manager, to their great dismay, when he owned the stratosphere to make his contribution to the lines of some sports.
Stevens was asked if he would do the same on NFL Sunday morning.
“I’m not going to call (his manager),” says Stevens. “I’ll stand right next to you.”