The legalization of sports betting in the U.S. following the repeal of the Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act in 2018 brought many new players into the game. But it also focused attention on people who have been involved in U.S. sports betting in the one legal jurisdiction—Nevada. Art Manteris arrived in Las Vegas in the late 1970s, working at such legendary books as the Stardust, Caesars, Westgate (formerly the Las Vegas Hilton) and finally 20 years with Station Casinos. Manteris is a contrarian when it comes to sports betting and understands the realities of operations. Even though he’s retired from the casinos, Manteris plans to stay engaged in the industry. He spoke with GGB Publisher Roger Gros in May at the GGB offices in Boulder City, Nevada.
GGB: Congratulations on your recent retirement from Station Casinos. How is your life going to change?
Art Manteris: My life has already changed in significant ways. I’m trying to de-stress and ratchet down the intensity that becomes a part of your life on a daily basis. It’s hard to activate the off switch. It’s been less than two weeks but I’m already enjoying myself. I’m walking, hiking, biking… Doing all the things I never had time for in the past.
What has surprised you about the growth of sports betting since the repeal of PASPA?
There have been a lot of things that have surprised me. First of all, PASPA becoming the law of the land 28 years ago. It was a mistake and was imposed for reasons that were not valid. I was with Hilton Hotels at the time and we had just merged the operations of the Las Vegas Hilton and the Flamingo for the first time. We had the idea to go to racetracks around the country to set up sportsbooks. There was some interest from the tracks, although others were adamantly opposed. So PASPA ended that, but it didn’t affect our business in Nevada at all.
I was surprised when PASPA reached the Supreme Court. That was the hard part. But I wasn’t surprised when it was overturned. Those who pushed it were relentless. And when they reached the highest court in the land, then the momentum shifted. They went from a longshot to a favorite.
Each state seems to have a different model they’re using to operate sports betting. Why is that?
I have been disappointed that they haven’t used the Nevada model in most cases. We have gone through growing pains here and now have a very efficient and profitable system. I won’t point fingers at any state when it comes to regulations, but I’ve seen some that are really misguided.
Lots of sportsbook operators like to play the games too. Some become professional handicappers. Were you ever tempted to make the jump to the other side of the counter?
Once I got into management, no. When I became the sportsbook manager at Caesars Palace, I decided I’m going to be on one side of the counter or the other. I’m not going to try to do both. I was not going to try to capitalize on any information that came my way. Once I made that decision, I never looked back. But now that I’m not working full time in the industry, who knows? (laughs)
Tell us what you think of the sports betting apps. They are pretty rudimentary. Will there ever be a great leap forward?
I have a different perspective than most. With the apps today, there’s so much emphasis on messaging and promotions and contests. And those things are great. I don’t mean to diminish or belittle those efforts, but as a lifelong career bookmaker, an app has one function at the end of the day: Take a bet and pay a bet. That’s why they exist. An app can have all the bells and whistles, but if a guy can’t bet when and where he wants and what he wants to bet on, then it’s failed. The most reliable apps that allow you to make a bet quickly are the best to me.