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Gobbling Up Sports

That’s right. Major League Eating is a real sport.

Gobbling Up Sports

Much of the big news in the casino industry lately has involved sports partnerships.

Stadiums are opening sportsbooks. I can’t watch a ballgame without several visits from Jamie Foxx, who mugs for the camera telling me to place a bet on the MGM book, or JB Smoove, in that ridiculous Caesar getup, telling me to bet with his book.

Aristocrat is launching games under a license with the National Football League. Las Vegas is awash in sports, from the NFL Raiders to the NHL Golden Knights. Soon, one of the legendary Las Vegas casinos, the Tropicana, will be a memory, replaced by a baseball park for the soon-to-be Las Vegas Athletics. (That leaves only the Sahara and the Flamingo from the original Ocean’s Eleven.)

I love the M casino, except for the fact it’s Raiders Central, and I can’t turn a corner without coming face to face with an enemy from my youth. (That’s right. I’m a Steelers fan. And Franco caught the ball in the Immaculate Reception. Get over it.)

But all the brouhaha and hullabaloo over sports in casinos often leaves out the industry’s frequent hosting of events for Major League Eating. That’s right. The MLE. It’s a real sport. You can go on any sportsbook site and bet on an eating event.

I was reminded of this last month, when my monthly crawl through the interesting casino stories of the day turned up the latest MLE event at a casino, the Inaugural Cheesesteak Egg Roll Bowl at Resorts Atlantic City. Joey Chestnut, who is the Reggie Jackson of professional eating, topped 11 competitors by scarfing 46 cheesesteak egg rolls in eight minutes.

Incidentally, the Philly Cheesesteak Spring Roll was picked for the contest because it’s on the menu at the DraftKings Sportsbook at Resorts. They happen to be wicked good, if you can savor them for more than half a second instead of, you know, stuffing handfuls of them into your esophagus.

You may remember Chestnut from my other scarf-fest reports, notably the annual Nathan’s Famous Fourth of July Hot Dog Eating Championship. As you may recall, Chestnut interrupted his dog-gobbling this year to go ninja on an animal rights activist from PETA who had climbed onto the stage to protest pig abuse. It reminded me of when The Who’s Pete Townshend clobbered antiwar activist Abbie Hoffman with his guitar after he climbed onstage at Woodstock.

At the Nathan’s event, after dispatching the pig hippie, Chestnut calmly returned to his business, scarfing 63 tube steaks to reclaim his title. (He set the record in 2022 with 76, but still won this year, despite the hippie.)

The guy is a freak of nature. He’s so thin I suspect his post-contest regimen involves a stomach pump, but he has this huge mouth and jaws that become extremely wide as he loads food down his gullet. It’s like watching some ghastly cartoon.

The July 4 gobble-fest was in front of the original Nathan’s on Coney Island in Brooklyn, New York, but you can bet if Thor Equities wins its bid for a Coney Island casino, it will be the Nathan’s Contest, Sponsored by The Coney. (That’s what they want to call the casino.)

The Resorts event this fall, part of the first-annual “Balls Out Block Party” (don’t ask), shows that the MLE continues to be a valuable casino partner.

A visit to the MLE website is an eye-opener. They coined a word for their competitors—they call them “gurgitators.” (Motto: “Pro eaters only gurgitate once.”) While the cheesesteak eggroll is a new category, there’s a wealth of gastronomic contests throughout the year. There’s the World Tamale Eating Championship in Texas, the Trenton Thunder World Famous Case’s Pork Roll Eating Championship in New Jersey, the Chicken Wing Eating Championship in New York (champion: James Webb, with 276 Buffalo wings in 12 minutes), and the World Slopper Eating Championship in Colorado.

I had to look that last one up. A slopper is a cheeseburger with chili on it. Just the thought of that had me reaching for the Rolaids.

In all, there are 70 annual MLE events, and not just in the U.S. The sport, it says here, is overseen by its governing body, the International Federation of Competitive Eating. MLE sponsors include, among others, Hostess, Hooters, Heinz Ketchup, Pizza Hut, 7-Eleven, Taco Bell, Jimmy John’s Subs, and maybe the most vital sponsor—Pepto Bismol.

I gained 10 pounds by just reading that list.

Next up: the World-Famous St. Elmo Shrimp Cocktail Eating Championship at the Big Ten Tailgate Party December 2. Grab your antacid, come on down, and place your bets.

I wonder if there’s fantasy betting on gurgitators. Chestnut’s definitely on my fantasy team!

Frank Legato is editor of Global Gaming Business magazine. He has been writing on gaming topics since 1984, when he launched and served as editor of Casino Gaming magazine. Legato, a nationally recognized expert on slot machines, has served as editor and reporter for a variety of gaming publications, including Public Gaming, IGWB, Casino Journal, Casino Player, Strictly Slots and Atlantic City Insider. He has an B.A. in journalism and an M.A. in communications from Duquesne University in Pittsburgh, PA. He is the author of the books, How To Win Millions Playing Slot Machines... Or Lose Trying, and Atlantic City: In Living Color.  

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