The sports betting scene in Las Vegas has undergone plenty of changes in the past 10 or 15 years.
One aspect of the scene has held steady, though: The city’s downtown area remains the best place on the continent to access multiple, competing legal brick-and-mortar sportsbooks situated within easy walking distance of each other.
The precise number of separate books in an area of just a few standard city blocks has fluctuated through the years. There were as many as seven at one time. Today the number stands at six, including one spot that offers a kiosk only.
The sportsbook properties with outlets downtown have also changed frequently. A bettor on Fremont Street today has convenient access to the lines of the following operations: Cal Neva, Leroy’s, Golden Nugget, Lucky’s, Station Casinos and Boyd. That lineup is likely to change yet again within the year.
Having so many options in such a small area is crucial to avid sports bettors. It allows them to shop around for the most favorable numbers on the betting board, comparing lines before placing their wagers. Of course, I’m referring to people who are actually out there in the arena betting on sports, not those who are merely sitting back and pontificating about it. (Personally, I like to think I do a little of both — bet and pontificate.)
Allow me to dispense with a few likely objections.
Objection No. 1: Physically shopping for lines is an anachronism in an age of Internet-based offshore sports books.
Not for me. My experience with offshore books entailed, in part, fielding accusations that I was a “professional bettor” (whatever that means). As a result, I would be hassled in various ways because the book in question dealt only with “recreational bettors” (whatever that means).
So, yeah, at least for now I’ll stick with physical sportsbooks in Nevada.
Objection No. 2: Even in Nevada, sophisticated online odds-tracking services have rendered footwork obsolete.
Those services are a great tool. They definitely have their place.
But once you find a line you like, you still have to hustle down there to snap it up. The majority of Las Vegas sportsbooks do not offer any kind of remote betting. Having half a dozen books within easy walking distance can be a significant advantage.
Also, depending on how comprehensive your odds service is, you might have to be there in person to track line moves in boxing, MMA, future books, propositions and offbeat wagering opportunities.
Let’s map out a possible itinerary for a bettor looking to do some line shopping in downtown Las Vegas.
If you’re a veteran of the game, you might have found a secret parking spot or some other way to beat the system that allows you to complete this process even more quickly.
For the average person who’s not staying at a downtown hotel, however, a typical place to start is the parking lot at 1st Street and Stewart Avenue, behind the California hotel-casino. It’ll cost you $3 to park, but you can get that money refunded at the cage inside the Cal.
From here on, picture one of those old Family Circus cartoons with a thick dotted line showing Billy and Jeffy’s path through the neighborhood:
- There is a Boyd book up the escalator at the Cal, but don’t waste time going up there. We’ll take care of this book later. Instead, exit the Cal, walk one block east and enter the back door of Binion’s at Ogden Avenue and Casino Center Boulevard. You’ll see the Cal Neva sportsbook at Binion’s almost immediately. On a recent visit, I left this book at 3:47 p.m.
- Leave Binion’s through the front entrance and head west on Fremont Street for less than a block to the Golden Gate hotel-casino. A Leroy’s betting kiosk is inside. I arrived here at 3:50.
- Exit the Golden Gate, head east on Fremont and enter the Golden Nugget about a block away. I arrived here at 3:51 and checked out the lines for a minute. Three down, three to go.
- Continue east on Fremont until you reach the D hotel-casino (formerly Fitzgeralds), which has a Lucky’s sportsbook up the escalator. I arrived here at 3:56.
- After leaving the D, head east on Fremont for two more blocks to the El Cortez at Fremont and Sixth Street. The sportsbook here offers Station Casinos lines. I arrived here at 4:02.
- Exit the El Cortez and head back west on Fremont Street to the Fremont hotel-casino at Casino Center Boulevard, which has a Boyd sportsbook. I was checking out the board here by 4:07.
That’s six separate brick-and-mortar book operations in 20 minutes, walking at a leisurely to moderate pace. You won’t come close to that level of efficiency on the Strip, or perhaps anywhere else.
Follow Haney on Twitter @yoryboy or check out his blog at www.sophisticatedmaniac.com.