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Best of Vin Narayanan

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Top-10 reasons to visit the new Venetian sportsbook

19 December 2011

For years, my favorite sportsbook in Las Vegas has been at the Wynn Las Vegas. Johnny Avello, the executive director of race and sports operations, is the best sports book operator around. He sets some of the best odds in the business -- and yes, he's the one setting the odds. The leather seats inside the Wynn are comfortable and luxurious. And the atmosphere is unmistakably classy.

The only time I don't visit the Wynn sportsbook is when I'm testing out other sports books in Vegas or I'm in town with a large group of friends. When I'm with a bunch of friends, I usually head to Mandalay Bay Resort & Casino or Lagasse's Stadium in The Palazzo Resort Hotel Casino. As good as the Wynn is, it's not the best of places for large groups of friends (six or more) to gather.

On my most recent trip to Vegas, I skipped the Wynn (sorry Johnny) to check out the revamped sportsbook at The Venetian Resort-Hotel-Casino on a Saturday filled with big college football games and Breeders Cup races. And for the first time, I found a sportsbook that could challenge my loyalty to Wynn.

What did I like so much about the Venetian sportsbook? Almost everything. But here are the top 10 items on my list.

10. Visual statement
Earlier this year, the Venetian closed down its sportsbook for about three months to remodel it. But remodeling doesn't do the changes made to sportsbook justice. Cantor Gaming, which operates the sportsbook at the Venetian, turned one of the worst sportsbooks in Las Vegas into a 10,000 square-foot statement piece.

When visitors to the Venetian's gaming floor walk through the casino, the sportsbook can be spotted from across the casino. It is the most visually arresting scene on the gaming floor, and with its massive television screens, high ceiling and striking red high-back chairs, it acts as a magnet for sports fans and sports bettors alike. It's almost like the TV department in Sears or Best Buy. Regardless of what you're in the store to buy, you know that you're going to swing by and see what a game looks like on a fantastic television (more on those later) -- or simply to pass the time. And the same holds true here.

9. Customer service
If you don't know what you're doing, betting at a sportsbook, or opening an in-game betting account (more on that later) can be intimidating. But not at the Venetian. Mark Goldman, Cantor Gaming's Director of Race and Sports Operations, and Jorgen Johnson, Manager of Race and Sports/Mobile Gaming, run a great operation. They understand how their product works -- in-game betting can be complicated -- and know how to explain it to new customers. The people taking the bets at the window and handling the in-game account deposits and withdrawals are very good, as are all the people taking the traditional window bets. If you don't have a Daily Racing Form (and I didn't), they'll just give you one. Cocktail waitresses are friendly and even talkative when the situation calls for it. And as a result, you have a good time at the Venetian sportsbook.

8. Lots of seating
In most sportsbooks, finding an empty seat on a busy action day like a Breeders Cup/college football Saturday is almost impossible. Most sportsbooks simply do not have enough seating to handle the crush of people who want to watch and bet on the games. That's not an issue at the Venetian. The new Venetian sportsbook has more betting carrels than any I've seen on the Strip, and it easily handled the substantial crowd on a busy betting weekend. I even managed to get a betting carrel even though I arrived just after kickoff for the early games.

7. Food service
Most sportsbooks offer no food service or have lousy food options available close by. The Venetian, on the other hand, offered me a limited menu from Table 10, an Emeril Lagasse restaurant. A waitress would have placed the order and brought the food to me. But the limited menu didn't have any vegetarian options, so I passed on the meal. Even with no vegetarian food on the menu, the Venetian deserves credit for offering a good food option.

6. Comfortable seats
If you're going to be sitting in a sportsbook for 12 hours, you need a comfortable chair. And the chairs at the Venetian are very comfortable. The red high-backed chairs are type you expect see executives in board rooms sitting in, not sports bettors. It's thoughtful touches like comfortable chairs that keep bettors in sportsbooks, where they can bet more often.

5. Great TV screens
I have a great leather reclining chair, complete with cup holders, and a sizable HD television, so it's hard to get me to leave my apartment to watch any sporting event. Staying at home is simply the better option most of the time. And I'm not alone in wondering why I should pay money to watch a game anywhere when I can get a significantly better experience at home.

Sportsbooks and sports bars have to compete with the home viewing experience in order to get customers. After all, why would you go to Vegas to watch football on a tiny a screen when you could stay home and watch it on a big screen?

The Venetian solves this problem by providing the biggest and the best TV screens in Vegas. The TV screens at the Venetian sportsbook are enormous. And the picture quality is fantastic. The Venetian sportsbook is filled with fantastic televisions that make going to the sportsbook and spending time there worth the trip. And in doing so, they've proven they're a sportsbook that's ready to compete moving forward.

4. Room for sports and horse bettors
In many sportsbooks, there is an uncomfortable tension between horse bettors and sports bettors. Books make a lot of money off horse bettors because there are races being bet on every few minutes. As a result, a fair amount of real estate is devoted to horse bettors. But in the general betting population, there are significantly more sports bettors and than horse bettors, and sports bettors hate ceding prime seats and screens to horse bettors and horse races. But the Venetian sportsbook is so big this isn't an issue. Horse bettors and sports bettors co-exist peacefully. Sports bettors get prime seats and television space without pushing out the horse bettors. And that's huge. The key to all of this is in-game betting (more on this later), which allows sports bettors to act like horse bettors and place a wager once every few minutes.

3. Electronic betting
The beauty behind the betting carrels at the Venetian sportsbook is you can place your bets from the carrel, and you never have to go to window unless it's time to deposit, reload or cash out. Any bet you can make at the window, you can make electronically from the betting carrel.

It takes a little bit of work to take advantage of the electronic betting features. And if you're trying to get your bets in before the start of certain games, give yourself about 40 minutes to take care of all of the paper work.

First, you have get a Grazie card, the Venetian's player card. If you already have a Grazie card, then you are ready for step 2, which is setting up the electronic betting account. If you don't have a Grazie card, then you have to get one in the casino before you go to the sportsbook. That process can take up to 20 minutes.

Once you have your Grazie card, head to the sportsbook and open up your electronic betting account. You'll need to set two accounts and two passwords (one for the sports betting, one for horse betting).

After you set up the accounts, you can deposit money into the accounts. And believe it or not, there's paper work involved in this as well. Once the money is deposited (you'll get a receipt for your deposit), you're ready to bet. And betting is easy. See a line you like? Bet on it. See a second half line you like? Bet on it. See an over/under you like? Bet on it. All of the odds are on the carrel screen right in front of you. It's easy. And if you're making several bets throughout the day, it's a great system. You can place as many bets as your bankroll allows without going up to the window. And if you win, your winnings are immediately deposited in your account, so you don't need to go to the window for that either.

It's a great system, and people who bet frequently throughout the day will love it.

2. Odds checker
One of the nicest features of Cantor Gaming's electronic betting system is the odds checker application. For any game you're interested in betting on, the odds checker application will bring up odds from other Vegas sportsbooks so you can compare them to Cantor's line. The odds checker also includes lines from bet365 Sportsbook & Racebook, a European-facing online gambling site. It's a pretty handy feature that let's you know whether you're getting a good price on your wager. And the fact that Cantor/The Venetian isn't afraid of comparison shopping is outstanding.

1. In-game betting
This is easily the best reason to visit the Venetian sportsbook. In-game betting is available only on select games. The day I was at the Venetian, it was offered on the Alabama-LSU and Oklahoma-Texas A&M games.

In-game betting, which has become a big hit online in Europe, is a way for casinos to dramatically increase the number bets they offer per day. For example, moneyline bets are available for most of the game, and the odds are constantly being adjusted based on score and situation. For example, I was able to get LSU at +233 on the money line during the game. Before the game began, you could only get LSU at +175. And the money line price on LSU climbed over the +300 mark at one point in the game. In essence, with better information (because the game had started), you could get a better moneyline price on LSU as the game wore on than you could before the game started. That's a sport's bettor's dream.

In addition to the moneyline bet, which is constantly adjusting based on score and field position, there are also drive markets. This market allows you to bet on whether a team will make a first down on the drive and whether the drive will result in a field goal, touchdown, interception, fumble or punt. And the odds are constantly updating based on what happened on the last play. So if a field goal was +600 to begin the drive and a team reaches midfield, the odds could drop to +300, or even less.

Cantor gaming uses a special algorithm to set the in-game betting odds. Cantor has collected data on what happens in most sports situations going back several decades. So they know what the likelihood of that team kicking a field goal is when a team has the ball on their own 20 on the road (or any other situation). That combined with current information on the strength of the teams playing and other information allows them to set real-time odds on the drive markets.

The most difficult part about in-game betting is locking in your bet before the next play happens. During the Oklahoma-Texas A&M game, there were several in-game bets that I wanted to make -- and would have won on -- but I wasn't able to lock in the bet before the ball was snapped. Once you get used to the speed of the action though, you will never want to stop.

The in-game betting makes you feel like a day trader. You're looking at all of your wagers, evaluating where you stand on them based on what you're seeing on television -- like stock traders responding to new information and market changes -- and hedging bets where applicable. It's a heady experience, and one every sports bettor should try.
Top-10 reasons to visit the new Venetian sportsbook is republished from Online.CasinoCity.com.
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Best of Vin Narayanan
Vin Narayanan

Vin Narayanan is the managing editor at Casino City. When he's not writing or editing stories, he likes to play Chinese Poker, Badugi, Razz and any other "non-traditional" poker game. He also thinks blackjack is his best game and loves game theory.

Before joining Casino City, Vin covered (not all at the same time) sports, politics and elections, wars, technology, celebrities and the Census for USATODAY.com, USA WEEKEND and CNN.

A proud graduate of Michigan State University, Vin can be found on most nights and weekends trying to find a way to watch the Spartans play football or basketball.

Vin Narayanan
Vin Narayanan is the managing editor at Casino City. When he's not writing or editing stories, he likes to play Chinese Poker, Badugi, Razz and any other "non-traditional" poker game. He also thinks blackjack is his best game and loves game theory.

Before joining Casino City, Vin covered (not all at the same time) sports, politics and elections, wars, technology, celebrities and the Census for USATODAY.com, USA WEEKEND and CNN.

A proud graduate of Michigan State University, Vin can be found on most nights and weekends trying to find a way to watch the Spartans play football or basketball.