There are few sports book operators who have last as long in the business as Art Manteris retires. As the head of the sports betting operations for Station Casinos in Las Vegas, where he spent 22 years and will continue as a consultant, Manteris was renowned for his knowledge of sports betting, the art and science of setting lines, and a comfortable understanding of how the business has changed in the last few years following the legalization of sports betting in the United States.
Manteris started his career in the late 1970s as a ticket writer at the Fremont Hotel in Downtown Las Vegas. He later moved to the Stardust, one of the legendary sports books in the day, to operate the manual odds board, where he had to physically move numbers for bettors to check their wagers. Later he ran the “Superbook” at the Las Vegas Hilton (now the Westgate) and Caesars Palace, again, both important books at the time.
In an interview with ESPN’s David Purdham last week, Manteris recalled his largest bet ($1 million on the 1994 Super Bowl from then MGM head honcho Kirk Kerkorian) and avoiding his biggest loss (when the NHL’s expansion Vegas Golden Knights played in the Stanley Cup Finals in 2018 carrying odds of 5,000-1, only to lose to the Washington Capitals in six games).
But as always, Manteris displayed his business knowledge of sports betting. When asked the goals of a sports book operator, he boiled it down to its roots.
“Driving handle (amount bet) and revenue (net win),” he says. “It’s got to be both. It’s not easy. You have to drive business, and you have to drive results, and sometimes they don’t always go hand in hand.”
He said it’s more difficult today setting lines because there is so much volatility, unlike in pre-internet days when lines moved because big money moved.
“Now, there’s so much following lines online that a small amount of money can have dramatic repercussions, moving the line across Nevada, across the country and across the world,” he says. “That is not always a good thing. Knowing what’s causing that line movement and the credibility of a line movement is essential for good bookmaking.”
Today’s bettors are more savvy, says Manteris, so it’s more difficult to bring a profit.
“They’re tougher to beat because theoretical advantages are thinner,” he explains. “Competition has led to a narrowing of theoretical house advantages, so it is more advantageous to the player. By the nature of the game, the player is tougher to beat. That said, the last three years were our most successful years ever, and I feel good about it.”