March 31, 2015 - 5:59 pm
Golden Nugget sportsbook director Tony Miller is not usually what one would consider a fan of Duke basketball.
In fact, it’s one of his least favorite teams in all of sports.
“I hate Duke with a freaking passion,” Miller said.
But Miller will be rooting for the Blue Devils with the vigor of one of the Cameron Crazies, the program’s devoted student section, when they play Michigan State on Saturday in the national semifinals of the NCAA Tournament.
That’s because Miller accepted a $20,000 bet on Michigan State at 50-1 odds on Dec. 5 from D Las Vegas owner Derek Stevens, who stands to make $1 million if the Spartans win it all.
Michigan State was 5-3 at the time and didn’t look like much of a title contender when Stevens, a regular at the sports book and a friend of Miller, went to the window to place the wager.
“I told (Stevens) I had to go make a phone call, so I called our owner Tilman Fertitta and he and I had a discussion about Michigan State and their outlook for the rest of the season and we felt comfortable at the time taking the bet,” Miller said Tuesday. “I told him Michigan State just doesn’t have the horses and that even if they made it they wouldn’t have a chance against a team like Kentucky and he agreed with me. He thought Kentucky was the big horse and they were going to win it all so we decided to go ahead and take the bet.”
Now, Michigan State is just two wins away from turning Stevens a big profit and cashing in the biggest ticket Miller will have had to pay off in his time at Golden Nugget, surpassing a 10-team parlay that paid around $100,000 about six years ago.
In a statement from the property released on Monday, Stevens credited the Golden Nugget for booking his action.
“I approached several casinos that weren’t willing to take on a bet of this magnitude but in the spirit of friendly downtown competition, I went to the Golden Nugget’s owner and my personal friend Tilman Fertitta, who had the guts to take my wager,” Stevens said. “Saturday’s game will be a great matchup as Michigan State and Coach Tom Izzo have truly impressed the country. I realize I’m still an underdog but so far, it’s been a good position to be in.”
Stevens is still a longshot to win the bet as seventh-seeded Michigan State is joined by three No. 1 seeds in the Final Four.
Should Stevens cash in, the Michigan native plans to spread the wealth.
According to the news release, every person employed at the D or, Stevens’ other downtown property Golden Gate, when the bet was placed will receive a bonus. Also, some of the winnings will be donated to Tarkanian Basketball Academy.
The Spartans are a 5-point underdog to Duke on Saturday and would almost certainly be underdogs against either Kentucky or Wisconsin on Monday should they get by the Blue Devils.
Stevens does root for Michigan State, as well as his alma mater University of Michigan. His faith wasn’t solely in Izzo’s Spartans, however.
Miller said Stevens also placed early-season wagers on Georgetown and Butler that would have netted him a $1 million win.
Stevens plans to watch the Michigan State game at the bar in the middle of his casino and Miller says he plans to join him for at least part of the game, openly rooting against his friend’s bet.
“He’s a dear friend of mine. He’s a great guy, but hell, a million dollars is pretty tough to take,” Miller said. “I really do hate (Duke), man. But I’ll be rooting them on like crazy come 3 o’clock on Saturday.”
Contact Adam Hill at firstname.lastname@example.org or 702-224-5509.