NFL Sundays keep book director busy

It’s an hour before kickoff on an NFL Sunday, and the phone is ringing off the hook in Bob Scucci’s office inside The Orleans race and sports book.

The director of race and sports, Nevada region, for Boyd Gaming’s eight area sports books, Scucci personally approves all wagers of more than $10,000, of which there were several Sunday in all shapes and sizes.

Despite being a "light" NFL Sunday by Scucci’s standards — with few marquee matchups and a scarcity of $60,000 straight bets — the longtime Las Vegas bookmaker took wagers of $33,000 and $22,000 on both sides of the Buffalo Bills-Miami Dolphins game in what were his biggest bets of the day.

He also took several $10,000 teasers and $10,000 parlays, along with hundreds of four-figure wagers.

With an average of about $250,000 riding on each of the 13 NFL games Sunday, Boyd Gaming alone likely booked more than $3 million worth of action, with the state’s sports books likely taking in a total of $30 million or more.

Last year, more than $2 billion was bet in Nevada sports books, and Scucci estimates the books won about $160 million.

Sitting at his desk, where he spends most of his six 12-hour shifts each week, the 44-year-old Scucci constantly scans four computer monitors and nine television screens laid out in front of him.

One of the computer screens displays each wager of more than $500 being made at Boyd, and he also has bets topping $2,000 highlighted in red.

Scucci, who said most of the action comes in when the lines first are posted Monday morning and again a half-hour before game time, said watching the wagers roll in and adjusting lines and setting halftime numbers is the best part of the job.

"I enjoy booking the games and having the action coming in, knowing you can make a difference in the outcome of a win or a loss," said Scucci, who moved to Henderson from Newark, N.J., 30 years ago. He has worked in the sports book industry for 20 years. "It’s like I have a big game to play. I still get the same adrenaline rush every weekend."

A former sports book director at the Stardust, Scucci mostly needed the Dolphins to beat the Bills and the Kansas City Chiefs to cover against the New York Jets in the morning games, and he won them both.

Scucci, who said he feels like he has action on each game and books like he’s putting his money on the line, made significant line moves in each contest.

He moved the Bills from a 1-point favorite to 2 after getting two bets backing them for a total of $55,000, and then he moved the line back to a pick when $55,000 came in on Miami.

The Jets opened as 121/2-point favorites and were moved to 141/2 before professional money came in and dropped the number back to 14.

Scucci, who said a $10,000 bet typically will move the line a half-point or so, said there’s a misperception that bookmakers try to attract even action on each side.

"The goal is not to get two-way money, as most people believe, but to get a solid number," he said. "When (the Jets line) went to 141/2, that’s when the professionals bet it, so we knew it was a solid number at 14. It was the same thing with the Bills.

"We could keep taking money from these (pros) to even out the action, but why would I want to?"

The decision paid off in the case of the Dolphins, who beat the Bills. The book also won with the Chiefs, who lost but covered against the Jets.

In first-half wagering, only $11 was wagered on the Chiefs, who were getting anywhere from 7 to 81/2 points, while about $17,000 was bet on the Jets. Kansas City scored a touchdown with four seconds left in the half to tie it 14-14 and cover the first-half spread. The Chiefs also covered the 14-point spread.

Likewise, in the Washington Redskins-Detroit Lions game, no money at all was bet on the Lions in the first half, when they were getting 41/2 points, while about $18,000 was wagered on the Redskins. The lowly Lions led 10-6 at halftime to cover the first half, but the Redskins rallied to cover the game, costing Boyd about $200,000.

The public also prevailed when Philadelphia covered against Atlanta, Baltimore routed Oakland and the New York Giants beat Pittsburgh in the heaviest-bet game of the day, at more than $400,000.

Scucci said the professional sports bettors and public both sided with Dallas, which covered the spread against Tampa Bay.

But the pros, also known as "wiseguys," don’t always win. Scucci said Sunday they liked Oakland and Cincinnati, and both failed to win or cover.

Overall, Scucci said "it looks like a small win overall" Sunday for Boyd.

"It’s a little disappointing, but a win is a win," he said. "We got people in the door, and we had a decent crowd for a day that didn’t have a lot of marquee matchups."

With parlays posing a big liability for the books, Scucci said Monday night games always are a lose-lose situation for them. It’s just a matter of how much they’ll lose.

For instance, tonight, four players have $100 six-team parlays — paying $4,000 each — riding on the under (40) in the Colts-Titans game. Scucci said the worst-case scenario for Boyd would be if the Titans and under covered.

So, considering the books win the majority of the time, take the Colts and over.

Contact reporter Todd Dewey at tdewey@reviewjournal.com or 702-383-0254.

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