Instead of planning a summer vacation, and relaxing before another busy football season, Robert Walker is doing something drastically different this year.
Walker said he is resigning as MGM Mirage sports book director, effective in June, because he wants to spend more time with family.
“I love the job. We get paid to watch sporting events. It’s Disneyland for adults,” Walker said. “It’s hard to walk away.
“I struggled with the decision. It’s been fun to come to work every day. There’s going to be some separation anxiety.”
Walker has operated the Mirage sports book since October 1996. He oversees many of the highest-profile books on the Strip and has been a pillar of the race and sports industry in Las Vegas for two decades.
He said he expects to leave his position next month, probably after the NBA Finals.
MGM Mirage has not named his successor, though several candidates have interviewed.
Walker will be moving to his hometown of Pasco, Wash., with his 14-year-old daughter, Lindsay. He said he prefers his daughter be close to his parents and extended family when she enters high school.
“That’s 100 percent it right there. I know people are going to think more,” he said. “It’s best for my family at this time. There’s nothing more to the story.
“The reality is, if I didn’t do it, I’ll regret not spending these four years with her, and that’s the bottom line. You never get these four years back. That’s the sole reason.”
Walker’s ex-wife, Sandy, died of lung cancer 31/2 years ago. “Being a single father, it’s a full-time job,” he said. “The last few years have really been taxing.”
Walker said he has no immediate plans to work but might consider a career in politics “a few years down the road.”
He broke into the business at the Fremont sports book in 1986, spent three years at Sam’s Town and was the Stardust sports book director from 1991 to 1996.
Walker said his political views are “very liberal.” But as a sports book director working for a major corporation, he has been criticized at times for being conservative and unwilling to meet the demands of some professional bettors.
“I know this job comes with criticisms, and you need to have a little bit of thick skin to do it,” he said. “We try to control the professional players with (wagering) limits. There are several professional players who bet at the MGM Mirage. I think you can be friendly with the pros, but you can’t be friends.”
Contact reporter Matt Youmans at email@example.com or 702-387-2907.