Sunday, February 27, 2011

Behind The Scenes: Wynn Sportsbook

It's Oscar Sunday, so I have a piece posted on AOL News today that looks at the very real prospect that the Nevada Gaming Control Board may soon allow actual wagering on the Oscars, the World Series of Poker and several reality TV shows like American Idol and Dancing With The Stars. A rules change earlier this month has made it possible for sports book directors to present the board with bets they'd like to take.

For that piece, I spent some time last Saturday with Wynn oddsmaker Johnny Avello, who is well known for writing "just for fun" odds on all manner of topics from who will replace Regis Philbin (Neil Patrick Harris is the favorite, Betty White is 200-to-1) to whether Watson would beat Ken Jennings on Jeopardy!

He showed me around, and that's always fun. Above are the servers that handle the betting data and this, below, are the satellite boxes that manage all the TV feeds seen in the book:

This is Johnny at his desk with his fake honorary Oscar, which he received last year at the Wynn's Oscar party...

...and this is the command center:

Johnny really got going with the offbeat odds stuff when TV Guide asked him in 2000 to put odds on the first season of Survivor. Now he'll do almost anything the media asks, be it the Grammys for Rolling Stone or the prospects of a celebrity marriage for US Weekly. Last year, Avello came on The Petcast to explain how he sets the odds for the Westminster Dog Show, and you can hear that here.

Last week, he was working on the odds for who might win Celebrity Apprentice. This was his rough first-to-last list:

He'd never really be able to take bets on Celebrity Apprentice or any other reality show that films its season in advance of airing it because then too many people would know the results. DWTS and AI do their results shows live, but it's still tricky to make sure all bets are in before ANYBODY knows the outcome, even the people who tabulate them. The Oscars are a similar problem; he says bets may have to be cut off the day before the ballots are due into the Academy in order to please gaming authorities. That may reduce betting action, since many bettors are more likely to want to bet the day of the event, as they do in other events.

FYI, for however long they remain posted, you can download Avello's picks for Oscar right here. And you can find the pdfs of all Avello's current recreational odds on Wynn's website.

Meanwhile, Avello's office is a fun place. They've got this huge collection of bobbleheads, although none of Oscar Goodman or Norm...

And speaking of political figures, Avello doesn't seem too keen on making odds on election results, which many believe could be a popular amenity. Hilton sportsbook director Jay Kornegay mentioned it as an interesting prospect, but it seems like it's against state and federal law anyway. But Avello gave a different reason for avoiding them:

It’s a touchy subject. That’s not going to be one of htem. I don’t do it because it could offend someone. My boss Steve could be thinking one way or Elaine Wynn could be thinking one way and I could make somebody else the favorite. It could be more heartburn than anything else.

One other fun thing. There's not a lot on Avello's office wall. There's a framed picture of Secretariat, a mounted copy of a Vegas magazine profile of him, a movie poster and...


Avello had picked Donny Osmond to win his season of Dancing With The Stars. After he did, Donny sent him this autographed odds sheet.

I wonder if next year we can get Avello to make odds on the Trippies!


One Who Knows The Truth, Chuckieboy said...

After Chuck dissed you by not giving you the editors' trippie for podcast and blog because he was mad at you about your twerps column, why are you still giving him and his fraud of an award any publicity? I thought by now you'd know that those things are fixed, too. said...

I've also been openly critical about the Trippies methodology and the results this year had many (who live locally) in this business rolling their eyes.

It certainly appears the awards were formatted so Chuck can give awards to his friends. Which kind of makes it ironic that he's so critical of the Twitter Twerps. Is giving out semi-rigged awards (letting people only choose from 5 hand-selected finalists, no write-in vote) any better than getting free airfare on Delta because you tweet about Delta airlines? Or tweeting that you liked a comp meal somewhere?

We're actually in the planning stages of our own awards. I won't give away the method of voting (which will be really fun and unique) or our methodology (except to say we're going to do an "everyone in the pool" format where we won't be able to slant it toward friends or advertisers). The Strip, Vegas Gang, Kats and the Disk, Pub Crawl, Vegas Tourist, and every other vid/podcast will have equal opportunity. Same with hotels, blogs, and other categories. Watch for it this summer!


I'd like to say that I wasn't trying to take a shot at the Trippies or Chuck with this post. I've won these awards and not won them. I don't get to be happy when I win and bitter and accusatory when I don't. I take Chuck at face value when he explains how he executes these things. (He doesn't give me the same benefit of the doubt, but that's a whole other thing.)

Also, Ted, the finalists for the Trippies are not selected by them. There's a nomination period.