For Art Manteris, the honor could not have come at a more auspicious moment.
As the one-year anniversary of the Supreme Court’s historic decision approaches, approximately 1,500 industry experts convened this week in New Jersey for a conference on the changing landscape of sports betting in the post-PASPA era. After a series of unfavorable court rulings over the last decade, Manteris had serious doubts that legalized U.S. sports betting would ever stretch beyond Nevada.
Then, one morning last May, the high court issued a 6-3 decision striking down a 26-year federal ban on sports gambling for the majority of U.S. states. Known affectionately as “King Arthur” by colleagues, the king of Las Vegas bookmakers finally witnessed the most momentous development in the history of his profession.
Over the last 35 years, few gaming executives, if any, are more responsible for the transformation of sports gambling than Manteris, the venerable vice president of race and sports operations at Station Casinos. Through the years, Manteris has been credited for developing numerous technological innovations for the Nevada gaming industry, introducing the theater-style concept at the famed Las Vegas Superbook, and influencing regulatory change on the state and federal level.
On Thursday evening, Manteris was inducted into the Sports Betting Hall of Fame at a ceremony in midtown Manhattan. The Class of 2019 includes two other figures that have been pivotal for the legalization of sports betting in the U.S.: former New Jersey Governor Chris Christie and Monmouth Park operator Dennis Drazin.
“Yes, of course, I am flattered and excited about this evening, but I am especially pleased at the recognition for what we have built in Nevada, and how industry and government have worked together to achieve great things,” Manteris told NJ Online Gambling hours before the ceremony. “I will be accepting this honor on behalf of the thousands of race and sports book employees and regulators in Nevada.”
High praise from colleagues
Chuck Esposito, sportsbook director at Sunset Station in Henderson, Nev., has worked alongside Manteris at several stops over the last three decades, beginning at Caesars Palace in the 1980s when he served as a part-time ticket writer at age 21.
“He saw something in me as a young guy that drove me,” Esposito said.
Several years later, Esposito followed Manteris to the Las Vegas Superbook, a 30,000-square-foot facility that still is the largest sportsbook venue in the world. In 2012, Esposito rejoined Manteris at Station Casinos, the operator of 16 sportsbook venues throughout Southern Nevada.
Since Manteris began running Station’s sportsbook operations, he has delivered the same lecture to every department employee eligible for advancement. The book’s ideology is based on three guiding principles: providing stellar guest services, maintaining strict policies and procedures when it comes to regulatory enforcement, and striving for accuracy. As a result, Manteris constantly stresses to his employees the importance of meeting the requisite gaming and anti-money-laundering compliance requirements, said Jason McCormick, director of race and sports at Station Casinos.
“It is the building block to which our departmental success is based on and provides the consistency for all our team members to provide great guest service day in and day out,” McCormick said. “This consistency in our team members and race and sports product offerings is what makes him a titan in the industry.”
Thoroughbred racing’s costly error
Upon the opening of the sportsbook at the Flamingo Las Vegas in 1989, Manteris and Esposito came up with an idea that would revolutionize sports betting in the city. The Superbook developed a method to connect the networks of both facilities through a computer data line. The innovation resulted in the first network of sportsbooks in Nevada that offered remote liability management from one property to another in the state.
Soon after, Manteris began barnstorming the country with Roxy Roxborough, a legendary Las Vegas bookmaker. There, the two pitched a number of racetrack executives on adding sportsbook operations at their tracks. Laurel Park, a racetrack outside of Baltimore, embraced the concept and took aggressive steps to integrate sports betting into its wagering menu. Laurel even began construction of a sportsbook inside the facility.
Others, particularly Churchill Downs, adamantly opposed the idea. Manteris believes that Churchill eventually joined forces with the professional sports leagues in lobbying Congress for the passage of the Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act of 1992, otherwise known as PASPA.
With a federal ban on sports betting in place, billions of consumer dollars flowed into the offshore market — revenues that Manteris said could have gone to the racetracks instead.
“It was a monumental decision that has impacted racetracks in this country,” Manteris said. “What they did was cut off a whole young generation of sports enthusiasts from coming to the racetracks. The racing industry inevitably would have benefited if they had that opportunity.”
Not ready to hang it up
While Manteris has entered the latter stages of his career, he is not considering retirement anytime soon. The last three times Manteris has signed an employment contract, he vowed it would be his last. Now, he says, the end is nowhere in sight.
“I really love the industry,” Manteris said. “I still get a thrill every time I walk in the building, sweating decisions and working with my colleagues in setting the line.”
“I still love all those things and I can’t imagine not having that in my life. Since the Supreme Court passed the decision there is no way I’m leaving. There’s too much excitement.”