Exploring Las Vegas as Football Season Kicks Off – A 48 Hour Vegas Sports Book Adventure

Labor Day weekend marks the kick-off of Las Vegas sports book season as throngs of sports bettors descend on Vegas for the opening weekend of college football. The NFL is also just days away from kick-off and betting action on all of the week one pro football games is hot and heavy at the ticket windows. I spent a couple of days in my favorite town over Labor Day weekend checking out the scene at different sports books and, as is the norm in Vegas, time flew by. So many sports books and so little time! Here are some tidbits and observations from my recent Vegas adventure that will hopefully come in handy for the Vegas sports fan planning to visit sin city this football season.

Cosmopolitan Race and Sports Book (Cantor)

Upon arrival to Vegas and prior to checking in at the Aria, it was a stop at the Cosmopolitan for lunch. It was around noon on Friday and the “Cosmo” was hopping. The sports book was relatively quiet, with about half a dozen folks watching baseball and about the same amount in the horse racing area. As mentioned in the Cosmopolitan sports book review, free drinks aren’t offered here. However, the sports book is a non-smoking venue and the vibe as well as the food offerings at the Cosmopolitan is always a plus. After checking out the sports book and making a small horseracing wager, I walked a few steps over to Holsteins Shakes and Buns and enjoyed a meal at what is probably the best burger joint in town.

Holsteins at The Cosmopolitan Las Vegas – Rising Sun Burger








Aria Race and Sports Book

It was my first stay at The Aria and it was an impressive place from an aesthetic standpoint, not to mention its proximity to The Cosmopolitan. After checking in to a strip view room on the 52nd floor (I politely asked for an upgrade and I suppose the high floor/strip view is considered just that) I made my way through the heavily vanilla smelling casino towards the sports book. The sports book was lively for a Friday afternoon as most people were reviewing the college football lines and placing their bets for that evening’s game as well as the other weekend college football action. It’s still hard to get used to the lounge set up at the Aria sports book, but it certainly is a cool place to watch a game and the high def screens are impressive. I expect that seating will be at a premium here during weekends in the Fall. After placing a few parlay bets, I walked over to the convenient (and air conditioned) City Center Tram and rode over to The Bellagio sports book – for a video of the City Center Tram, click here.

Aria Sports Book During College Football Kickoff Weekend








Bellagio Race and Sports Book

As the 5:00 pm Friday college football game (Michigan State vs Boise State) kickoff approached, there was good energy at The Bellagio sports book but the crowd was relaxed compared to what is the norm at other Vegas sports books. Perhaps it’s the subdued lighting and the dark wood décor or the comfy leather captain chairs that mellows everyone out.

Bellagio Sports Book – College Football Opening Weekend

If you are looking for a quality sports book that doesn’t get too wild, The Bellagio is a good choice. And also of note, The Bellagio is one of the few remaining sports books on the strip that doesn’t require a drink ticket to score a comped refreshment. This and more tidbits about the Bellagio sports book can be found at The Vegas Parlay’s Bellagio sports book review. My plan was to head over to Caesar’s Palace for the second half of football but it was not to be as The Bellagio and its free drinks (I even had a mocha before leaving) was more than an acceptable place to catch football and the late starting race card at Del Mar .

Day 1 ended with a cab ride (11 bucks + tip) from City Center to Firefly Tapas Bar on Paradise – about a half-mile north of the Hard Rock. Great food, atmosphere, and they make a mean sangria. A great way to unwind after a fun day at The Aria and Bellagio sports books.

Winding down with a sangria from Firefly Tapas Kitchen and Bar Las Vegas










The Gold Coast Race and Sports Book

Day 2 began with a late morning run to The Gold Coast for their very cheap ($5.99 with a players card) and delicious breakfast buffet. As usual, the Gold Coast sports book was brimming with activity on this first Saturday of college football. The Gold Coast caters to horse players with their Turf Club run through their sister property, The Orleans, and generous comp system for those playing the ponies. But locals also hit The Gold Coast for favorable odds on parlays and other sports bets. The Gold Coast sports book is pretty old school, but it is spacious and the service here is excellent. It can be a bit smoky however, so expect the cigarette smell to linger on your clothes for awhile. I left happy as the $2 Exacta Box wager I made in the first race from Arlington generated an $18.40 payoff. Enough to cover the two breakfast buffets + tip from an hour earlier. Not bad at all!

Gold Coast Sports Book








Next stop was a run across town to The LVH, the largest sports book in the world. If you have never visited the LVH sports book, it’s worth the cab or monorail ride if for nothing else, to experience the sheer size of this place – it is truly massive. I spent about an hour here watching college football and it was enjoyable, however there is a bit of a Wal-Mart feel to the LVH sports book. That’s not necessarily a bad thing as The LVH usually provides a ton of proposition and exotic bets as well as some of the best numbers for futures bets (20-1 odds on New Orleans and the NY Giants to win the Super Bowl is not shabby at all). It is not an intimate place to watch sports and The LVH has certainly seen better days. However, the crowd here can get very loud and if you are with a bunch of buddies, finding a spot for a large group to sit at shouldn’t be too difficult. The sports book staff I dealt with while at The LVH were all very pleasant as well.

LVH Sports Book – Opening Weekend of College Football








The Wynn

After spending some time at The LVH, a short cab ride ($9 – the cabbie I scored was absolutely flying so your mileage may vary) had me at The Wynn. The Wynn sports book is one of the best in Vegas and my visit on Saturday afternoon reinforced this fact. Upon arriving, one of the friendly ticket writers recognized me from my last visit a few months ago. I was promptly given a complimentary Racing Form and was also handed a couple of drink tickets – The Wynn is first class all the way and their customer service is superb.

Wynn Sports Book Comps







The Wynn sports book was very lively with quality horse racing from Del Mar and Saratoga and it was very evident that football was back as multiple college games were being shown. I enjoyed some horse racing action while keeping tabs on Miami vs. Boston College and several MLB baseball games. The cocktail servers were on the ball and although the lines to make a wager went about a dozen deep at times, the sports book manager was there making sure the queue moved along quickly. The only knock against the Wynn sports book is the distance to the bathrooms. For fun, I counted the steps during one of my lavatory trips – 95 steps from the betting windows to the restroom. Also, there is a ticket writer to avoid if you are looking at scoring drink tickets – slender, middle-aged gentleman with slicked back blond hair and glasses. He is usually at the far left window…very tight with the drink tickets.

After wrapping up at the Wynn sports book and watching Alabama jump to a big lead on Michigan, Mrs. Vegas Parlay and I enjoyed a quiet and delightful Italian dinner across the street from the Wynn at Maggianos (Fashion Island).  The lobster special here is fantastic ($41.50 for two jumbo sized and very delicious lobster tails with Angel Hair pasta) and I highly recommend this place for either an intimate dinner or a group outing. After dinner, it was back to The Cosmopolitan and Aria for more Vegas fun as the evening wound down.

As I began the 4-hour drive home on I-15 the next morning, I began to think of sports books that I wanted to visit but just couldn’t get to on this trip. Caesar’s Palace, Lagasse’s Stadium at The Palazzo, and The Mirage came to mind.   In addition, time went to quick to allow for a trip to the revitalized Downtown District. While there are some improvements brewing on the sports book front (William Hill taking over operations at The Plaza being one) there are some very cool places to watch sports in and around Fremont Street.  The D, which is in the final stages of its renovation, has The Longbar, which is quickly becoming known as a prime spot to watch sports. Our friends over at Fremontstreetbars.com recently generated a great write up on the Longbar at The D. Definitely a place we will check out and report on in the near future.

Enjoy the autumn months in Vegas as the weather begins to cool but the NFL and NCAA Football action heats up. Until next time, may you pick many winners and cash lots of tickets at the sports book!


T. Lorenzo

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