LV Hilton Contest Lives

Manteris Credited With Saving Famous Contest, and a Look at Touts in Friday’s Edition of Sports Book Scene

While there are many rewards for writing Sports Book Scene, most of them are intangible.  And though we’re not reconciled to a life of spitting in the wind, we realize that at the end of the day, that is frequently the sum total of our efforts.

But every once in a while, we play a tiny role in advancing a good cause.  Such was the case this weekend.

Our recent column about the potential demise of the Las Vegas Hilton Handicapping Contest was seen by Art Manteris, race and sports book director for all Hilton properties.  Apparently, our plea to save the contest struck a responsive chord, and the corporate vice president took action.  He called over the weekend to advise us that he had spoken to the right people, and the Hilton contest will indeed be held again this year at its regular place, the Super Book.

Part of the ammunition he used in order to make the corporation aware of the importance of the event, to both the company and the sports betting community, were some of the points raised in our column, he told us.

Until Manteris’s intervention, the future of the contest was in doubt.  Parent company Park Place Entertainment has agreed to sell the Hilton to Los Angeles commercial developer Ed Roski, who also owns the Lakers and Kings.  His other casino, the Silverton on the I-15, does not have a sports book due to the inability of his property to book pro baskets and hockey.

Entries for the $1,500-fee contest will be accepted starting Wednesday.  This is good news for many of the industry’s serious handicappers who eagerly pony up the money for an opportunity to win big bucks and genuine glory.

Rules are simple.  Pick five games against the Super Book spread each week, and at the end of the season, the winner will pocket about $150,000.  That’s the average for the last few years, says Manteris.

Tout Picks Winners???  There is nothing sillier than all the outrageous claims by touts in which they brag that they give out enough winners to bury every bookmaker in creation.

Having said that, is it possible sometimes they actually do pick winners?  Apparently so, according to a software engineer who tracks the accuracy of college football preview magazines.

In this week’s edition of Sports Illustrated, the magazine cites Chris Stassen, who has been auditing seven annual football pubs since 1993.  He publishes the results at his website,, through a link called Preseason Prediction Accuracy.

Of the annuals he follows, one nailed the national champion three times, more than any of the others.

Who is the seer that called the Number 1 team with such frequency?  Not those bastions of fandom – Athlon, Lindy’s, Street & Smith’s or the Sporting News.

It was the annual magazine published by the guy smart-aleck scribes such as ourselves like to beat up on when they bash the tout industry.  Yep, Jim Feist’s College football annual had a better handle on the national championship than the “purist” fan-oriented pubs.

We’re not suggesting that everyone go out and call one of Jim’s 900 numbers.  But, despite the limited nature of the sample, it would seem to indicate that a bettor’s perspective, rather than a fan’s point of view, produces better predictive results.  At least when it comes to making a preseason selection for the national champ.

Speaking of touts, USA Today’s Sports on TV columnist Rudy Martzke led off a recent article by featuring eSportsEdge and its organizer Wayne Root.

With his usual modesty, Root predicted his sports handicapping show, which airs Sunday afternoons during the football season opposite NFL pregame shows on CBS, Fox and ESPN, would top the ratings contest.

But the most interesting quote in the column came from one of Root’s handicappers, ex-NY Giant Phil McConkey.  Defending the show’s concept, which is to sell football picks, McConkey is quoted saying, “To me there’s no difference between Hall of Famers doing beer commercials and charging kids $8 for their autographs,” and charging for information that claims to pick pointspread winners.

We have a lot of respect for the former receiver who wasn’t afraid to run a route across the middle.  And we don’t begrudge him cashing in on his NFL celebrity.

But like so many front men, he might not be aware of how the phone room personnel are marketing his services.  We heard from one recipient of an unsolicited call on McConkey’s behalf, and the pricing was a little steeper than autograph fees.

Now our source is no virgin.  The reason he got the phone call was because he has been a frequent user of tout services, and his name is on many “sucker lists”.

He told us the boiler room rep he spoke with first mentioned $7,000 for the season, noting that McConkey was privy to extraordinary information that would pay off in winners.

After getting an emphatic negative, the price dropped to $3,400, but it was still no sale.

Boiler room personnel have their own agenda, of which making money by fleecing sappy bettors is paramount.  Since we didn’t hear the pitch, we really can’t comment on whether it was inappropriate or just standard hard sell.

But in Martzke’s column, Root says, “I want to change the unsavory image of sports handicapping.  This isn’t a gambling show.  There’s not a hint of impropriety.”

Well, maybe not on the show.  But it sounds as if the phone room is still operating with a boiler room mentality.

If Root is going to live up to his claims, he might have to rein in his telemarketers and monitor them a bit more closely.

A Bettor Speaks.  We recently heard from a bettor who feels “that nobody can tell me whether or not I can place a wager on a sporting event, that is up to me.”

However, Bob Lynch noted that societal hypocrisy and overheated media coverage of the “evils” of gambling puts the gaming industry in a tough position.  And he has this novel solution:

“Maybe the off shore industry should follow the examples of the Native American casinos in Minnesota.  Not only do they donate heavily to both parties, but to other special interest groups.  This way, they dictate what type of gambling legislation is passed.

“This would offset the attempts by land-based casinos, race tracks, lotteries, etc., to control gambling to their benefit.”

Short Stack.  A few readers have noticed that lately we’ve been posting only two columns per week.  Call it our tropical schedule – although Las Vegas is more like the inside of a pizza oven than the tropics.  It will persist for a while longer.

We’ll be in Costa Rica this week, ideally gathering some news items.  But inev | August 14th, 2000

– – – – – – – – – – – –About the writer
A long time sports betting columnist, Buzz Daly

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