Rendering of Circa Hotel & Casino in Downtown Las Vegas, NV

The Circa sportsbook opened Saturday, June 1, 2019 at the Golden Gate Casino Hotel in venerable downtown Las Vegas, NV. I am a huge fan of downtown and tend to avoid The Strip as much as possible. As you might expect, the new sportsbook opened to much hype and fanfare.

Social media absolutely gushed over the opening of Circa. Being the intrepid handicapper, bettor and interested blog writer I am, you know I had to see what the fuss was all about. The industry insiders didn’t bother to report the whole story, preferring instead to deal with the superficialities of the grand opening. That is why “objective” is in the title of this post. Objectivity is my job.

In short, the Circa is just fine. But at this early juncture, it is nothing special.

The impresario of all this is Derek Stevens, owner of The D and the under-construction Circa Hotel and Casino, directly across Fremont Street from Golden Gate, in the space formerly occupied by Glitter Gulch and, less importantly, the Las Vegas Club. Prior to the Circa opening at Golden Gate, Mr. Stevens had not yet seen the light on sports betting. His namesake – The D – leased about 400 square feet of space to a William Hill book and Golden Gate offered a William Hill sports betting kiosk.

The new Circa book is small, but attractive and was very well staffed during my visits. The ticket writers I encountered knew how to take bets. You all know I’m a nut about sportsbook writing utensils – not because I am a total psycho, but because I value a good blue pen – it stands out against all the black print on the betting sheets. The Circa pens are serviceable stick pens, way better than #2 pencils, but with black ink.

Wall space and, thus, betting board and television space was very limited. On the right side of the western wall there was a vertical strip devoted to the sportsbook’s Twitter feed. The narcissists on Twitter thought this was novel and cool – to see their opinions scroll by on the wall of the sportsbook – for absolutely no one to see. Personally, I find zero value in this innovation, as I would rather see betting lines displayed. There were no seats for watching games. And there was no adjacent bar or snack bar. This is a sportsbook that exists solely for taking bets – for now.

Regarding this whole affair and the changes made over the years throughout the Golden Gate, the word “gentrification” comes to mind, especially in the context of what is happening downtown. The former Lady Luck Hotel and Casino was closed for a few years, then reopened as the Downtown Grand. They have recently broken ground on a new hotel tower.

Social media gushed about the Yes and No bets that could be placed on whether (Yes) or not (No) any given NFL football team would win, or not win, the next Super Bowl. For Las Vegas sportsbooks, I guess that is revolutionary. World Sports Exchange – WSEX – in its heyday was doing this kind of thing decades earlier.

I am sure there is plenty of value betting No, as only one out of the 32 NFL teams can win any given Super Bowl, but those bets came with predictably large juice. I think the Yes/Win on the New England Patriots was around +650. The corresponding No/Lose wager was around -1100. To adequately take advantage of this market, a bettor would be required to have a very deep bankroll. I write this blog for people who likely do not have very deep pockets. Is there value in this bet – Yes! Do you have the bankroll to capitalize on it – probably not.

I made bets at Circa on two consecutive days. Saturday, I bet a baseball moneyline on 957 Marlins +144 during the No Juice promotion (winner) and a Super Bowl futures wager on the “Las Vegas” Raiders (Yes/Win) at 125 to 1 (to be determined). I bet this solely because it offered excellent value to what other books in town were hanging…about 50 to 1 most places, yet only 18 to 1 at Boyd shops. The corresponding “No/Lose” bet was offered at -16500, in case you are wondering.

Both days I asked about the drink ticket policy. Both days I was told the same thing – 1 drink ticket per $200 bet. Yeah, that’s the definition of gentrification. Compare this with the current stated policy at the Fremont – 2 drink tickets per $40 wagered on sports.

Sunday, I rolled over my winnings (not the principal) on the Marlins into a Raptor moneyline bet -128 (loser). This wager was better, by two cents, than the other Raptor moneylines I found downtown at -130.

Mr. Stevens has said he wants to bring back Old Vegas, whatever that was – I’ve been coming here since 1986 – and offer the ability for handicappers to shop lines. Those of you regular readers know I shop my lines. Value is where you find it and it is always worth the effort to find and bet the best numbers. I compared the spread, total and moneylines Circa offered on Game 2 of the NBA championship series between Golden State Warriors and Toronto Raptors. At the time of my comparison, I saw no difference between the spreads and totals. On the moneyline, Circa offered -128 Raptors /+110 Warriors. Golden Nugget, Fremont (Boyd Gaming) and El Cortez sportsbook (affiliated with Stations Casinos) offered -130/+110. So, yes, there was a little value betting the Raptors moneyline at Circa.

You all know I still try to squeeze out a little value on blackjack. I cruised the blackjack pit at Golden Gate and found games to be consistent with what everyone else in town is doing. Certainly nothing better. How about bringing back single deck blackjack paying 3 to 2 on a natural? If not at Golden Gate, then definitely at Circa.

Earlier in the baseball season I wrote this article about finding value on MLB dime lines and was very curious what kind of line Circa would hang, after their opening day No Juice promotion.

Circa Sportsbook MLB Sheet June 2

You can see on short-line games they appear to be hanging dime lines. However, as the moneyline increases on the favorite, they seem to be moving away from strict dime lines on full game moneylines. But take a look at the First 5 Innings moneyline between the Chicago Cubs -110 at St. Louis Cardinals -145. I do not know what the hell that is! Perhaps it is a mistake. Or, perhaps it is an excellent opportunity to do some line shopping.

But here’s the real deal, in my opinion. Mr. Stevens has planned and is building the biggest and “best” sportsbook across the street from Golden Gate. The Circa Hotel and Casino will be the next step in the gentrification of downtown. And will be the next step in the evolution of sports betting. The Circa sportsbook, at its current location, is probably a loss-leader until Mr. Stevens can open his “vision.”

And that is all well and good and I, as a handicapper and bettor, welcome any and all competition in the oddsmaking and sports betting industry. Competition is a very good thing. Yet, it remains to be seen just how different and revolutionary Mr. Steven’s ventures will be. I mentioned the word gentrification earlier. That is not necessarily a bad thing. But I’ve been around a while, and I am very concerned Downtown may get “remade” in the image of “The Strip.” If that happens, that would be a very bad thing.

As for sports handicapping, line shopping and betting, for the time being I will put the new Circa sportsbook and the new D sportsbook (when it opens) in my rotation. Congratulations Mr. Stevens, and I sincerely mean that. But the hard part – setting yourself apart from the crowd and offering us a good gamble – is yet to come.

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