Matt Metcalf: How College Basketball Betting Changed My Life
The year was 1995, it was the NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament, and I was a novice bettor who wanted more than anything to figure out how to make big money betting sports. I loved betting basketball, but I was awful at the objective, winning bets. I watched college sports nonstop, had tons of opinions, and more than anything I believed in luck. The luck part of this equation was made substantially worse due to what I now recognize as a moderate case of OCD. This was made extremely evident by the fact that I wholeheartedly believed that lining up my Nike flip flops on my rug so they pointed due south toward my stereo was the reason that Tyus Edney went coast to coast and allowed UCLA to beat Missouri on a buzzer beater, ensuring my bracket pick for the title would live to see the 3rd round.
It was sometime during this same tournament that I received the April 3rd issue of Sports Illustrated, with Arkansas player Corey Beck on the cover, that would change the direction of my life. The issue included the first part of a 3-part series on Sports Betting and the perils of Campus Gambling. The article, written by Tim Layden, preached the dangers of sports betting, but all I read was how great life was as a bookmaker. This article alone changed my viewpoint from bettor to bookie, and with that came my teenage realization that I needed to set my sights on Las Vegas and the other side of the counter. Fast forward 27 years, and I am Sportsbook Director of one of the most respected sportsbooks in Las Vegas – Circa | Sports.
I’m 42 now, and it’s safe to say I have woken up thinking about sports betting everyday for the past 30 years. My brain doesn’t really know anything else. It’s the only thing I’ve ever done to make money as an adult and it’s shaped my worldview, my personality, and even my relationships. I don’t regret anything, but there’s no lie that it can be hard for me to not take certain aspects of the current sports betting industry personally. Despite preaching to any employee that will listen to enter into every encounter with no defensiveness, I find myself trying and failing at that goal many times a day.
At this point, it’s clear I have a love/hate relationship with sports betting, and some days I feel like that fan of a rock band who discovered them before they were popular, and now resents the more recent fans who only know the new stuff. I am conscious to not dive too deep into those feelings as I am genuinely excited for all the newer sports betting enthusiasts entering the space, but I do sometimes feel like I’ve poured so much of my life into one thing that I need to protect the version of sports betting that I love at all costs and do my best to portray how I believe it’s supposed to look for the good of both operators and bettors.
Every year for 1 full month, sports bettors of the world rejoice as we enter into the NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament and we celebrate everything that is great about sports betting. Circa Las Vegas was built for times like these. The largest sportsbook in the world, with the best views and the most comfortable seats ensures that you won’t miss a game, and the world class team at Circa Sports is there to take care of you every step of the way. Parties at Circa Stadium Swim®, the sportsbook, the 3rd floor warehouse, as well as additional viewing at our sister properties, the D and Golden Gate, make Circa Sports the go to destination for college basketball in March. At the head of the Madness is casino owner Derek Stevens, who’s made it his life’s mission to host these parties and treat fans to all the excitement that sports betting has brought him thru the years in Las Vegas. It’s his insight as a real sports bettor that is so vividly captured in all of our viewing setups as Derek has constructed hands down the best venue to sweat a sports bet in the world.
Many days I am discouraged by the commercialization of sports betting in the form of companies who only wish to take bets from losing players, follow the leader type products where no one wishes to set themselves apart, and overall greed by corporate operators who don’t view what they are selling as a service but as a cash grab. But most days, I remain optimistic that there are many others like me who share a true love for sports betting and know what a healthy industry could look like in the US. I am energized as I talk to Derek Stevens and our world class team – Chris Bennett, Jeff Benson, and Jeff Davis to name a few – as I witness their enthusiasm for what we are building here at Circa | Sports. I walk into the sportsbook at Circa in March and I know that sports betting in the US is on the right track. I know this because what is taking place at our sportsbook in Downtown Las Vegas is truly sports betting the way it should be.
Matt Metcalf on VSiN
Matt Metcalf // @MMpact