Updated on 06/22/2012 12:13PM

Tuley: Las Vegas race books lament lost Belmont Stakes opportunity


LAS VEGAS – With the Triple Crown races behind us and getting ready for the dog days of summer (when the sports books here are), it’s time to clean out this reporter’s notebook:

Belmont handle up, but . . .

The Belmont turned out to be anti-climactic with the scratch of I’ll Have Another the day before the race. The race books here – just like racetracks and OTBs everywhere else – were hoping for big crowds and even bigger handle on I’ll Have Another’s Triple Crown bid. Nevada was hoping to exceed the $2.29 million statewide handle when Smarty Jones ran in 2004 or the $2.42 million in Big Brown’s bid in 2008. Instead, the race books here handled $1.875 million, which was up 25 percent from last year’s $1.5 million when there also wasn’t a Triple Crown on the line.

“We were pleasantly surprised with the numbers,” said Vinny Magliulo of Las Vegas Dissemination Company, the wagering hub for the state’s race books. “But with all the interest and all the anticipated souvenir tickets plus the field that was bigger than we usually see in the Belmont, we can only dream of what the total would have been.”

William Hill approved for license

William Hill, the British bookmaking giant, was approved for a gaming license by the Nevada Gaming Commmission on Thursday after being recommended for approval by the Gaming Control Board two weeks ago. This clears the way for the company to complete its $53 million purchase of three sports betting chains: Club Cal Neva, American Wagering (parent company of the Leroy’s Race & Sports Books) and Brandywine Bookmaking (which operates the Lucky’s chain in Nevada and also runs the books in Delaware).

William Hill inherits more than 160 outlets with the far-reaching networks, giving it 55 percent of the outlets in Nevada. In England, William Hill operates more than 2,300 betting shops for 25 percent of the market.

Details of the British invasion are still incomplete, but the deal was aimed to get the books’ operations consolidated in time for football season. The first move will be to get all the books re-branded under the William Hill banner, and we’ll keep you posted on the impact on football contests offered this fall.

◗ One book that William Hill won’t be inheriting is the Silverton on the south end of town. Cantor Gaming announced Monday that it will be taking over the operation of that hotel’s sports book with a new book to be built by the end of September. Cantor, which opened its first Nevada race and sports books at the M Resort (which is even farther from the Strip than the Silverton) in April 2009, will now have eight locations, including the Hard Rock, Cosmopolitan, Tropicana, Palms, Venetian, and Palazzo.

Helmuth adds 12th WSOP title

The World Series of Poker, which this year consists of 61 tournaments at the Rio leading up to the Main Event, began Monday, May 28, and has already had its share of historic moments.

◗ Phil Helmuth increased his record to 12 career WSOP bracelets by winning the $2,500 buy-in RAZZ tournament on June 10, five years to the day after he won No. 11. Helmuth has had several close calls in that time span, including three runner-up finishes last year. This was his first WSOP win that didn’t include Texas hold’em. Doyle Brunson and Johnny Chan both have 10 bracelets, followed by Phil Ivey with nine.

◗ Speaking of Ivey, he’s been a major story of this year’s WSOP after he skipped last year due to a dispute in the collapse of FullTiltPoker.com. He’s back with a vengeance as he’s already made five final tables. He was going for bracelet No. 10 in another tournament at the same time Hellmuth won No. 12 but came up short. Ivey’s finishes so far are a second, third, fifth, seventh, and eighth. But through the first half of the WSOP (31 of the 61 events), Ivey doesn’t have the most cashes so far as that honor is shared by Terrence Chan, Jesse Martin, and Joe Tehan with seven apiece. The all-time WSOP record is 10 cashes by Nikolay Evdakov in 2008.

◗ Allyn Jaffrey Shulman, wife of Card Player Magazine CEO Barry Shulman and stepmother of 2009 November Nine finalist Jeff Shulman, won the $1,000 buy-in Seniors No-Limit Hold’em Championship last Sunday. She won $603,713 and became the first woman since 2008 to win a WSOP event (besides the Ladies Event, that is).

◗ The $10,000 buy-in No-Limit Texas Hold’em World Championship, aka the Main Event, begins Friday, July 6, with the first of four “Day 1s.”

O’Neill to cash Derby future ticket

This is a horse racing publication, so we started with a horse racing note and we’ll end with one.

Doug O’Neill, trainer of I’ll Have Another, has been reaping the rewards all spring from his colt’s wins in the Kentucky Derby and Preakness, but he has at least one more paycheck to cash and he’s expected to do it Monday afternoon in the Nevada/California border town of Primm, Nev.

O’Neill holds a $100 Kentucky Derby future-book ticket on I’ll Have Another at odds of 200-1 from Lucky’s Race & Sports Books bought back in February before I’ll Have Another’s first start of the year.

Dan Shapiro, director of marketing for Brandywine Bookmaking LLC, said O'Neill accepted their invitation to come out and take a picture with a big fake check, answer some questions from the media, and sign some autographs. O'Neill is making the drive with childhood friend and Santa Anita CEO Mark Verge, and they're expected  to be at Primm Valley at 9 a.m. Pacific.