06/28/2001 11:00PM

Who's who among new racebook directors

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A lot of new faces have been elevated to director of race and sports at various local casinos. It would behoove you as a valued customer to meet these people and get acquainted.

Fiesta: Kelly Downey took over in late November after Station Casinos took control from the Maloof family. He was born and raised in Las Vegas. Downey began at Bally's race and sports. After 11 years there, he moved to the Imperial Palace where he worked five years for Jay Kornegay.

"It's a little different coming from the Strip to local," said Downey. "It's a whole different atmosphere and clientele. However, [Stations] gives me a lot of opportunities here."

He did free NCAA tourney and Triple Crown contests and hopes to be starting a horse race contest soon.

His brother is Terry Downey, the general manager at Boulder Station.

Las Vegas Hilton: Cyril Burger was promoted in early May after Art Manteris resigned to eventually become vice president, race and sports, for Station Casinos. Burger is a homegrown Hilton executive as he has never worked for any other casino.

He is originally from Oregon and moved to Las Vegas in 1988. He joined the Hilton in January 1990 working in the audit department. One of the departments he monitored was race and sports. He liked race and sports so much he transferred there. Burger was named a supervisor in June 1994.

The Hilton offers some popular horse contests on Super Friday as well as the twice a year Pick the Ponies handicapping tournament.

Regent: Richard Bragiel took over on March 1. He came to Las Vegas in 1996, first working at the Golden Nugget. He was promoted to a supervisor there and later had the opportunity to help open two new race and sports books at the Bellagio and the Aladdin.

"My background was I started as a parimutuel clerk in Chicago," said Bragiel. "We want to cater to the local horseplayer again. We remodeled the race and sports book. We took out a lot of the big comfy chairs and couches and added more traditional race desks."

Starting July 4, the Regents will offer a progressive twin quinella contest. Bragiel plans on having a free football contest, too.

Rio: Bill Settler came down from Harrah's Reno on May 20. Harrah's owns the Rio.

Settler started at Harrah's Reno 15 years ago. When the director's position opened within the Harrah's organization, he applied for it from up north. He knows this will be a competitive market.

"The Palms is right in our market and so is the Gold Coast and they've just renovated," said Settler. "I'd like for us to get into the [handicapping] tournament business."

He loves to promote parimutuel wagering because "we want our players to win. What other game in Nevada is the house rooting for the customer?"

The Rio will offer a twin quinella in conjunction with Harrah's on the strip.

Stratosphere: Rico Ruggeroli was named interim director in late November, then shortly thereafter assumed the full title. He also oversees Arizona Charlie's East and West.

Ruggeroli broke in at Binion's Horseshoe and was promoted to supervisor in 1994. He later moved on to the Bellagio as a supervisor and then rejoined Nick Bogdanovich at the Stratosphere. When Bogdanovich left for Mandalay Bay last October, Ruggeroli moved up.

He started the East meets West quinella contest a few months ago, which is held on Thursdays.

Richard Eng is turf editor for the Las Vegas Review-Journal and host of the Race Day Las Vegas Wrap-Up radio show.