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Hometown Heroes: Manteris finds retirement a sure bet

When it comes to placing bets, Art Manteris is a pro. His decades of experience as a sports bookie told him the odds were in his favor to retire.

Now settling into his new role, he remains surrounded by pieces of equipment, photos and images of the sports that dominated his life for so long. The walls of his Boulder City home office and garage are lined with memorabilia from his 43-year-long career, with more filling boxes from his recently vacated office at Station Casinos, where he spent the past 20 years as vice president for race and sports.

“Twenty years in one spot is a long time,” he said.

Manteris landed in the industry when he was a student at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas.

Before moving here from Pittsburgh, he was a stunt double for actor Jack Kehoe in the 1979 film “The Fish That Saved Pittsburgh,” which starred basketball legend Julius “Dr. J” Erving. After legendary sports marketing executive Sonny Vaccaro — older brother of South Point oddsmaker Jimmy Vaccaro — helped him get the job, he planned to pursue a career in film.

His intent was to quickly finish school and then head to Hollywood.

“But I got sidetracked because I fell in love with this business.”

His first job at the Stardust sportsbook was changing the odds on the old manual odds boards.

‘Legal bookie’

Manteris went on to become one of the city’s youngest sportsbook directors at Caesars Palace and vice president of the Las Vegas Hilton sportsbook, now the Westgate, before moving to Station Casinos in 2001. He was inducted into the SBC Sports Betting Hall of Fame in 2019.

“Art won more money for the state of Nevada and for his employers than any other bookmaker in state history,” said longtime Las Vegas oddsmaker Michael “Roxy” Roxborough.

He calls being a legal bookie “somewhat intoxicating” and said he never lost the passion for his chosen career.

Among the highlights of his time in casinos were helping fuel the Super Bowl prop bet craze while at Caesars in 1986; helping design and launch the first modern, theater-style sportsbook at the Hilton SuperBook in 1986; introducing the SuperContest in 1988, which is a prestigious high-end NFL handicapping contest that produced a record 3,328 entries and $1.47 million first prize in 2019; and developing the state’s first computer network of race and sportsbooks, which enabled him to oversee the action at all 14 Station books from his office at Red Rock Resort.

In 1994, he helped the Nevada Gaming Control Board and NCAA uncover the Arizona State college basketball point-shaving scandal and was part of the team that laid the foundation for the nationwide spread of legal, regulated sports betting.

He said he takes pride in all he has accomplished and worked hard for his successes.

New passions

Since retiring, Manteris has been spending time pursuing passions he didn’t know he had: hiking and biking the hillsides and trails near his home.

“I had not ridden a bike in 30 years,” he said.

He also has had more time to spend with his wife, Sue, and their son, Jai, who will be a sophomore at Boulder City High School in the fall, and visit their cabin in Utah. They also have adult children and grandchildren.

He said the nonstop action of the sports book didn’t allow him time to travel or to enjoy life in Boulder City.

Among the destinations he would like to visit are Greece, where his family is from; India, where Sue’s family is from; Europe and Montreal/Quebec.

“No matter where we go, Boulder City will be our home.”

He said he was introduced to the community by his parents, who retired here. Manteris said the community reminds him of Forest Hills, the suburb of Pittsburgh where he grew up.

Time for change

Manteris said several factors came into play in his decision to retire. In addition to celebrating his 65th birthday, he said changes in the industry, particularly on the technology side, were coming that indicated the business needed to head in a new direction.

“The time was right for them to re-energize their department and the time was right for me to re-energize my life.”

But, he said he didn’t step aside until he knew his team was ready. “Out of respect for the company leadership, I didn’t want to leave them unprepared.”

He said he will miss the camaraderie of working with a team that was equally adept at celebrating successes and commiserating over losses.

He learned about the importance of teamwork early in his career.

While working as a ticket writer at the Barbary Coast, he found himself shorted $1,100 by a member of mob enforcer Tony Spilotro’s crew.

“It was my fault. I gave him a series of bets and miscounted while tabulating the total off the top of my head,” he said. “I was $1,100 short at the end of the night, and I was panicking. I was a kid in my early 20s.”

Manteris called Jimmy Vaccaro, who ran the Barbary Coast book, to explain his dilemma.

“He understood what happened and who I was dealing with,” Manteris said. “He told me to close my bank and turn it in and don’t worry about it. I came to find that Jimmy covered that shortage out of his own pocket.

“Not only did he save me from getting in a lot of trouble or losing my job, but he proved to me who the good guys were. That had an enormous impact on an impressionable young kid and helped shape the rest of my career.”

Opportunities await

Despite his desire to take life a bit more slowly, Manteris said he has no intention to “sit in a rocking chair forever.” He said he still loves the industry and has been presented with the opportunity to invest in other businesses as well as become a member of an advisory board.

He said his wife will tell people that he is very good at giving advice.

Additionally, Manteris is working on his second book, tentatively titled “By the Book: Inside Sports Gambling with America’s Longest Serving Legal Bookie,” which is being co-authored by David Purdum, who reports on the business side of the gambling industry for ESPN.

It’s a behind-the-scenes look at the industry. Manteris said he wanted to wait until he retired to write the book as it allows him to “say things more freely.”

Hometown Heroes focuses on the people who make Boulder City a great place to live. If you know of someone who deserves to be recognized, please send a short paragraph about why you feel this person should be honored, along with how to get in touch with him or her and your name and telephone number, to hsaylor@bouldercityreview.com.

Las Vegas Review-Journal reporter Todd Dewey contributed to this report.

Hali Bernstein Saylor is editor of the Boulder City Review. She can be reached at hsaylor@bouldercityreview.com or at 702-586-9523. Follow @HalisComment on Twitter.

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