LAS VEGAS (KTNV) — Fans flocked to Las Vegas casinos and sportsbooks for the return of the NFL and one Las Vegas bookmaker is making a bold prediction ahead for the fractured, 2020 season.
The sports world has returned with a vengeance after an unprecedented pause amid the COVID-19 pandemic for several months with the NBA, WNBA, NHL, MLB, NASCAR, and now the NFL back in competition.
On Thursday, Week 1, Game 1 of the NFL season featured the reigning Super Bowl champion Kansas City Chiefs and Houston Texans facing off in the NFL's opening night.
Even though the NFL canceled their preseason games, fans put down money on the game at the South Point Hotel and Casino sportsbook.
"For me, I'm still in the dark, I'm not confident enough to go all in, I'm just here to see how it goes," said Pech Chin, a sports bettor visiting from California.
Chin and his buddy Frederick Vizneki watched the game from the South Point and say the return of the NFL is a welcomed escape from reality.
"As an athlete growing up, as kids, as adults, we work all week, we're always on the grind, but sports is somewhere you can escape reality, forget your issues, or the stress or the problems you have," said Vizneki.
Legendary bookmaker at the South Point, Jimmy Vacarro, says the return of the NFL is a welcomed sight for bettors.
"We'll see what happens, we've been very fortunate, as most of the sportsbooks have in the city and state, the NBA did us a big favor by starting early, so it wasn't all that bad," explained Vacarro.
He says those that work the counter have also seen something different this year.
"More people are asking 'how to do this?' in other words, they're newbies, so you're telling them in a shortened version, this is what you do when you come to the window," said Vacarro.
Like with most venues, the sportsbook has made several changes such as moving chairs farther apart, there are plastic dividers at the counter, and mandatory masks.
Despite the changes, Vacarro says people are placing bets.
"I think it's an all-time high as far as people coming to make bets on the football season, I believe we will have a bigger season than we ever have!" said Vacarro.
"Why would I say that? Because I think I'm right," quipped Vacarro.
The South Point added 50 more chairs to their racebook as an overflow from the sportsbook and added more screens and kiosks to accommodate bettors.
Vacarro says the real test comes on Sunday when most NFL teams are back in action.