A tale of ups and downs: Nick Bogdanovich’s journey to the Hall of Fame

Nick Bogdanovich Sports Betting Hall of Fame

Nick Bogdanovich’s journey in the sports betting industry began over 30 years ago. He’s experienced the thrill of victory and the agony of defeat throughout his career, which is no surprise for an industry that never sleeps and is constantly evolving. Despite the twists and turns, his unwavering passion and perseverance have earned him a coveted spot in the 2023 Sports Betting Hall of Fame – a well-deserved recognition for a true fighter.

At the age of 18, Bogdanovich packed his bags and left Las Vegas for Lewis Clark State College, where he’d be studying Business Administration, almost 1,000 miles between him and his hometown.

Stepping foot into a foreign place was quite a shock to his system. Nonetheless, Bogdanovich quickly found his footing and threw himself into his studies while also making time for his two loves: basketball and baseball.

But as time went on, he found himself juggling too much on his plate. In a surprising move, he dropped baseball – the sport he was better at – and dedicated himself fully to basketball. 

As he strolled across the graduation stage, Bogdanovich was hit with a wave of uncertainty. “I had zero idea what I wanted to do,” he admits. With a degree in business and a return to Las Vegas, a city that was a mere shadow of what it is now, Bogdanovich was left bouncing around a couple of jobs that he didn’t really enjoy.

It wasn’t until the realization hit him that he finally understood the true value of his lifelong obsession with sports and that his passion could be transformed into a profitable career. “When I say passion, I mean that I think about sports 24/7. It really doesn’t matter whether it’s tennis, golf, baseball or basketball. You name it – I follow it,” Bogdanovich says with a grin.

But getting into the industry proved to be a challenge until he met a local cardiologist with a unique connection – he was good friends with Michael Gaughan, a fellow Hall of Fame inductee and owner of the Barbary Coast Hotel and Casino. While Gaughan didn’t have any openings, he sent Bogdanovich to interview with Rick Herron, a former employee who was running the Sands at the time.

“Mr. Gaughan would never remember that in a million years because it was 40 years ago, and he’s helped 50 billion people in his life. But yes, I ended up going to the Sands and started my career there as a ticket writer in 1986,” Bogdanovich recounts.

And with that, he was well on his way to a successful career in the sports industry, a journey that began with a bit of luck and a whole lot of passion.

Back then, ticket writing was still done by hand. Customers would come to the window and Bogdanovich would walk them through the betting process himself. “It was a time when you could really learn the business,” he says.

Bogdanovich worked his way up the ranks quickly, becoming a supervisor only six months later. In this role, he managed money, took bets, and moved the line. When the Sands were being sold a year and a half later, Bogdanovich saw an opportunity to step up even further when he was asked to run the place as the Interim Racebook/Sportsbook Manager at the age of 25 until the sale went through.

But just as quickly as he was promoted, he was out the door when the new owners brought in their own management team. “It’s their philosophy, their money. I understand it. It doesn’t make it easier, but I understand it,” he says. However, Bogdanovich had found his calling. He knew that he wanted to work in sports betting for the rest of his life. 

After Sands, Bogdanovich’s journey in the sports betting industry led him to one of the most iconic places in Las Vegas, the Binion’s Horseshoe, owned by the legendary Binion family. Known for its hardcore gambling and lack of fancy fountains and suites, it was the perfect place for Bogdanovich to make his mark. “That was my favorite job, my most interesting job, and my hardest job.”

Bogdanovich was hired as a supervisor in August 1989. He wasn’t sure if he was chosen by Jack Binion or if it was him that convinced Binion to take a chance on a young and inexperienced kid when he told him “I am hungry as hell, take a shot at me.” But Binion, with his gambling instincts, saw something in Nick and gave him the opportunity of a lifetime. “This is where I learned how to book. When I left the job, I was very prepared.

However, as with most things in Las Vegas, change was inevitable. “When Jack walked away, the new management came in and brought their own team.” But Bogdanovich had gained more than just experience during his time at the Binion’s Horseshoe. He met lifelong friends and his wife, whom he’s been happily married to for the past 25 years. 

By now it’s safe to say that Bogdanovich knows all too well the highs and lows of the industry. Despite being hired by Carl Icahn himself to help design the book at the Stratosphere, a clash of personalities with Icahn added more fuel to the fire and after 18 months, Bogdanovich and the Stratosphere went their separate ways.

Mandalay Bay was a different story – a wild ride in the world of Vegas sportsbooks. As the newest addition to the Strip, it was attracting massive crowds with its epic boxing matches and top-notch amenities. It was here that Bogdanovich cut his teeth in the corporate world, attending meetings and gaining invaluable experience that would serve him well in his future endeavors. However, the infamous incident with Charles Barkley led to his departure from Mandalay Bay and straight to betting on the other side of the counter. As a man who lives and breathes sports betting, even when he wasn’t working in the industry he would take off his bookmaker hat and put on his betting hat.

Bogdanovich became a force to be reckoned with on the other side of the counter. He won some contests in town – his biggest score came when he won  $160,000 against 32 gamblers, each putting up $5,000.

When you’re a big player in the Nevada betting scene, there are only so many opportunities to move up. So when the Club Cal Neva in Reno came knocking in 2008, it was a no-brainer for the legendary bookmaker. Tired of being on the playing side of things, he jumped at the opportunity to get back behind the counter.

After meeting with the owners, he was offered the job. The catch? He would have to uproot his life in Las Vegas and relocate to Reno. While house hunting with his wife, they struggled to find a place they liked, so they made the difficult decision for his wife and two children to stay behind in Vegas while he commuted back and forth.

Reno was a fantastic town and the job at Club Cal Neva was an absolute dream. His boss, Jeff Siri, was a pleasure to work for. Things would again change when William Hill came in and changed the landscape. “They bought Cal Neva’s race and sportsbook division, Joe Asher’s Brandywine, and Vic Salerno’s Leroy’s to make one big company. And William Hill was alive and well in the state of Nevada.”

Asher continued as CEO, Siri as COO, and Salerno as a consultant -Bogdanovich landed the coveted role of running the sportsbook and assembling a team. 

“Eventually, Vic went away, Jeff went away, Tony (Nick’s assistant) went away and then it was all William Hill, not a mix of three different styles. In 2018 we started expanding into other states. Today, William Hill/Caesar’s is now one of the biggest players in the industry.”

Back in the day, it was a whole different ball game. Bogdanovich used to personally meet every player that came to place their bets. Suddenly, Bogdanovich found himself in a room filled with 30 traders and computer terminals, and all he could see were bets flashing on the screen. The personal touch was gone, and it became all about how efficiently they could handle these transactions. 

In 2021, Caesars Entertainment purchased William Hill, and Bogdanovich, once again, had to move forward. 

When Bogdanovich talks about his current job at Circa Sports and what sets them apart from others in the industry, he says: “These guys are taking a different approach. They welcome all players, regardless of whether they win or lose. It’s not just about catering to the big spenders, and it seems to be working for them.”

“Word of mouth helps, but Derek Stevens, the owner of Circa, went all out and built the most impressive race and sportsbook facility in America – it’s more like a theater.” 

“They’ve made their presence known in Nevada, so I have a feeling they’ll do well elsewhere too.”

But, as Bogdanovich puts it, this is a cutthroat industry, and if you don’t play by the rules, you’re out. “Everything started consolidating, and even though I’m mainly talking about the state of Nevada, this is just a microcosm of things that happened on a national level.”

“You might think that there’s going to be space for all sorts of different little operators but it’s just more consolidation on a local level – that’s the nature of the beast, so we’ll have to adjust.” 

No question, Bogdanovich has weathered both good and bad times in this industry. “But I’ve always stayed because I truly enjoy it and, frankly, it’s all I know. I’m a one-trick pony. I knew early on that this is what I would do for my entire career.”