Here's all you really need to know about this establishment:
You're sitting in a deep, plush leather commander's chair, with an unobstructed view of the day's games and horse races, as well as all the odds on a large electronic betting board.
A waitress comes by to take your drink order. And she says "drinks." She never says "cocktails," given that word's connotations of lounge lizards and nasal accents and gold medallions.
In an outfit designed by Ralph Lauren exclusively for this resort, she actually looks pretty -- not cheesy. Think smooth curves rather than flagrant cleavage.
You order a screwdriver.
She asks -- get this -- what kind of vodka you would like in it.
Welcome to the Bellagio race and sports book, perhaps the most luxurious place in the world to make your bets and follow the action. As Bob Weir once put it, "This must be heaven; tonight I crossed the line."
Only problem is, ensconced in a pleasant Grey Goose-induced stupor, you might not care so much whether your team covers the point spread or not.
Tucked into a corner of the upscale center-Strip hotel-casino, the Bellagio sports book is open and inviting but much more intimate than some of the monstrous sports books elsewhere in Las Vegas. Think 21st-century understated elegance, not late-'80s style garishness.
Service is impeccable. In addition to naming your favorite brand of vodka, you can also order premium beers such as Sam Adams. Instead of coffee, you can order espresso or cappuccino if you are so inclined -- all for the price of a tip. By the way, the orange juice in that screwdriver? Freshly squeezed.
When the book's ticket writers answer questions, even those of beginners, they do so without a trace of condescension. When they say "Good luck," it sounds as if they mean it. This isn't always the case in gambling towns. (For instance, in Atlantic City, "Good luck, sir," invariably sounds just like "Screw you, sucker.")
The Bellagio is tied in with other MGM MIRAGE properties, which means you will find the comprehensive and innovative betting lines that originate at the Mirage sports book. Among other affiliated properties are the Golden Nugget and Treasure Island.
The betting menu features all the basics plus money lines, adjusted series prices for playoffs, continually updated future books and a good selection of lines on major and minor boxing matches. Also available are special seasonal features such as an over/under on the total number of hits, runs and errors in a particular baseball game. Stop in and check out the board for these unique propositions.
For high rollers, the Bellagio has some of the highest betting limits in town. And you won't forget you're in an upscale property: During slow periods, one TV is sometimes tuned to a cable financial channel. And in addition to an electronic scroll featuring updated sports scores, there's also a stock market ticker.
-- Review by Jeff Haney