When it debuted in 1989, the Mirage was the first major hotel-casino to open in Las Vegas since the early 1970s, and an appropriate amount of fanfare greeted its arrival.
A rainforest, an active volcano, rare white tigers -- in all, a dolphin tank full of superlatives.
It's no surprise that the race and sports book reflected the resort's lofty designs. Even now, the book lives up to the hype. Situated in the center of the Strip, this is the epitome of a "destination" sports book.
Built in the "megabook" tradition of 1980s Las Vegas, a vast, expansive race area sits adjacent to a more compact but still ample-sized sports book. As in most books of its kind, horseplayers get their own individual TV monitors, while large screens dominate both the race and sports sections.
Betting lines that originate here at the Mirage are disseminated to an all-star collection of satellite sports books, including those at the MGM Grand, Bellagio, Treasure Island and Golden Nugget.
A perk that accompanies dealing with such a heavy hitter in the Las Vegas market is the wide selection of betting options. At the Mirage you'll find all the usual suspects, plus halftime and first-half lines, lots of money lines and match-up propositions, as well as special one-of-a-kind wagers that pop up with regularity.
At playoff and World Series time, odds to win the series are adjusted and updated after each game, rather than being taken down once Game 1 starts (the way they do it at some casinos). Odds also are posted on how long a playoff series will last -- for instance, "Lakers in four games," "Lakers in five games," "76ers in six games," etc.
The Mirage offers betting lines and totals on WNBA games and is the only property in Las Vegas to hang numbers on every game in the NCAA women's basketball tournament -- including early round games.
Early in 2001, the Mirage caused some consternation among local gamblers when it announced it would carry a 20-cent line on baseball games, as opposed to the traditional -- and more advantageous for bettors -- 10-cent line. But here's the silver lining: With its 20-cent line, Mirage properties started to attract large amounts of "square," or tourist, money on baseball. Because tourists generally bet favorites, in a weird twist of fate baseball underdog players began to find some of the juiciest 'dog prices in the city at the Mirage.
If you're a high roller who routinely bets five or 10 dimes (that's Vegas speak for $5,000 or $10,000) at a time, your action might score a comped meal at the California Pizza Kitchen right next to the book. For the rest of us, free drinks -- name your brand of liquor! -- from the book's superb and attentive waitstaff will have to suffice.
Even if you're a low roller, a visit to the California Pizza Kitchen is worthwhile. Also practically adjacent to the race and sports book is one of the city's top poker rooms.
It's difficult to beat the Mirage sports book as a place to bet and keep up with the action, but take note: On a busy sports weekend or during major events such as the NCAA Tournament, arrive early -- really early -- if you hope to score a seat.
-- Staff Report