By Noel Michaels
The 564 individual players making up the 694-entry field for the 2020 National Horseplayers Championship (NHC) finals are unlikely to agree on much when it comes to their tournament play this weekend as they compete to become the next Horseplayer of the Year. But one thing that nearly all in attendance seem to be in agreement on is that this year’s new venue at the Bally’s has immediately hit it out of the park. The new host venue for the NHC has been a smash hit.
The NHC’s new home on the Las Vegas Strip is in the 40,000 square-foot Bally’s Event Center. The spacious new digs have allowed the entire 564-player NHC field to be seated all in the same space, with enough room for betting windows, breakfast and lunch buffet stations, sponsor exhibits, and more, to be contained all together under the same roof. In recent past years the field has to be divided into different banquet rooms at the Treasure Island. That problem, however, has now been solved by Bally’s impressive event space.
The man behind the scenes at Bally’s, and in large part in charge of making sure the NHC main event goes off without a hitch, is Director of Race and Sports for Caesars Entertainment, Bill Sattler. So far, so good. The race and sports veteran with a 32-year career has proven to be up to the task and the right man for the job.
“Hosting this is a major project with a lot of layers. It’s not just race book, it involves the hotel, banquets, food and beverage, security, and people from just about every department of the property,” Sattler said. “A lot goes into turning this room into the largest race book in the world this week.”
Just days before the start of the NHC, the Event Center had played host to the Bally’s Super Bowl party, which Sattler referred to as a perfect “dress rehearsal” for the NHC. “Everything in the room was already set-up, from the TVs to the seating layout. It was a much easier transition than if we didn’t have the Super Bowl party here,” Sattler said. “All I’ve gotten is complements about the room from a lot of players I’ve known for years, as well as a lot of new players.”
Caesars Entertainment became the new host of the NHC this year as a part of its overall commitment to pari-mutuel wagering.
“Pari-mutuel wagering in Nevada has been dying, and we want to get it back on the map. We want to attract new players and we want to get back former players,” Sattler commented. “We’ve had a Kentucky Derby party here the last four years, and we already knew Bally’s is a great venue for a horseracing event. We knew we had the perfect venue for the NHC and we knew we could do it here.”
And of course, the NHC as a whole is not only strictly about horse racing. It’s an event that brings a lot of gamblers to Las Vegas.
“Between the NTRA and everybody else we sold 2,500 hotel rooms from this,” Sattler said. “The people generally don’t just stay here. They eat here, they play here, too.”
The 2020 NHC marks the beginning of a two-year contract the NTRA has with Caesars Entertainment to host the NHC at Bally’s Event Center. The partnership is off to a good start. Players seem to be enjoying the Event Center venue, and the feeling is mutual.
“We’re very happy,” Sattler said. “I hope we can extend the contract. I don’t see why not.”