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As I See It

20 March 2002

It's been a while since my last column, but I have had an interesting four weeks traveling. Let me share some of my activities.

I visited casinos in Bossier City, La.; Biloxi, Miss.; and Freeport, Grand Bahamas. The casino in Freeport has a sportsbook.

Bossier City has several casinos, and it is very clear that the Horseshoe, owned by Jack Binion, easily beats his competition. Jack's hands-on style leads to a much nicer ambiance, which can be seen and felt. When it comes to marketing, he clearly out-billboarded everyone else, as his Cheshire cat grin was evident from at least 50 miles outside the city.

The Beau Rivage in Biloxi, which was built by my old boss Steve Wynn, is pretty much as I remember it from the first artist's renderings I saw on Steve's desk. It is a marvelous looking property that puts the others in the shade. Curiously, the casino didn't appear to be any busier than the other two I stopped at.

It would appear that one of the issues that started the ball rolling for the buyout from MGM was that Steve simply overbuilt in a market that did not require such a plush facility to attract customers. I suppose everyone is allowed one mistake.

My third stop was at the casino in Freeport. Just getting there was a saga, and what this column is about.

Traveling around as I did, it is very apparent that the world has simply changed directions since 9/11, and it is unlikely ever to return to those casual ways we had of doing business.

I admit to being an unenthusiastic traveler. Always have been, always will be. It seems like getting there and coming back home put a damper on the entire vacation.

Since I don't enjoy flying, I went to Grand Bahama Island by boat. I'm sure that customs and immigration have always been a pain in the butt for travelers. But the time wasted at check points seems to have increased tenfold.

On the American side, it was a long and tedious process, but after landing in the Bahamas, the experience morphed into the Twilight Zone.

After dealing with the Bahamian people, it is obvious they are a pleasant bunch, but also are probably the most laid back people I have ever encountered. Their utter lack of urgency in anything was evident from the moment I arrived until departure.

There were at least five checkpoints, each of which took 20 to 30 minutes to clear. I certainly wasn't ready for something like this, and being a novice, I had no idea when the process would finally halt.

After slow, tedious progress the end was finally in sight and I got a little jump in my step. I was in a group of about 100 in relatively close quarters, broken into four lines.

It was a pretty disparate group, including some kids on spring break, some older couples, and a fair number of folks in my age bracket, looking like tourists.

Certainly, I felt like I blended in. While I was waiting for my baggage, I was wondering about my arrangements to get picked up by someone from the casino who had never seen me.

Suddenly, I was approached by a young man with an accent that would make Bob Marley jealous. He tapped me on the shoulder and in sequence, asked, "Bookmaker?", to which I replied, "Excuse me."

He replied, "Jimmy?", and I said, "Yes". Then came the capper. He said, "Italian?", I replied, "I think so."

Driving back to the hotel, I asked about the meeting, and he said that was what they gave him to work with. Talk about racial profiling. The kid was laying 100-1 and he nailed it.

Looking at the Tournament, it has been a good one for me, and like all of you, I would like to knock off a few more winners in the Sweet 16.

Of all the tips that apply to handicapping teams and what to look for, the one decision process I relied on was narrowing down the teams who have the best point guards. While that is not a guaranty of anything, it does make a big difference in the one and out games, because after the first three minutes, the ball is in their hands.

That still applies. Look at the teams that are left and at their point play so far. Standouts include Ridnour, Oregon St.; Knight, Pittsburgh; Huffman, Kent St.; and Ford, Texas.

With minimal turnover during crunch time, an unerring ability to find the open man and accurate free throw shooting, they give their team a distinct advantage.

I put a little extra stock in them when handicapping the early round games, and have done well. Only problem now is they start to play each other and with the four-day break, everyone has time to prep and the numbers look right where they should be.

But with due diligence, we can still zero in on some spots that can be advantageous to our bankrolls.

One early play I made was Oregon -8 over Texas. Playing its first round games in Dallas was a big help to the Longhorns. This time the Ducks will be playing closer to home and have three legit scorers. I do not believe Texas can check all three.

So, do your homework and keep your eyes and ears open. You never know what might happen.

Stay well, Jimmy V.

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