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Sportsbook Spotlight: Colucci Has Things Running Smooth at Rampart

By Steve Carp

It’s a busy Saturday inside the quaint but comfortable Rampart Race and Sports Book. There’s college football on the screens. Afternoon hockey can be found. The baseball playoffs are about to start. Meanwhile, there’s horse racing from all over North America where the majority of the patrons can be heard whooping it up, urging their picks home.

And as Duane Colucci surveys the scene, a wide grin sweeps across his 49-year-old face.

“It’s wonderful, isn’t it?” he asked rhetorically as his writers are being kept busy by a steady stream of customers. “This is how it’s supposed to be.”

He’s almost 100% correct. The one caveat? Everyone is required to wear a face mask as the COVID-19 pandemic is still in our midst. But even still, it doesn’t dampen the enthusiasm. Customers are wagering, watching and rooting. And that’s what has Colucci happy.

“Business is great,” he said. “We have the Jackpot card with the South Point and we’re getting a lot of new faces to go along with our regulars. The J.W. Marriott is attached to the casino so we get a lot of business from the folks staying at the hotel or when there are conventions. We’re convenient for them. They don’t have to leave the property in order to get to us.”

That partnership between the two properties thanks to the Gaughan family, which operates both, allows Colucci to focus on what he does best — connect with his customers. He lets Chris Andrews and his team at the South Point figure out the numbers. Colucci and his team post them at the Rampart and everything is set.

“This is a customer-driven business,” he said. “It’s all about customer service and you have to have a staff that understands that. You teach them and instill the knowledge and have that translate to the customer.”

Colucci learned from the best. He worked for Sid Diamond and Eric St. Clair. Then he got the opportunity to learn from Andrews and Jimmy Vacarro. It was like getting a PhD in sports betting.

“I was so fortunate,” Colucci said. “Sid Diamond is a legend. So are Eric, Chris, and of course, Jimmy. For Chris and Jimmy to take me under their wing has been one of the great experiences of my career.”

Like so many in his industry, Colucci didn’t set out planning to work in a sportsbook. He was a craps dealer and pit boss at Mahoney’s Silver Nugget in North Las Vegas and worked at his father’s cigar business when he got the chance to work for Diamond and St. Clair at a new property.

That was the Rampart, in Summerlin, about a 30-minute drive from the Las Vegas Strip. The race and sports book was a hole in the wall kind of operation, not a lot of room. But it had seats with TVs. It had a bar. And it had fair, competitive numbers. All in all, it was a good shop.

“I grew up around betting and sports events with my dad (Mike),” Colucci said. “I learned the betting lines as a kid reading the (New York) Daily News and the (New York) Post. I remember the parlay sheets from the candy stores. So I was all around it.

“For me, it was a natural transition and it’s been a great experience.”

Colucci makes sure his horseplayers are taken care of. He holds Kentucky Derby seminars every year and does so for the Breeders’ Cup, which will be run Nov. 5-6 at Del Mar.

“We try to market aggressively and we have a very loyal following with our horse-playing customers,” Colucci said. “This year will be different. Bob Ike, who is a great horse public handicapper and usually flies in from California for the seminars, won’t be joining us this year. So I’ll host the seminar as a stream on the Rampart’s website.

“But we expect a big crowd for the Breeders’ Cup in the book, especially on Saturday. It’s the World Championship for horse racing 

and add Del Mar into the mix, which is very popular with our customers, and it’s a major attraction.”

Colucci said hockey betting handle continues to climb and with the NBA having tipped off and college basketball on the horizon, it’s one of the busiest times of the year for him and his staff.

“Football is always No. 1,” he said. “But baseball was good. Hockey has really grown since the (Golden) Knights came into existence five years ago. The NBA is underway. College football has been crazy with all the upsets and college basketball figures to be the same once it starts next month.

“But the big thing right now in our industry are the apps and the in-game wagering. That has really taken off the last few years and with DraftKings and FanDuel looking to come into Nevada and the growth of sports betting all over the country, you really have to be sharp and stay on top of things. Everybody feels like they have an edge when they’re betting in-game. But things can turn quickly. That’s what makes it so exciting.”

For Colucci, his teams that he roots for are a mixed bag. He’s a Dallas Cowboys fan in football and a Montreal Canadiens fan in hockey. 

“The Cowboys are off to a great start,” he said. “The Habs definitely miss (goaltender) Carey Price. Hopefully, they’ll turn it around.”

But regardless of his personal preferences, Colucci is enjoying the comeback of Las Vegas as it tries to escape from the throes of the pandemic.

“It was tough when we had to close down for a couple of months,” he said of the spring of 2020. “And then when we came back, we had a lot of restrictions. I got really good at cleaning tables and chairs and countertops.

“But things have picked up on the property. The buffet has reopened. More people are coming in, even though they’ve got to wear a mask. Our expanded sports book, which was part of the overall expansion of the Rampart has worked out great. 

“I invite everyone to come out to Summerlin and see us. We’ve got a beautiful race and sports book. We have great restaurants. Our customer service is top-notch and you’ll be treated well.”

And there’s a good chance if you visit, Colucci will come over and introduce himself to you and you can talk horses, football, anything with him and feel like you’re shooting the breeze with a regular guy, which, essentially, Colucci is.

“Just a guy from Maspeth, Queens,” he said.