THE SPORTS BOOK EXPERIENCE

There was a time when sports books were thought of as dark, smoke-filled dens of gruff guys, chomping on cigars, harrumphing about their wagers. Perhaps because many sports books were dark, smoke-filled dens of gruff guys, chomping on cigars, harrumphing about their wagers.

Just as Las Vegas has evolved in recent years by attracting notable restaurants, shopping and entertainment options, the sports book experience has been similarly transformed.

Put simply, the light switch has turned on.

“I think about vacations,” said Roger Thomas, executive vice president of design and development at Wynn Las Vegas. “We like fresh air, light places, energy, bright colors. A place that says, ‘The party is here!’ ”

And the biggest sports party of them all — the Super Bowl — is expected to drive growing number of fans to the newly renovated rooms. Tens of millions of dollars and countless hours of design, construction and meetings have gone into projects at several major properties on and around the Strip. Here’s a look at some of the best bets around town:

WYNN LAS VEGAS

The Wynn sports book was already centrally located on the main casino floor so Thomas and his crew, guided by casino owner and visionary Steve Wynn, focused on brightening the space.

Bright red accents — from the caning pattern on the carpet to the seating and framed racing silks on the walls — made a dramatic difference. Red, long associated with power, passion and good luck, imbues the room with a sense of “action and energy,” Thomas said. That pairs nicely with the 21 million-pixel, high-definition video wall that wraps nearly 180 degrees around the curved room.

Two other significant additions to the space were the VIP boxes, with plush velvet swivel chairs, settees, tables and lamps as well as the opening of Charlie’s Bar, named for Wynn’s longtime friend Charlie Meyerson.

Why do the makeover now?

“It’s a technology-driven phenomenon,” Thomas said. “Technology has helped with the popularity of sports betting. We were technologically dated, and that was a problem.”

Four months and many millions later, problem solved.

WESTGATE LAS VEGAS SUPERBOOK

The Superbook has long been the biggest sports book not only in Vegas, but also worldwide, and the $18 million spent on renovations the last 24 has burnished its sterling reputation even more.

The book boasts the largest indoor 4K video wall — an astonishing 240-feet long and 18-feet high. There are hundreds of plush, comfortable seats with unobstructed sightlines, and VIP box suites with TV monitors and other high-tech amenities.

A 100-foot-long bar sits behind the VIP boxes, and the former deli has been recently replaced with the cozy Drafts Sports Bar & Grill, with made-to-order fare and plenty of TV monitors overhead to keep track of all the action.

“The ultimate goal was to make this a must-see stop in Las Vegas. And any sports fan will tell you that it is,” said Jay Kornegay, Westgate Las Vegas vice president of race and sports book operations. “They want to see the world’s largest sports book. It’s the definition of the wow factor. The very first time you walk in, it’s just jaw-dropping spectacular.”

THE MIRAGE

The Mirage blazed a trail along the Strip as the first of the large sports books to undergo a major transformation. New TV screens were unveiled in 2013, and in 2015 more comfortable couches and chairs were added to the main floor, as was an elevated VIP section with stadium at the back of the room.

Between the two is a massive couch nicknamed “Big Betty,” sectioned into several separate seating areas. “I’m surprised we haven’t started a Twitter account for Big Betty,” joked Jay Rood, vice president of race and sports for MGM Resorts. “Six or seven buddies can hang out and watch the game.”

The Mirage also brought in interactive tabletop TVs with comfortable, high-backed bar stool seats, allowing patrons to not only dial up games they’re most interested in, but also to have internet access to check in on those ever-important fantasy sports teams. It

It’s all part of an effort to create a more comfortable environment for larger groups of people, couples and those seeking more options than just non-stop betting. As with other locations, adding more food is a popular trend. California Pizza Kitchen seems to be hitting the mark with patrons since it opened. “That’s the original design, the secret sauce: have the food element near the sports book,” Rood said.

STATION CASINOS

There’s much more to Station sports books than just the convenience of being off-Strip, away from the hustle and bustle. The company is taking great strides to make sure its patrons are getting the best possible viewing experience, particularly through upgrades at its hub Red Rock Resort sports book.

“We were going for a comfortable, contemporary and extraordinary living room viewing experience, combined with the most incredible video screen technology that exists in the world,” said Red Rock sports book director Jason McCormick. “We brought in more tabletops to create more of a lounge area … and geared our beverage specials to create that group party atmosphere.”

RAMPART CASINO

The Rampart Casino at the Resort at Summerlin is among the latest to unveil a sports book remodel, doing so in early September, just in time for football season.

Casino general manager Michael Gaughan Jr. said Rampart sought to enhance the experience for sports betting patrons while also creating a place that would be attractive to casual fans or even non-sports fans looking to have a good time with their sports-loving friends.

Comfort, Gaughan said, was key.

“The colors are pretty non-traditional, with some grays, taupes and deep purples running throughout,” he said. “The furniture is designed for comfort, since oftentimes you are watching a game or event for a good chunk of time. Our design and furniture selections were also created due to the increase of female bettors. We even created a Parlay and Rosé promotion to increase participation with females who may have been intimidated to come in and place a bet.”

A new lounge adjacent to the book allows for viewing of all the action and features a menu of specialty drinks, including the “Golden Night” as a nod to Vegas’ new NHL team. But as with any sports book experience, it’s the big screen that steals the scene.

“We wanted the main focal point to be our 55-foot customizable LED screen, which can be split to show multiple games, accompanied by 80 high-definition televisions throughout the venue, so you really don’t miss any action.”

OTHER MUST-SEE SPOTS

Several other sports books have also upped their game recently

— The Cosmopolitan of Las Vegas sports book, operated by CG Technology, has a bar that sits right in the center of the room with seating all around and TV monitors above. There are massive screens on each side of the book, couch VIP seating, two shuffleboard tables and a pool table.

  • The Aria sports book, one of MGM’s properties, has a unique upgraded feel with its array of TVs, couches and chairs placed at a variety of angles. Plus, it’s conveniently adjacent to the Five50 Pizza Bar.
  • Keep your eye on the Mandalay Bay sports book, which occupies a great space and is set for a major makeover in the next 18 months.