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Chuck Esposito has worked in the sportsbook industry for decades. But all that experience didn’t prepare him for what he has had to deal with this year.

The coronavirus shut down all of Nevada’s casinos on March 17 and it kept Esposito out of Sunset Station for quite a while. It wasn’t all bad, however. He got to spend some quality time with his family while brushing up on his culinary skills.

“My mother and grandmother are great cooks,” said Esposito, the race and sports director at Sunset Station in Henderson. “I’ve always been pretty good with the grill but I got a chance to do some other things and that was a lot of fun.

“The kids would ask, ‘What’s dad making tonight?’ and that was cool. But we still go to my mom’s for Sunday dinner. That’s been a family tradition for a long time and one I look forward to every week.”

Since his property’s reopening June 4, Esposito has seen a lot of familiar faces, especially when sports returned with the baseball season opening July 23. His horseplayers have been front and center as well. Yes, they have to socially distance themselves and the lines to bet are a little longer and take on a different look, but it’s a testament to Esposito and his staff that his customers have stayed loyal.

“I’ve always thought it was important to be in the room with the customers,” he said. “I’ve always operated that way.

“But I’ve got to give our staff a lot of credit. They’ve been very patient and the customers have also bought in.”

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Esposito said he has used two key watchwords during the pandemic in trying to get his book back to some semblance of normalcy.

“From the start, it’s been education and communication,” he said. “We’ve tried to educate our customers and make sure our staff communicated with them. We’ve had very few problems.”

Esposito has had few problems with his football handicapping skills. He has done very well over the first half of Gaming Today’s 2020 Bookies Battle contest, which is sponsored by his company, Station Casinos. He has had some strong weeks and is in the hunt at 68-48 going into the contest’s second half.

“It’s so much fun,” he said of Bookies Battle. “I’ve always followed pro football and I try to stay on top of the information as it comes in.

“That’s the biggest difference these days from the past. There’s so much more information and the bettors have as much, if not more, than the oddsmakers. So you really have to stay sharp.”

One thing Esposito has done is to use his favorite team, the Chicago Bears, in his weekly contest picks. So far, the Bears have helped more than hurt his ledger.

“It’s the one quirky thing I do,” he said.

Esposito nearly won the Bookies Battle in 2014, but lost a tiebreaker to Kitt Langvad of Arizona Charlie’s.

“That one still hurts,” he said with a laugh. “I didn’t realize the best bets were the tiebreaker. But winning would be great, if not just for bragging rights in the company.”

He could especially needle Jason McCormick, who runs things at Red Rock Resort and who is Esposito’s partner on their weekly “Bookends” podcast.

“Jason and I started a couple of years ago with a YouTube video and we thought we’d have a few laughs,” he said. “Now, we’ve taken it to another level. We’re on every week and we talk about a little bit of everything. We try to educate the folks about our side of the business and have some fun at the same time.”

The podcast can be found on Yahoo.com and the Station Casinos website.

It’s going to be a hectic week for Esposito. The Breeders’ Cup is Friday and Saturday. The Pac-12 is finally starting its football season. The NFL is starting the second half of its season and November is shaping up to be a big month with the Masters golf tournament next week and the start of college basketball.

“We’re excited,” he said. “We were hoping to have our Breeders’ Cup seminar but we just weren’t able to pull it off. But we plan to be very busy this weekend.”

Esposito is looking forward to getting back to normal, which in his world means promotions, seminars for football and the Triple Crown along with watch parties for the NFL and the NHL’s Vegas Golden Knights at Sunset Station’s Club Madrid.

“It’s been challenging, no doubt about it,” he said. “But I’m an optimistic person and I think we’ll get back to normal sooner than later. And when we do, it’s going to be a great feeling for everyone.”

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