VSiN’s New Sports-Betting Studio Grows at Circa Resort & Casino in Las Vegas
The facility is closely linked to another studio at South Point Hotel Casino & Spa
Vegas Stats & Information Network, commonly known as VSiN, has been on the rise since its founding in 2017. The Las Vegas-based sports-betting firm has developed an impressive amount of content from its studio at South Point Hotel Casino & Spa and, since October 2020, has brought a brand-new studio and control room online at the Circa Resort & Casino.
“When I first got to VSiN,” says Brian Rogers, EVP, production, VSiN, “we had a single studio at the South Point that would comfortably fit four people, but we knew we wanted space for a bigger production that gave us depth for more cameras. A state-of-the-art broadcast hub — the Circa studio specifically — allowed us to greatly expand our video capabilities and improve our broadcast product. These new studios are the stock-market-meeting-sports, and it’s fantastic to report from the stock-exchange floor.”
Starting From Scratch: Studio Is Built Alongside Circa Construction
The Las Vegas Strip has its longstanding structures, but it’s a location always in development. The city pushed for one of its newest additions, the Circa Resort & Casino, which is situated at the northwest end of Fremont Street downtown. The building phase began in February 2019 on the land once occupied by the former Las Vegas Club and Mermaid Casino, but, as the project reached the early months of last year, the crew hit a wall in the form of the COVID-19 pandemic. Circa Resort & Casino Owner Derek Stevens moved forward with an opening date of October 2020.
Construction was unusual in that, as Stevens and his Circa team built the physical structure of the main facility, the VSiN crew designed and managed construction of the studio and control room in the casino’s interior. The only major issue at that stage was that the facility was in an unfinished high-rise.
“[VSiN Senior Project Manager] Desiree [Schultz], [Chief Engineer] Ken [Sporich], and I were looking at these designs and having to make some pretty fast decisions because we were coming up on a deadline,” says Miles Gwyn, director, broadcast operations, VSiN. “From my perspective, the process was an interesting one since we weren’t the primary tenant, but the construction team did a great job focusing on a lot of different priorities and keeping us in the loop.”
Over the summer and the beginning of fall, construction efforts kicked into overdrive, and the big picture started to come into focus. Gwyn, Schultz, Sporich, and the operations team increased meetings with partners, including IT provider Roberts Communications and master-control–system provider Crispin Corp. Because of the pandemic, most meetings were video-conferenced, but, with the arrival of vaccines and the lifting of the most-stringent safety protocols, VSiN’s operations began shifting onsite.
“We started getting access to the building [in August 2020] to make a few tweaks,” says Gwyn. “We spent a lot of time to get ready for our first broadcast on Oct. 27, 2020. The team really came together, and, with the help from Circa, we were able to patch in fiber and put cameras in different parts of the facility to showcase this grand opening.”
Broadcast-First Technology: Control Room Based on High-Quality Gear
An upgrade from the audio-centric South Point studio, the new setup at Circa features high-powered technology and a studio highlighting the go-to destination for legalized sports betting. The main studio, with two hosts behind a VSiN-branded desk captured by a handful of Canon EOS C200 cameras, is situated in front of a huge window that offers a view of the adjacent sportsbook. It’s a striking backdrop that brings viewers into the atmosphere of a high-functioning sportsbook.
“If there are any updates that we want to get,” says Rogers, “we can go directly to the oddsmakers who set or change the line. From a location standpoint, you couldn’t ask for a better setting.”
The control room deploys Ross Video hardware and solutions, including Carbonite production switcher, Tria for video playback, and an Ultrix router. The XPression graphics package is the main driver of VSiN’s on-air product, which bounces around from game to game and needs constant updating based on betting lines provided by BetMGM, DraftKings, and others.
“Ross was doing some great things with acquiring data and turning it around to make it look visually appealing to an audience,” says Gwyn. “The ability to get an XPression system in here was one of the pivotal changes we made [when we first came onsite].”
The rest of the equipment comprises PerSonus audio mixer, Riedel communications, Crispin and Harmonic technology for master control, and Synology storage. Unity Intercom connects the control room with the South Point facility 15 miles down Interstate 15.
Fast-Paced Content: Real-Time Graphics Keep Viewers Updated
Since VSiN is a 24/7 network, there’s a show for both avid and new sports bettors. The company has a wide range of content, but, in the heat of the 2021-22 NFL season, every Sunday is a goldmine for fans of professional football.
After an expansion of daily programming, the day begins at 8 a.m. ET with the two-hour-long Point Spread Sunday, featuring Femi Abebefe and Mike Pritchard. The Lombardi Line — with Michael Lombardi, Patrick Meagher, and Josh Appelbaum — is up next at 10 a.m.–noon and previews some of the insider information. Abebefe returns to set the table with THE Pre-Game Show at 12-1 p.m. The Green Zone — a whiparound show with Dave Ross, Wes Reynolds, and a team of remote betting reporters — details the action around the league at 1-8 p.m. To cap off the night, Opening Lines with Matt Youmans and Jonathan Von Tobel at 11 p.m.–1 a.m. looks ahead to the lines of the following Sunday’s games. Fans are able to watch this large slate of shows on a handful of linear and streaming outlets.
Circa studio might be the main hub, but VSiN also works out of South Point and its setups in BarCanada at The D Las Vegas Hotel & Casino, the Mandalay Bay, the Borgata in Atlantic City, and Rivers Casino in Chicago. For example, for The Lombardi Line, Lombardi is in Atlantic City, and Meagher works from the desk at South Point. This approach encourages additional content and permits flexibility within each facility.
With the high-intensity show requiring up-to-date information from multiple locations for viewers waiting to place prop bets and multigame parlays, the production crew strives to keep on the same page. The day begins with prep work prior to the start of the day’s activity, which is spearheaded by Motion Graphics Designer Ernesto Morales. Producer Jacob Roach and Technical Director Jeremy Wengel use these graphics in the early hours, but, as odds, lines, and spreads change with the plays and results of games, the difficult part of the job comes with changing on-air elements to match the data of the sportsbooks. This is where the artful dance between Roach, Wengel, and Graphics Operator and Data System Manager John Brown takes place.
“The producer, technical director, and graphics operator are communicating to say that this number’s good or hold on a second, this number’s updating because we’re waiting for data to populate,” says Rogers. “There are lots of layers to integrate and lots of paths that could fail at any point, but [John] does a great job of creating all the programs to make sure that we can get all the information that we need.”
Connected Facility: Robust Transmission Allows Multiple Set Locations
The new studio is certainly a crown jewel, but the technological infrastructure allows VSiN to use different aspects of the building for content. From the gargantuan $20 million, three-story-tall television screen in the sportsbook to the expansive casino floor, the 1.25 million-sq-ft. edifice is quite stunning.
Possibly its most notable accessible feature is Stadium Swim: a 15,756-sq.-ft. rooftop area boasting six swimming pools, a 143-ft. television screen, and a capacity of 4,000 people. The outdoor lounge is ample for watching high-profile sports events like the Super Bowl or a World Series Game 7, but, on a daily basis, VSiN will use this spot on days with beautiful weather or when there’s a big crowd. Among other features are a shaded area beneath a cabana and a private balcony overlooking the pools.
Large-scale connectivity is testament to the Circa’s commitment to utilizing the full breadth of the building and giving VSiN more than one location to shoot content and access critical betting market data. Not only is this transmission plan optimal for mobility at the Circa, but it also seamlessly connects reporters from across the country. Beneath the control room, on a lower level of the casino, is the rack room, where an additional staffer controls a vMix station to monitor the signal of the remote contributors and organize their onscreen layout. This added production wrinkle makes audio an important factor.
“Audio has become a very demanding job for us in the studio,” notes Rogers, “as opposed to our traditional [South Point] studio, where you’re focused on audio. We have so many video guests coming on via Skype that part of our job is making sure that the reporters sound good.”
The continued use of remote workflows is new for VSiN. Before the pandemic, the company used video platforms, and, when they become a mainstream solution, it wasn’t a tough transition for the team using these cloud-based services from South Point. In addition, implementation of social distancing wasn’t a problem when the company was asked to lessen the size of crews.
“I can’t tell you how proud I am of the way we reacted,” says Rogers, “but we’ve gotten used to working with efficient teams. We’ve been up for the challenge, and I’d say we’ve been as successful as possible throughout this entire pandemic.”
Eye on the Future: Circa Studio Is Blueprint for Continued Expansion
The design of Circa project has excited the VSiN team, and, for operations and logistics, the control room is seen as a foundation for even greater innovation.
“When you have a facility collecting data at a faster rate and turning it around into usable graphics,” says Gwyn, “you’re delivering on the promise to provide real-time, actionable information [to your viewers]. We now have another place to show that VSiN is located where the action is.”
Despite the huge benefits of the new facility, progress hasn’t been without setbacks. As trailblazer in this relatively new industry segment, VSiN is charting the course and figuring a way through the unknowns. It has made tremendous headway by finding a group of individuals who have a fervor for sports-betting production, and, as legalized sports betting gains traction in more states, this new space can be seen as a steppingstone for the company’s future.
“I’d be hard-pressed to find another network with a collection of sports-betting minds like this,” says Rogers. “As we expand and grow, I think we’ve built a model where it’ll be easy for us to scale out.”