Q&A: Vegas native Brendan Gaughan talks NASCAR betting, growing up in casinos and more

·8 min read
Q&A: Vegas native Brendan Gaughan talks NASCAR betting, growing up in casinos and more

Brendan Gaughan lends a unique perspective to the intersection of gambling and NASCAR. The former NASCAR Cup, Xfinity and Camping World Truck Series driver grew up in Las Vegas and around the casino business — his father, Michael, and grandfather, Jackie, both magnates of the industry.

Michael currently owns the South Point Hotel & Casino, which houses one of Vegas‘ most respected sportsbooks. On Super Bowl Sunday, in fact, you‘ll find Brendan behind the counter, writing tickets for the bettors lined up to wager on the game.

RELATED: NASCAR BetCenter | Odds for Daytona regular-season finale

Brendan, who stepped away from NASCAR after racing in five Cup events last year, co-hosts “Gone Racin,\"” a NASCAR betting-themed show on VSiN (for the uninitiated, that‘s the Vegas Stats & Information Network, a media company dedicated to sports betting founded by Brent Musburger in 2017). He also remains involved in his family‘s casino business, in addition to several entrepreneurial endeavors of his own, and yes, even some racing.

We recently caught up over the phone with Brendan and discussed his favorite casino games, why he doesn‘t bet NASCAR and the slick vehicles he drives to get his family around town.

NASCAR.com: I know you do some ticket writing on Super Bowl Sunday at the South Point.
Gaughan: That’s been a special deal for my family. A Gaughan has worked a sportsbook since the dawn of sportsbooks and casinos, every Super Bowl. And as long as I’m around, the trend will not be lost. And with any luck, my children will continue that when I’m gone.

NASCAR.com: What‘s the biggest bet you’ve ever written?
Gaughan: I got to write one of the $250,000 ones. Just depends on what window it gets sent to, and they sent me one for $250,000.

NASCAR.com: Do you remember who it was on and if it was a winner?
Gaughan: You know what, I don’t. It was just a bet. You know what I mean? In our businesses, it‘s where’s the number going and go to the next one.

NASCAR.com: What else are you doing these days? What else are you working on? I know you have some business interests. What’s keeping you busy?
Gaughan: I have a moonshine company; we make a City Lights Shine. I have a chemical company and PPE company. That’s something that we started before the pandemic, and it’s doing well right now. And then of course the family business. We have Mesquite Gaming in Mesquite, Nevada — Casa Blanca Resort and Virgin River Hotel — and the South Point. I stay in Mesquite, because if my dad’s there, probably not a good idea for me to be there. We get along great, as long as we don’t work with each other. I’m sure anybody who has worked with their fathers many times could say that. So I stick with Mesquite, he sticks in the South Point.

NASCAR.com: Yeah, I heard you on a podcast characterizing your relationship with your father as unique.
Gaughan: He’s an amazing man. I love him to death, and we get along amazingly — until we have to share a boardroom.

NASCAR.com: Other than the South Point, what’s your favorite sportsbook in Vegas?
Gaughan: Well, I’m kind of a homer when it comes to the South Point, so I stick mostly there. But I will have to say that I’m a fan of the Stevens brothers (Derek and Greg), and I’m a fan of what they’ve built. I think it’s a beautiful place they built over there at Circa and that sportsbook, especially.

NASCAR.com: Do you bet a lot of NASCAR?
Gaughan: No. Remember I wasn’t allowed for the last 25, 30 years of my life. I couldn’t. And it was definitely a different era. I mean, (today‘s legal sports betting environment) is very unique. Hell, in 2020, I was doing a gambling television show on a race that I was racing in. But I respected NASCAR’s wishes very, very closely on that and understood. I grew up in this business. There’s a fine line there. So no, I do not bet on NASCAR. And even to this day, truly, I don’t bet on NASCAR. …. Now that I’m out of the sport, I talk about it more often, but I still don’t feel like it’s right. I was too involved too long.

NASCAR.com: South Point title sponsors a race in September (at Las Vegas Motor Speedway). How does your life change during that week?
Gaughan: Oh, God. If at all possible, I try to make sure I leave town (laughs). It’s a very hectic week for the hotel, for me personally. Honestly, it was easier when I was behind the wheel, because at least I had an excuse for a few hours that nobody could bother me. Now it’s wide open. Everybody wants me to go everywhere, wants you to do something. Everybody thinks you have Ticketmaster tattooed on your forehead. So it’s definitely a difficult week. But you know what, so worth it. We love seeing the race fans at the hotel, love seeing the race teams. We have 47 teams total between Truck, Xfinity and Cup that stay with us. We take care of the race teams. Man, we love it.

RELATED: Buy tickets for the Las Vegas playoff weekend

NASCAR.com: That‘s fun. To you, what’s been the biggest surprise so far of the 2021 NASCAR season?
Gaughan: Well, I think it just happened — AJ Allmendinger (winning the Cup race on the Indianapolis Road Course on Aug. 15). That was phenomenal. I was so excited for AJ. …. It wasn’t a surprise to me, surprise to others — Kyle Larson’s dominance. I said in our first show of Gone Racin‘ that I expected Kyle Larson to win at least five races this year. And he’s already at that number.

NASCAR.com: I also heard you mention your nephew as an up-and-coming racer. How’s his career going?
Gaughan: Jakers (Jake Gaughan) is making his way in, he’s racing the off-road, and he’s working hard at it. He’s going through the typical growing pains of trying to race in the desert. He has an allergy to keeping all four wheels down at the moment. We’re trying to fix that problem. But he’s doing great. He finished second last week at Reno in his class, and he’s won a couple of big races, so he’s doing well.

NASCAR.com: If you don‘t bet NASCAR, what do you play?
Gaughan: What‘s funny is growing up in this life — I’m not going to say I didn’t make book with the nuns in fifth grade for extra credit in school — but I don’t tend to bet heavily. I’ve watched my father do it, and what I learned a long time ago was, ‘am I going to worry about my $100 bet, or am I going to worry about what the hotel needs?‘ So I’m rooting for the Denver Broncos, Dad‘s rooting for the Washington Redskins, my $150 win is much less important than the win for the hotel (laughs). So I tend to not bet often. I only bet when I have fun feelings about things, where there‘s people that I like in a game. I used to love betting on (former Bucs and Falcons running back) Warrick Dunn. So I‘ll find a reason to bet, but I don’t do it often anymore.

NASCAR.com: Any casino games?
Gaughan: Yeah, once again growing up the business, you learn you get burned. But I love to shoot dice. If you’re a real casino man, you know how to shoot dice and you know the odds on everything. So a dice table is where you’ll find me. If I’m looking to play with friends and be social, you‘ll find me a Pai Gow table. So depends on the mood.

NASCAR.com: What will it take to get you back in a race car?
Gaughan: Well, I still go race in the desert, and I’ll do that until you pry the steering wheel from my cold dead hand. But in a NASCAR? No thank you, I’m good. I’m happy. I‘ve been there done that. I bought many t-shirts, and I’ve moved on. You’ll find me in the dirt in Baja. Matter of fact, I’m sitting here prepping for the Baja 400 (scheduled for September) right now. If you‘re looking for me, go looking in the dirt in Mexico.

NASCAR.com: What kind of car do you drive in real life?
Gaughan: (laughs) Oh, everybody loves that question, they think my answer is funny. I have a 2012 Volkswagen Routan minivan and a 2020 Chrysler Pacifica Red S Edition minivan.

NASCAR.com: Like a true family man.
Gaughan: I love ‘em! No, I love ‘em. I love minivans! Even without the family. The Red S is my favorite minivan. It is so freaking cool. Look it up online. It’s cool looking.

NASCAR.com: Your pick to win the Cup championship?
Gaughan: I picked him at the start of the season to be a favorite, and everybody kind of laughed at me, but Kyle Larson is still my favorite. He is absolutely showing the talent that he is. If I‘ve got a dark horse sitting there, it’s William Byron, but Hendrick Motorsports is the favorite by far.

Marcus DiNitto is a writer and editor living in Charlotte, North Carolina. He has been covering sports for nearly two-and-a-half decades and sports betting for more than 10 years. His first NASCAR betting experience was in 1995 at North Wilkesboro Speedway, where he went 0-for-3 on his matchup picks. Read his articles and follow him on Twitter; do not bet his picks.