By Christina Fuoco-Karasinski
The Emmy Awards, HBO and sports betting in Arizona have one thing in common. JB Smoove has a hand in them.
Earlier this year, Smoove received his first career Emmy nomination for Best Actor in a Short Form Series for his performance as Chief Billy Bills in the “Mapleworth Murders.” The nomination was a long time coming for the acclaimed showman.
“I got my start in the industry in the 1990s on the comedy circuit in New York and then with Def Jam Comedy, and eventually with a gig on MTV, just like Snookie,” Smoove says with a laugh.
Technically, his MTV break came with a 1999 recurring role on the channel’s “The Lyricist Lounge Show,” not a reality television show.
In 1999, Smoove also landed a guest spot on HBO’s “The Chris Rock Show,” where he would work for the first time with Rock. In fact, Smoove eventually worked on Rock’s “Everybody Hates Chris” TV series in the mid-2000s and then star with Rock in the 2014 feature film “Top Five.”
During the nearly 15 years in between “The Chris Rock Show” and “Top Five,” Smoove worked as a cast member on “Cedric the Entertainer Presents “and earned a writing position on “Saturday Night Live,” which, in 2007, earned Smoove and his fellow writing partners a Writers Guild award for Best Comedy/Variety Series.
He also appeared in “Date Night” with Steve Carell and Tina Fey and the Farrelly Brothers-directed comedy “Hall Pass,” as well as “The Sitter” with Jonah Hill, “We Bought a Zoo” with Matt Damon and “The Dictator” opposite Sacha Baron Cohen.
In 2007, Smoove not only earned the “SNL” honors, but he began his career-defining role as Leon Black on “Curb Your Enthusiasm.”
“I joined in season six after my fictional sister, Loretta Black (played by Vivica A. Fox), was displaced during Hurricane (Edna) and moved in with Larry David,” Smoove says.
His character also moved into David’s palatial California mansion despite already living in Los Angeles and never experiencing Katrina-like fictional Edna himself. “I moved in and never left.”
Smoove’s masculine, ultra-confident, freeloading character quickly became a fan favorite on the highly improvised series, which follows “Seinfeld” co-creator David as he plays a version of himself living semi-retired and always annoyed in Los Angeles.
“Most people don’t know, but JB actually stands for Jerry Brooks, so I am technically the second Jerry to hilariously terrorize Larry on TV,” Smoove says.
After being derailed by COVID-19, Smoove and David will return to the small screen later this month for the much-anticipated 11th season of the series.
“While I can’t give anything away, this season is a sure bet for viewers,” Smoove says. “And you can trust me, because I am now the grand emperor of the betting world.”
While that may sound like hyperbole, Smoove is only half joking.
On September 9, Smoove rolled into Phoenix on a chariot — a luxury Uber wrapped like a chariot, to be more specific — to serve as Caesars Entertainment’s Caesar to usher in sports betting across Arizona. He joined executives from Caesars Entertainment as well as Derrick Hall and Luis Gonzalez of the Arizona Diamondbacks for the public celebration.
“The Caesars Sportsbook at Chase Field, home of the Arizona Diamondbacks, is going to be a state-of-art entertainment destination unlike any other in Arizona,” Smoove says.
During the ceremonial first bet on September 9, Smoove provided a $20,000 donation from Caesars to the Arizona Diamondbacks Foundation to fete the partnership and the organization’s commitment to the community. The sportsbook, sports bar and broadcast studio, made possible through Caesars’ exclusive sports betting and daily fantasy partnership, will be located at the former Game 7 Grill space located just outside of Chase Field. It will feature a sports betting experience befit for an emperor and an all-inclusive experience for nonsports bettors alike.
The approximately 20,000-square-foot, two-story venue will feature indoor and outdoor seating options including two floors of sports betting space, a full-service bar and VIP lounge, an extensive menu, and wall-to-wall flat screens. The space will be open year-round, but no wagering is allowed on game days. The venue will have flexible hours of operation to cater to specific sporting events.
Bet like a Caesar: Two floors of sports betting space provide a next-level atmosphere to bet. Whether it’s with a teller at a kiosk, or on the Caesars Sportsbook app, customers will have many choices to easily place a wager.
Watch like a Caesar: With around 1,500 square feet of indoor and outdoor LED screens, Caesars Sportsbook at Chase Field will be a sports environment worthy of any Caesars emperor. With many major sporting events being displayed, customers will never have to worry about asking to change the channel again.
Dine like a Caesar: A sports betting experience befit for an emperor needs a menu to feast like one. Customers can indulge in top-notch food in 10,000 square feet of indoor and outdoor dining space.
Hydrate like a Caesar: Caesar never walks around without his goblet, so customers can make sure to have a drink in hand, too. Emperors can grab their preferred beverage of choice at the inside or outside bar, or even at the private bar in the VIP lounge.
Arrive like a Caesar: Caesar never strolled far to get where he wanted once he stepped off his chariot. That will be the case at Caesars Sportsbook, where the action is easily accessible from parking areas surrounding Chase Field.
“The Caesars Sportsbook at Chase Field will be the premier sports betting and entertainment destination in Downtown Phoenix,” says Hall, the president and chief executive officer of the Arizona D-backs.
“D-backs fans, Arizona residents and out-of-state visitors, whether they are sports bettors or not, should look forward to this state-of-the-art, year-round location that will feature first-class dining, betting and hospitality experience — all while taking in their favorite sporting event or watching their favorite team. This sportsbook will transform the sports viewing experience in Arizona.”
While the permanent space is being built, according to Smoove, fans can make a bet at Chase Field at ticket windows 21 to 25, marking the first MLB stadium where sports fans can place an in-person wager. Leading up to the grand opening of the retail space, bets can also be placed at five betting kiosks on the north side of the plaza being installed in the interim.
“As Caesar, I would be remiss if I didn’t also note my reign over sports betting through modern technology in Arizona as well,” Smoove says.
Arizonans can download the Caesars Sportsbook app, register and place bets at their fingertips as well.
The easy-to-navigate app integrates mobile sports betting with Caesars’ industry-leading loyalty program, Caesars Rewards, where every bet, win or lose rewards the bettor with Tier Credits and Reward Credits that can be used to unlock unbeatable experiences within the Caesars portfolio of properties and partnerships, including access to VIP experiences with the D-backs at Chase Field for registered app users in Arizona.
“We are all Caesars now! Let the bets begin, Arizona!” Smoove says.