Casino Owner Backs Up His Wolverine Fandom With Big Bets

Written By Kim Yuhl on April 7, 2018 - Last Updated on October 13, 2020
Michigan University stadium

Derek Stevens, owner of The D Casino, may call Las Vegas, Nevada home, but his blood still runs true blue.

Michigan graduate bets big on the Wolverines

Stevens, a Michigan graduate, believed so strongly in the Wolverines that he went out looking for some serious action before the beginning of March Madness.

He finally convinced Tilman Fertitta, owner of Golden Nugget Casinos, and the Houston Rockets, to accept a $25,000 bet that his alma mater would win the NCAA championship.

Fertitta agreed to the bet at 40-1 odds, which would generate the biggest payout in Golden Nugget history, $1,000,000 should Michigan go all the way.

“He has been willing to take a couple of big bets over the years,” said Stevens to the Detroit Free Press. “About a month (ago) I was talking to him, and I said ‘I’d like to take a shot at winning a million.’ We went back and forth, and he finally said ‘yes I’ll take it.'” Keeping his eye on the prize

As Michigan progressed throughout the tournament, Stevens could be found cheering on Michigan on Twitter and in the sports book. When the Wolverines kept winning, Stevens started thinking about how he would spend the money.

“I’m re-investing it in building a new casino in downtown Las Vegas,” he said. “I have the Golden Gate Hotel and Casino, and I have the D Las Vegas, which a lot of people from Detroit come to watch Tigers or Pistons. I’m in the process of building a third casino.”

Paying an insurance premium

Stevens and Fertitta may have a history of friendly bets, but things heated up when Michigan made the Final Four. With so much money on the line, Stevens had a decision to make about whether to hedge or not.

Stevens chose to hedge his bet, and before the championship game, he wagered $330,000 on a money line bet on Villanova at William Hill Sports Book.

He even livestreamed walking a box of cash across the street to place his bet.

The “insurance premium” as Stevens likes to call it, made sure he came out a winner regardless of who ended up winning. If Michigan had won, Stevens would have pocketed a tidy $645,000. Instead, Villanova hoisted the trophy and sent Stevens home with a tidy $75,000 and this tweet from Golden Nugget.

Bettering last year’s performance

Big bets on Michigan basketball are nothing new for Stevens. In 2017, he wagered $12,500 on Michigan to win it all, once again before March Madness began. Ask any Michigan fan, and you’ll know that kind of blind faith runs rampant.

Golden Nugget accepted the action and gave him 80-1 odds. Unfortunately, there wasn’t much of a sweat last year as Michigan went home, courtesy of Oregon in the Sweet Sixteen.

From Sweet Sixteen last year to the Championship game this year – all that’s left for Michigan is to win it all.

We’re guessing Stevens is ready to bet on that. Get ready Golden Nugget, if history repeats itself, Stevens will be knocking on your door next spring.

Photo by mivod /

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Kim Yuhl

Kim Yuhl is a freelance writer and blogger who writes about poker culture and the online gambling industry. A part-time member of the poker media since 2013, Kim recently sold her marketing business to write full-time while traveling around the world. You can learn more about her work and travels at

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