AGA Hall of Famer Salerno takes USBookmaking Santa Ana Star Casino

October 10, 2018 3:00 AM


Gaming continues its warp-speed cruise toward the mainstream of American business and legal sports betting will help fuel the journey. 

The number of deals linking legal bookmakers with business is all the evidence I need in support of this view. 

And Native Americans are intent on not missing the boat. Vic Salerno who chairs USBookmaking, a limited liability company based in the Las Vegas area, has signed a “risk management” agreement with the sportsbook at the Santa Ana Star Casino that serves the Albuquerque, New Mexico, market. The Star is one of the top revenue producers in the state. Look for the Star to opens its book about the middle of October. 

Salerno has operated in the Las Vegas area for about 40 years and has been a leader with his pioneering use of computers and mobile betting, tools that the rest of the bookmaking business in Nevada and elsewhere have been quick to adopt. 

Salerno says he has no intention of stopping with his New Mexico deals. He will be having conversations with lawmakers in Illinois later this month. 

“We have carved out a position for ourselves,” he said, “a position that makes us a very attractive service provider for the many independent casinos that exist today.” 

Salerno is the lone bookmaker in the American Gaming Association’s Gaming Hall of Fame. However, he’s not the only Nevada bookmaker sniffing out possibilities in the many jurisdictions eyeing sports wagering. 

Jay Kornegay, who has been the man in charge of what’s happening at the Westgate’s SuperBook – formerly the Las Vegas Hilton – is executive Vice President of a venture that that is taking the SuperBook brand to jurisdictions where sports wagering is or will soon be legal as lawmakers lurch toward a future that is rapidly developing. 

Kornegay envisions signage possibilities such as the “Santa Anita Super Book.” 

Hmmm ... was he hinting at an announcement that is still to come? We will have to wait and see.

Las Vegas gaming attorney Greg Gemignani points out that Nevada is the place to shop for companies looking to buy experienced executives who are easily licensable elsewhere. Why? Illegal bookies elsewhere certainly know the business but probably have the police records that would make licensing difficult. 

Another plus: I’m not sure what a gold standard is, but Nevada qualifies for the label. Well regulated commercial gaming -- from sports books to blackjack tables and slot machines -- has been part of the state’s economic and political fabric for years. We’re years past basic issues such as should we or shouldn’t we allow it. 

Salerno hopes to see officials approve opening accounts by phone as New Jersey does. 

The Gaming Control Board is holding another work session later this month, a meeting that will help them digest and respond to the needs of an industry that has never been more competitive. Nevada does not want to lose its position on the cutting edge of a fast-changing business. 

“This is going to be bigger than pot,” said a chuckling Dean Harrold, who has run gaming operation at resorts such as Bally’s, Caesars and the Las Vegas Hilton. 

He remembers when Churchill Downs, a stand-alone sports and race book was one of the busiest books in the area. But that was before all big resorts saw the logic of keeping players under one roof.