Back before computers and analytics dominated the sports betting world, there were people like Sid Diamond setting the lines for the sports books in Las Vegas.
For Diamond, it was about a pad, a pen and his mind in making the numbers and allowing customers to gamble.
“He was a throwback to the old days of Las Vegas,” said Gaming Today publisher Bill Paulos.
A resident of Southern Nevada for more than 40 years, Diamond, who started as a ticket writer at the Del Mar Sports Book in the 1970s, ran the sports books at Circus Circus and its sister properties and also was in charge at several other establishments, including the Rampart, Excalibur, the Stratosphere and the Edgewater in Laughlin.
Diamond died on Oct. 24 after suffering from lung complications. He was 83.
“He was the classic Damon Runyon character,” Paulos said of Diamond, who wrote a column on sports betting for Gaming Today from 2010 to 2012. “But nobody had the ethics of Sid and he really knew how to take care of his customers.”
“He was a heck of a handicapper,” said longtime friend Mike Graninger. “Baseball. Football. Basketball. Hockey. He knew every sport.
“He would study everything, then make his own numbers. He did his job and he did it very well.”
Graninger worked for Diamond in Laughlin. He remembered how Diamond would make sure he catered to the locals while not abandoning the players in Las Vegas who he had befriended over the years.
“When phone betting started in Nevada and we got it at the Edgewater, Sid set up two separate lines,” Graninger said. “One was for the locals in Laughlin, the other was for his Vegas bettors. He knew the locals would always bet on the California teams so he shaded the number different for them. It always came a little higher than you’d find in Vegas.”
Diamond was also one of the originators of in-game wagering, something that virtually every book currently has. But back in the mid-1990s, it was unheard of and Diamond relied on his numbers, which he essentially did inside his head to establish, to be true for both the customer and the Excalibur.
Diamond was also good to work for. Gaming Today columnist Rich Saber worked for Diamond at Excalibur and he recalled Diamond would always be looking out for his employees.
“Sid always took care of the people who worked for him,” Saber said. “We had a huge winning year in sports and he wanted to have his supervisors get a bonus, but his boss said no.
“When Sid got his bonus, he split it with his supervisors and also gave all the writers a few extra bucks. That’s who Sid was.”
Micah Roberts, who writes a weekly column for Gaming Today on the sports book industry, worked for Diamond at Circus Circus. He recalled how Diamond influenced his decision to stay in the business.
“I wasn’t sure I wanted to work in a sports book long-term,” Roberts said. “But Sid convinced me to stay with it.
“He was a larger-than-life figure. He was a Vegas legend. He had an art to running a sports book. He knew and understood people and he knew his customers.
“I remember when I came to work at Palace Station and Sid dropped by and said to me, ‘I’m proud of you, kid. I’m so happy for you.’ That made me feel so good.”
Paulos said Diamond wasn’t afraid to gamble himself. He loved to bet totals in baseball. He had set up a compass that had every major league stadium’s dimensions. Each day, he would call the airport to see which way the wind was blowing in a particular city. If the wind was blowing in, he would bet the game under. If it was blowing out, he would wager on the over.
“He never missed a thing,” Paulos said. “He was so smart.”
Paulos also recalled when Diamond had taken a job in Costa Rica and after a year, returned to Las Vegas. But when it came time to get his license renewed, the Nevada Gaming Control Board insisted Diamond reveal the names of his customers from Las Vegas who bet with him in Costa Rica.
He refused and was denied a chance to work again in Nevada.
“He had to get out of the business because he refused to give up the names of the guys who bet with him,” Paulos said. “I tried to talk him into it, but he wouldn’t do it. He forfeited his career in the casino industry to protect those guys. That’s the kind of guy Sid was.
“It’s unfortunate you don’t see that breed of person anymore.”
Diamond, who was born in Long Beach, N.Y. on June 7, 1935, is survived by his three sons Michael, Jeff and Kevin, along with their spouses, six grandchildren and three great-grandchildren. Funeral services are scheduled for 10 a.m. Tuesday at King David Memorial Chapel 2697 East Eldorado Lane in Las Vegas. Burial will follow at the Southern Nevada Veterans Memorial Cemetery in Boulder City.
The family requests that memorial donations be sent to Midbar Kodesh Temple in Henderson.