This story started a few weeks back when a friend of mine came to town, found there were no rooms in any of the inns, and asked if I could get him one at Palace Station.
My friend has plenty of cash and likes to pay. When in town he bets the ponies, but does not like to use any tracking cards. The way the books are run nowadays with the big corporations, no reservation or tracking card when rooms are sold out makes it very hard to get one.
Michael Jackson was a musical genius
But having no problems in the past, I went to the boss who, as always, said he would call down and take care of it. My friend showed up with his one bag, sat in the book and played a little with me. The boss comes out and tells me no rooms, the Electric Daisy event has all the rooms in the entire city.
They told him the only way I could get a room was through my host.
Host? I didn’t even know I had a race book host let alone there even was one. I have never been approached by a host nor have I ever seen one in the race book. Not since the Stardust back in the 70’s and 80’s when the host of hosts, Mel Golden, was there.
I went out in search of my host and they told me maybe the person I wanted to see came in around 6 p.m. Now that is a wonderful time for a race book host to come in!
I went back to my friend in the book who just dropped a few hundred waiting for me and I told him no rooms. He says, “Take me to the airport,” and that was that.
But it got me thinking about Golden. He was a real character who was loved by all, including me. He had only two weaknesses, his wife Judy and betting the ponies. Mel could get anything anywhere in the city back then. He took care of his many players and spent hours and hours down in the Stardust race book with friends and players, including me before I started work there.
Mel never read the Racing Form and would depend on the steam he got from his wise guy buddies, one of which was Charlie Hall, the most dangerous bettor in Vegas at the time. Hall never read a Racing Form either.
Mel would do anything to get Charlie’s plays and would usually go to Jimmie Lou who was running the race book at the time. Jimmie Lou was a beautiful blonde who was the first female race book manager in the state and knew her stuff. She was from Texas, and her dad was one of the biggest bookmakers in the Longhorn state. She was good looking and tough as nails.
Jimmie Lou was always interested in me and would talk whenever she got a chance. She started to invite me for drinks after the races. Later she told me she thought I was FBI and was just digging. You see, I would always come to the book wearing nice dress slacks, dress shirt and a sports coat. She just wanted to watch out for her players and the book, and after finding out I wasn’t FBI all was OK.
Anyway, back to Mel. This one day Charlie Hall goes outside the back of the race book to make a call on one of the many pay phones there at the time. Mel sneaks behind him to find out what he is going to do (For you youngsters there were no cell phones back then).
Mel hears Charlie say, “412.” In those days, all the tracks had betting numbers with New York starting with 101 for the first race and so forth. I think the 400 numbers were Chicago but I really don’t remember. Anyway, Mel went to the window, bet on 412, firing with both fists.
Jimmie Lou says to Mel, “Where did you get that horse?” Mel tells her a little birdie gave it to him. She calls me over and says Mel just bet good on this 412. See if you can find out where he got it. I go over to Mel, who tells me he heard Charlie Hall outside betting it over the phone.
Now the word gets out and the money is pouring in on 412. Jimmie Lou puts a $20 limit on the animal. In those days there was no pari-mutuel betting. The house booked all the bets on its own, so the race book managers really had to keep an eye on the betting.
Jimmie Lou calls Joe D, the person who gave the made-up calls of the race – there was no live racing on any TVs back then with the exception of the Triple Crown. She asks Joe what the horse did and he tells her it didn’t hit the board. She says give him a big call to make it exciting. He does, but at the end the horse stops and finishes last.
I tell Charlie the horse didn’t do well and he says what horse? I give him the story and he says he was outside making a long distance call to area code 412.
Now this is a true story, Vegas was great back then and Mel Golden, rest his soul, was a host of hosts.
Do you know who your host is? Mine is my players card, I guess.
Richard Saber, a former director of race and sports at the famed Stardust book, is GamingToday’s horse racing and sports handicapper. Follow Richard on Twitter @SabesBet. Contact Richard at [email protected].