Jimmy Vaccaro returns to South Point sportsbook

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The prodigal son has once again returned.

Michael Gaughan has four children. Actually, he should be counted as having five given Jimmy Vaccaro believes in his heart of hearts that the 76-year-old Mr. Gaughan is like a father to him.

Vaccaro has returned to Las Vegas following a less-than-auspicious run at the Rivers sportsbook in his hometown of Pittsburgh. He’s going to help keep things running smoothly while sportsbook manager Chris Andrews tries to win his fight with cancer.

He was at work Monday. And it’s good to have him back in town. With football season approaching, it would be weird to not have him in Vegas talking point spreads and the game itself.

This is not the first time Vaccaro and Gaughan have teamed up. He was at Gaughan’s Barbary Coast until leaving in 1989 to work for Steve Wynn at The Mirage. Eventually, he would rejoin Gaughan at the South Point in 2013 .

He kept the ship afloat thanks to a hard-working and loyal staff. He did talk radio with Brent Musburger on the Vegas Stats and Information Network in a studio adjacent to the South Point’s sportsbook. He did other VSiN shows as well, along with some local sports talk radio, promoting the South Point, generating interest in the joint at the far end of the Las Vegas Strip.

Last fall, it was announced Vaccaro was leaving the South Point to lend his name and expertise to a sportsbook venture in his hometown of Pittsburgh. Nothing wrong with that. In fact, everyone believed it would be a perfect fit. Vaccaro was something of a media celebrity in the sports betting world and certainly when the mainstream media would be looking for betting stories come Super Bowl week, they’d have Jimmy’s number on speed dial.

What Vaccaro told everyone as he was headed back East was that the Rivers Casino wanted him “To be Jimmy Vaccaro.” Sounded simple enough. Rivers was going to be the first legal sportsbook in Pennsylvania. Vaccaro’s name certainly held prominence in the sports betting world. People liked Jimmy, sharps and squares alike.

He’d be around every day. He’d schmooze the customers. He’d tell a few war stories and hopefully drive traffic to the book at Rivers.

Everyone seemed excited.

Vaccaro showed up, posed in a Rivers sportsbook golf shirt for a press release, did a couple of interviews with the Pittsburgh media and one or two others in the national sports gambling press and he was going to be on his way.

But something weird happened. Vaccaro wasn’t seen or heard from. it was as if he went into the sportsbook witness protection program. People were concerned and worried about him. 

Vaccaro’s never going to divulge what really happened. What he will tell you, when he’s ready, is what a saint Michael Gaughan is, how he felt an obligation to come back to Vegas as his good friend Andrews convalesces.

He may mention how he probably didn’t need to be spending yet another harsh Pittsburgh winter despite the fact he could have insulated himself in his place, keep the Turner Classic Movies channel on 24/7, hopefully catch some ‘50s Noir flicks and meet up with his remaining comrades from the neighborhood’s old days when he did venture outside. Hell, he probably found someplace where he could even get a decent massage, something that is part of Vaccaro’s regular routine.

But while it may not have worked out, Rivers appears to be doing well, as is the entire Pennsylvania sportsbook industry, small as it may be at the moment. The state posted some very good numbers last month and things are trending the right way.

Here’s what you need to know about Jimmy Vaccaro. He’s not a complicated guy. He finds modern-day life to be a royal pain in the ass, even though he thinks Twitter is a somewhat amusing thing to engage in — within reason. Give him a good burger, a good game or good movie on TV and he’s a very happy man.

So go ahead and read into this return to Vegas by Vaccaro as you wish. Fire up the conspiracy theories. But don’t expect a blow-by-blow description as to why it didn’t work out in Pittsburgh and why he’s back in Las Vegas. That’s simply not the way Jimmy Vaccaro does business. Never has. Never will.

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About the Author

Steve Carp

Steve Carp is a six-time Nevada Sportswriter of the Year. A 30-year veteran of the Las Vegas sports journalism scene, he covered the Vegas Golden Knights for the Las Vegas Review-Journal from 2015-2018.

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