Leroy’s Race and Sports Book sale ends era

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Longtime Las Vegas sports bettors who found their way to a dilapidated stand-alone race and sports book in the downtown area called Leroy’s will surely believe the end of an era has come with the sale of American Wagering Inc. (BETM) to British bookmaker William Hill PLC.

Leroy’s was a subsidiary of American Wagering Inc.

The sale also is the end of an era, covering the majority of a lifetime, for Victor J. “Vic” Salerno, the man who has guided Leroy’s and its sister companies for more than three decades.

Salerno passed up a promising career as a dentist in California to marry Leroy Merillat’s daughter, Judith, and relocate to Las Vegas where his father-in-law operated that downtown sports betting location.

Little did he foresee at the time that the move would place him in a position to become one of the most influential gaming operators in Nevada.

American Wagering Inc., known as AWI, also is the parent of Computerized Bookmaking Systems Inc. (CBS), the company that for many years has provided the ticket issuing machines used by many of Nevada’s race and sports books. The company was formed in 1996 when American Wagering bought out Autotote’s Nevada business for $3 million.

Through Salerno’s guidance, AWI expanded to 53 Leroy’s wagering locations and 19 satellite kiosks, one of Salerno’s many innovations.

However, the kiosk introduction didn’t compare to his development of a hand-held wagering system that has applications for BlackBerry, Android and iPhone usage. All were being licensed by Nevada regulators when talks began with the William Hill company. These talks ended with AWI agreeing to be acquired for the equivalent of $0.90 per share.

William Hill also is purchasing two other bookmaking operations…Brandywine and Club Cal Neva.

During the regulatory approval process that licensed the U.K. bookmaker, William Hill officials announced that the position of CEO has been offered to Joe Asher, and the position of chairman and chief technology officer to Salerno.

Looking back, Las Vegas observers have watched Salerno lead the way as the old Leroy’s slowly developed into a leading technology company.

Still, for the many race and sports book personnel whose lives were touched by Salerno and his company, the sale surely will feel like the end of an era.

But the memories will linger. 

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