Goodness knows, there are at least half a dozen reasons to scream at the television set in these first weeks of 2021.
Depending on your political persuasion, your job situation, your health or your age, you can holler about the election, the cratering economy and employment market, the physical devastation that has overtaken the country in the last 11 months, the pathetically slow rollout of the COVID-19 vaccine, and several other topics that will raise your blood pressure.
Apparently, none of that has slowed down Nevada sports betting aficionados from screaming at the tube over games they have wagered on. An informed source who runs a major sportsbook here told me recently that the last three months have been tremendously profitable in his industry, with little chance of slowing down in the coming weeks. We have NFL playoff games, the Super Bowl and March Madness on the horizon.
A report from odds.com revealed similar trends in New Jersey, where the Garden State has shown four straight months of record numbers in sports betting. Ninety-four percent of all those bets were made online.
So in addition to Netflix and Amazon and Hulu making bank from the pandemic, you can add Nevada and New Jersey sportsbooks to the list of beneficiaries. No, we can’t attend the games in person these days, but at least we don’t have to do our screaming through a mask.
A wonderful vintage picture of Siegfried & Roy on their way to becoming Siegfried and Roy. pic.twitter.com/YiefjePNA6
— Teller (@MrTeller) January 16, 2021
Like so many others, I have definitely increased my betting during these dreary times, partly out of boredom and partly because I miss the rush of adrenaline that comes with the absence of outdoor activities in more normal times. I’m definitely in the minus column so far this year, but I plan to more than make up for it as major golf season is just around the corner.
A memorable trio
I’m going to make a Lamar Jackson juke and shift direction at this point in the column to pay respects to three Las Vegas icons who have passed on in recent weeks. I refer, of course, to Phyllis McGuire, Sheldon Adelson and Siegfried Fischbacher.
All of these octogenarians left indelible imprints on our community, for distinctly different reasons. If I had used only their first names, long-time Las Vegans would know whom I was referring to.
I have mentioned before that Ms. McGuire’s was a biography I would love to have written, as much for her activities away from the spotlight as in front of it. Phyllis told me on two different occasions that she was very interested in having me write her life story. But alas it never happened.
Had she been fearlessly candid, she could have talked about her relationships with mobster Sam Giancana, Elvis Presley, Frank Sinatra, and JFK. Conspiracy theorists have long wondered about the spider web of connections between those men, especially when it comes to whether Giancana had any involvement with the Kennedy assassination.
I’m certain Ms. McGuire had some insider knowledge and strong opinions about that subject. Now we’ll never know, unless she shared them in a deathbed confession with a writer privileged to tell her story sometime down the road.
I did two long interviews with Mr. Adelson, one for a magazine and one for a friend’s memoir, about 15 years apart. At the second one, he told me he was looking for an author to co-write his own memoir. He then asked my nationality. I told him I was a full-blooded Irishman. “I’m sorry,” he said. “I need a Zionist to tell my story.”
Adelson’s biography is of a man who rose from seriously humble beginnings to becoming one of the wealthiest men in the world. Skeptics were everywhere in the late 1990s when Sheldon transitioned from a convention pioneer to the hotel and gaming world, but he proved them all wrong as he built his empire here and in Macao.
Siegfried and Roy Horn, whom we lost in May 2020, were one of the three most popular acts in Las Vegas history, along with Sinatra and Presley. Their coincidental meeting on a cruise ship in the 1950s, when they recognized they had complimentary talents, and then working their way to America and sold-out headliner status at both the Frontier and the Mirage is a story for the ages.
They say significant deaths often happen in threes, and there’s no question that these three giants, who connected in their disparate ways to the Las Vegas entertainment world, left an indelible imprint on our town.