The Stardust brought Vegas sportsbooks to the masses

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In January 1986, CBS launched a prime time investigative show with Dan Rather as host. It was called “48 Hours,” not to be confused with a cable show with a similar name today.

Dan Rather would spend 48 hours on-site of each production, along with numerous filming crews. We were on the second show, which aired 1/26/88 in front of 30 million viewers. The theme was Las Vegas, and it was not very complimentary. It was arguably a hit piece except for the Stardust race and sportsbook.

Rather was impressed with the book operation, the customers, and an atmosphere he said, “Hollywood couldn’t create.” He spent the entire two days in the book, betting horses and hanging out. He let his crews cover the rest of Vegas.

Rather opened the hour long, prime time show from the sportsbook by telling viewers: “If you’re looking for the hottest bet in Las Vegas, this is the place to come, the sportsbook in the Stardust,” and went on to sing our praises for the first 14 minutes of the show. While interviewing me he tried to veer into OC (organized crime), but I tap danced away from that and the interview went great from there.

The remainder of the show was a hit piece on Las Vegas casinos, gambling addictions, shows, kids as victims and family life. Local politicians, corporate big shots, Las Vegas media and local prima donnas were in a tizzy. Everyone but us sportsbook scufflers – ironic, ain’t it?

“Sports Illustrated” decided to do a sports gambling edition. The March 10, 1986 edition was titled “GAMBLING: America’s National Pastime?” They covered lots of gambling topics and personalities, but there we were, the Stardust sportsbook, in an extensive write up in the middle of SI.

Correspondent Douglas Looney explained in-depth how Jerry the Hat, Roxy, Jeff Garrett and I made the Stardust’s opening basketball line and how Richard Saber along with my talented, capable crew handled the action and moved the numbers. Our sportsbook marketing budget was $0. However, in 1986 dollars, a full-page ad in SI cost $500,000 so we got a four page $2 million promotion free.

Looney was impressed with the operation and genuinely interested. He spent time in my home with my family and me while enjoying Conne’s spaghetti dinners.

An interview with Charlie Rose on “CBS Nightwatch” may have been the best. It was the simplest of all but had substance. The entire late night half hour was all Stardust sports betting and booking.

The NBC Sunday night network news had this to say before the famous 1987 Penn State vs. Miami Orange Bowl Game: “There are the joints like Leroy’s with the players looking like they stepped out of a Damon Runyon story, to the high-tech sportsbooks like Hilton’s $17 million video extravaganza for the high rollers, but the bookmakers and bettors know it’s the Stardust who sets the odds for the whole country.”

On the 1988 Broncos vs. Redskins Super Bowl “P.M. Magazine” show, Roxy and I were featured, but the show paid well-deserved attention to my sportsbook crew. Saber was a big part of it and deserved the recognition. Roxy was well established by this time and came across as very professional in suit and tie. He became a most capable spokesman for the betting industry in Nevada. They could use him today.

Roxy and I were in the best-selling investigative hardback: “INTERFERENCE: How Organized Crime Influences Professional Football” by Dan Moldea, 1989 (Morrow Publishing). It was an extensive, well-researched book. We were but two of hundreds of names, presented as good guys just making the odds others used.

“Playboy,” the “Wall Street Journal” and FNN gave us exposure, adding to the Stardust mystique. Much of the country’s sports viewing and betting segment was by now woven together with us one way or another. Our line was used by radio/TV as well as sports pages and other publications.

Our opening odds were posted at 8 a.m. daily in all sports but football, which was posted at 6 p.m. every Sunday. The service guys immediately sent out our Sunday night football numbers so parlay cards could be printed around the country.

I made a deal with Computer Sports World (CSW), then located in Boulder City, to send them our line in return for free use of their extensive sports database. They put the Stardust Line on their wire service that was distributed by SportsTicker in New York. From there it appeared on 1,400 reader boards around the globe. We, in turn, received and printed out CSW’s daily, updated sports data.

We displayed reams of this data in the Sports Handicappers Library built for our players next to the sports counter. It was comical. Guys as well as girls read this “information” into recorders to handicap at home. Others would try to steal a sheet or two. People were sitting on chairs they took from the keno parlor reading and taking notes. The UNLV Library should have been so busy.

We gave our line to Mickey Charles who owns The Sports Network (TSN) out of Philadelphia. Mickey was the competition to Sports Ticker. He had reader boards in sportsbooks and now the Stardust numbers appeared on his as well as on Sports Ticker’s boards. The rub here was LV sportsbooks with reader boards now had the Stardust Line appearing in their books. Their customers began asking, “Why don’t you have this game or that game? The Dust has it.” Oh, well.

All this exposure cost us nothing. They came to us. There has to be a moral in there somewhere.

Scotty Schettler began his Las Vegas journey in 1968. By the time he quit the race and sports book business he had booked over $1.5 billion for different employers. He says he knows where most of the cans are buried. His book,  is available on amazon.com. Contact Scotty at [email protected].

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