Westgate’s book a fitting tribute to the past

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Congratulations to the Westgate race and sportbook. After enduring construction distractions and the accompanying anxiety, they finally got to show it off and what an overwhelming display it is. Where to look first. It’s the ultimate step forward in the evolution of the race and sports business in Las Vegas so far.

It’s a long way from the original property that opened in 1969 as The International. Jasper (Speciale) got me juiced in as a bar boy working in the showroom where Elvis performed two shows a night. What a never ending onslaught of glasses that was.

Much more fun was working in the lounge where Redd Foxx was the headliner. What a gentleman he was despite the rough image he put on in his routine. He especially related to us working behind the scenes in the service bar. He opened his suite for us anytime we wanted. When he would take time off from his show he knew our tips would suffer so he would leave an envelope for us to cut up.

Elvis was attracted to Phyllis, one of our nicest cocktail waitresses in the lounge. The other thing I remember about him was he required his steaks to be cut up in one inch pieces. Oh well.

Downtown was a destination point then. The stupid canopy wasn’t there. Fremont Street had two way traffic. Cabs parked along the curb, kids, mine included, cruised on Friday nights. Binions was the biggest high stakes gambling joint in Las Vegas. Downtown had personality and characters. In 1976 the Union Plaza became the first hotel/casino to be granted a race and sportsbook license followed by the Stardust on the Strip.

On the North edge of downtown, across from the Gaming Commission building, sat ancient Cashman Field. Not today’s Cashman but an old field with cement bleachers and a mostly dirt surface that was home to the Las Vegas Cowboys football team in 1968 and 1969. The Cowboys continued a tradition of many failed minor league franchises. Hockey, soccer, basketball, football all were given a chance but Las Vegas didn’t support them.

The NBA and the baggage they would put on the streets of Las Vegas would be a disaster. Remember the NBA All Star Game and the 400 or so arrests? Besides, the NBA tried it here already by scheduling six exhibition games in the Thomas & Mack. That experiment was a dismal failure.

The NBA, however, did sell out the Thomas & Mack for a game. I was present with my son Vincent the night Kareem Abdul Jabbar broke the NBA scoring record. T&M was packed to the roof.

The NFL would require at least an 80,000 seat venue. Someone would build it but filling it up every game would be a nightmare, even for the world class marketing people in Las Vegas. Every game would have to be presented as a Super Bowl to fill the seats. It might work if the Steelers played every week with their huge following. The Stilerz (that’s western Pennsylvania for Steelers) are the only NFL team without cheerleaders and they share an outdoor field with Pitt, yet hold a most loyal fan base.

An NHL franchise could possibly survive here. They average around 16,000 attendance and with the many transplants from hockeyland now residing in Las Vegas a mildly successful franchise could make it, at least for a few seasons.

The Pacific Coast League AAA franchises of the Dodgers, Blue Jays and Mets were mildly successful playing in a newer Cashman Field as the Las Vegas Stars and the 51’s. Crowds average around 4,500 but the current 51’s have Major League financial backing.

Big fights are supported here and the UFC could present a card every week and sell out. Their fans can’t get enough so Las Vegas will support something besides night clubs and showrooms.

Look at the Runnin Rebels of Jerry Tarkanian. Las Vegas supported them with a passion. Those were awesome times. With so much to do in Las Vegas today I think the Westgate will fill more seats over a given season than a pro sports team. Vegas is what it is. Take care, Scotty.

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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