Radio’s JK is
‘the man with the plan’

Feb 8, 2005 11:53 AM

Local radio personality Seat Williams likes to introduce John Kelly, as "J.K., the man with the plan."

If GamingToday is the printed word of the sports betting industry, then John Kelly is its voice.

"Las Vegas is the greatest city in the world,’’ said Kelly, whose interest in sports dates back to his childhood days in Chicago where he earned $4 an hour as an usher at Wrigley Field, Comiskey Park and Soldier Field, along with the three area racetracks (Balmoral, Arlington Park and Sportsman Park).

"I’m careful not to get jaded here," he said. "I love the race and sports book industry, especially the gamblers. They are willing to take the risks and lay it all on the line to make a living."

Kelly is the man behind the prestigious Stardust Football Invitational, which just completed its 10th anniversary.

"Jim Seagrave (Stardust director of marketing) and I decided to create the Invitational that would help promote college football betting and the Stardust was the ideal venue," Kelly said. "Bob Scucci (sports book manager) has taken it to the next level in the last two seasons and we’re delighted with the quality of handicappers and gaming innovators we have been able to attract."

Kelly also produces and stars in several sports betting radio shows that are broadcast on several Las Vegas stations.

Kelly first became enamored with Las Vegas when he moved to California and followed horse racing.

"That was my chance to get involved in the gaming business," he said. "On weekends, I would take the $29 flight into town and found the whole experience fascinating. I knew then I had to live here."

Kelly broke into Las Vegas broadcasting in 1992 after learning the trade under Lee Pete, Arnie Lang and Donnie Bader.

"They were the pioneers," Kelly said. "I remember for years listening to the old Stardust Line show when it blasted into California late at night on KDWN. The signal was one of the strongest in the country after dark."

He became known to Vegas horse players when he created a show called "Raceline." Players could dial the listed number and without charge learn the results of that day’s races along with receiving some stretch calls.

Kelly has hosted the Stardust Line half-hour weekday morning show for over four years and has shaped the program toward gambling and away from sports chatter. He is also one of the hosts on the weekend show, the Friday night preview line show and, most recently, the host of a show sponsored by Leroy’s sports books.

"I am pro industry," he said. "I like to hear from the bettors and bookmakers alike. I don’t like to see attacks coming from either direction. I’m sorry that the books have gotten so conservative today regarding wagers and policy."

Kelly said he is amazed at how knowledgeable the betting public is in Las Vegas, particularly when the city is known for not supporting sports teams.

"In this town, we know everything about every team," he said. "There is a wonderful national perspective. This is an event town, so the prospect of keeping the interest in an 81-game home baseball season, I feel, would be very difficult."

Kelly likes to reflect on a story involving his mom, a deeply religious person who had a hard time adjusting to her son living here.

"When I moved to Vegas she would tell people I was living out West," he laughed. "Now she’s comfortable with me living in Las Vegas, but she won’t say I am involved in gambling. To her, that’s still not socially acceptable. So, she says I’m an announcer."

Fulltime.

"Yes, thank goodness the Stardust pays me well," Kelly said. "It’s nice when you’re avocation becomes you’re vocation."