Gamblers show that they have a heart

Mar 13, 2001 8:00 AM

If anyone ever thought gamblers have no heart, they should have shown up at Palm Mortuary in Las Vegas Monday when family and friends said good-bye to legendary oddsmaker Bob Martin.

Dyed-in-the-wool gamblers who basked in the sunshine when Bob Martin wrote his numbers on sporting events came calling. Although time has taken its toll on many of the faces of the mourners, it didn’t stop tears from sliding down the cheeks of many. Bob’s pals and relatives eulogized him during the service. Martin was noted for his humor and the stories about him showed it.

His longtime pal Jack Franzi had a humorous story.

"I had planned to visit with him at his home in New York in early March. But his loving family called. They advised me not to wait that long. When I arrived he was in his bed. He put on a big smile when he saw me. His wit — until the very end — never faded. He told me he had a new business venture we should get into.

"I listened.

"In a somber tone he said: ‘We’re going to sell Kosher Viagra’."

Franzi also recalled Bob’s generosity to waiters, waitresses, bartenders and everyone he came in contact with.

"There was one exception: valet parkers. Bob seldom drove a car. He invented the designated driver system."

Franzi continued: "Bob left me with a quote I’ll never forget. It was his favorite. Win or lose, Bob was as cool as a cucumber. He used to tell me, ‘Don’t worry. Tomorrow we’ll eat the same breakfast’."

Joan Boris, a niece, said she knew Bob Martin as Nelson Bloom.

"He was my Uncle Nelly. He used to take me to nursery school. I would love to go into a deli with him. He would always tell the waitress he wanted the sandwich with the most cholesterol. The poor girl would be stumped. Bob would look at her with sober eyes and ask for a hot pastrami."

Danny Kramer said he met Bob in 1986. "He lived life on his own terms. He never forgot where he came from. His parents ran a deli in Brooklyn. And above all, he was the most devoted husband to his wife of 42 years, Carlotta.

Bill Kilgore, his son, told how devoted a father Bob was. "The worst thing Bob ever said to me when I made a mistake (and I made a few) was, ‘Don’t worry. We’ll work it out.’

"He was my father, best friend and hero. And I loved him. When he introduced me as his son, I was 10 feet tall."

Names in the crowd read like a Who’s Who among Las Vegas gamblers. Among them were family and friends. His daughter, Stacey and her husband, Eric St. Claire, their daughter, Ashley. Among the friends were Jackie Gaughan, Michael Gaughan, Frank Toti, Tito Tiberti, Al "Mokey" Faccinto, Lorenzo Fertitta, Herb Tobman, Art Manteris, Sid Diamond, Herbie "Hoops," Maxine Quinn, Keith Glantz, Ray Lenzi, Gene Kilroy, Larry Grossman, Larry Krantz, Vic Salerno, Arne Lang and many, many more.

Bob Martin stories were being told by nearly everyone prior to the service.

His longtime friend Sid Diamond: "Players in heaven are in for a treat. Finally, they will get their first shot at a solid line."

Also, "Can I add another? Bob Martin was a bookmaker’s bookmaker. That’s a crown that only he could wear."

Herb Tobman: "Every time I went to visit Bob, I brought two bags of sandwiches. The bag he saw me carry in had two ham sandwiches. I’d give them to Bob and he would hastily open it. His face would get long when he found out they were ham. He’d ask where the pastrami was. Then I’d reach into my jacket and pull out a pastrami sandwich. He loved it."

Michael "Roxy" Roxboro, the oddsmaker who succeeded Bob Martin, sent an e-mail from Bangkok, Thailand: "Bob Martin lent dignity and integrity to oddsmaking. He had a wonderful mind for assessing odds long before the computer era. He relied on his memory, instinct and common sense.

"He was also one of the funniest persons I ever met. He had a quick, dry wit and was always available for a joke, even during the bleakest moments. And, believe me, in the oddsmaking business there are plenty of bleak moments."

Palace Station bids Good-bye, Musty Chips!

By David Stratton

Palace Station is seeking redemption — of their gaming chips, that is.

The popular casino on West Sahara has issued new chips and has set a deadline of May 31 for cashing in their old plastic ones.

"The new chips are part of a fresh new look in the casino and in the pits," said Todd Moyer, Palace Station’s vice president of marketing. Moyer added Palace Station is redeeming about 50,000 chips. Denominations run from $5 to $25,000. (Metal $1 tokens aren’t being recalled).

Moyer said many people have probably decided to keep their chips (assuming they’re not of the $25,000 variety!) as souvenirs or collectibles.

"When we first announced we were changing over, we noticed many chips were being taken out of circulation," Moyer said.

New chips have been issued in the standard denominations: $1, $5, $25, $100, $500, $1,000, $5,000 and $25,000. Palace Station has also issued two chips —$3 and $8 varieties — that are probably the first of their kind in the state.

While the oddball chips can be played anywhere in the casino, the $3 chips are especially useful at Palace Station’s $3 blackjack tables. The $8 chips are earmarked for the new Asian Pit, which contains Pai Gow Poker. The number "8" often denotes good fortune to Asian players.

Nevada casinos seek private ‘whale’ refuges

A bill proposed in the Nevada senate would permit casinos to offer exclusive, high-stakes salons for its best players, who are often called "whales."

Entry to these exclusive gaming areas would be based on financial criteria, but could not be restricted because of race, religion, gender, age or other ethnic considerations.

The bill has been pushed by the Nevada Resort Association, which has complained that the world’s biggest gamblers — about 100 of them — are lured to locales that offer private facilities.

Currently, Nevada law requires all gambling to be in "plain view" and with "open access" to anyone legally old enough to be in a casino.

Under terms of SB 283, a casino would pay a $5,000 fee for a license to operate a salon, where table games must be available and the minimum pull on a slot machine would be $500.

Turner aids G-Tech recovery

When high-powered gaming analyst Bruce Turner left Salomon Smith Barney a couple years ago, he thought he was going to spend time relaxing at home in the Florida sunshine.

Just to have something to keep him interested in the industry, he accepted a position as a member of the board of directors of GTECH Holdings Inc. (GTK), the world’s leading lottery systems provider that had been extending its gaming experience to include a racetrack and a simulcast center.

Then GTECH’s world collapsed.

Problems erupted in England (beyond the original debacle dealing with the company’s founder and former CEO) when it was reported that GTECH’s system had underpaid some lottery winners for as much as four years and didn’t report the problem to the lottery operators until well after the glitch had been corrected.

And a few jurisdictions to which the company had provided services elected to change suppliers.

That’s when the bottom fell out of the company’s hierarchy. Its two top executives resigned.

Turner was pressed into service. His gaming industry experience and his ability to deal with shareholders placed him in a leading position. He was elected chairman of the board and acting chairman of the company.

Within a few short months, Turner worked at putting out the existing fires, as well as moving the company forward while searching for a chief executive officer.

That ended last week when GTECH announced the appointment of Howard Cohen, an accomplished technical executive, as its new CEO. This came on the heels of successful activities in Poland, Beijing and even in the United Kingdom, where the company’s future was clouded.

Stepping down voluntarily, Turner said he was pleased he could now devote his time to demands of shareholders’ activities.

Cruise ship to offer high-limit games

A day-cruise casino ship — created by a team of Las Vegas consultants and gaming cruise ship executives — will begin twice-a-day cruises from a port in Galveston, Texas, into international waters.

Talisman Cruises will begin operation in April with sailings at 11 a.m. and 7 p.m., Robin Powell, one of the managing partners, told GamingToday.

The ship’s casino will have 400 slot machines and 35 table games. However, unlike most casino day-cruise ships, the gaming operator will have many of the important features of a high-limit, land-based casino. How high? Table limits up to $5,000 on 18 blackjack tables and four craps tables; and up to $20,000 on eight baccarat games.

The 400 slot machines will be unique. They will offer the first coinless and ticketless systems in the North American gaming market by using "smart card" technology. It allows players to move from machine to machine, accessing their cash directly from the system developed by Casino Data Systems (CDS) of Las Vegas. Productive Solutions of Reno will provide a customized automated boarding system that will interface with the CDS system.

The ship is 433 feet long and will carry 800 passengers. Talisman bought the Enchanted Sun from Commodore Cruises and renamed it The Talisman. It will sail under the flag of the Bahamas, with an American crew and staff of more than 400 people.

The Galveston dock is 62 miles south of Houston.

Locals want same deal as out-of-towners


Slot clubs that exclude Nevadans from their cash back promotions may be practicing "bad public relations," but probably aren’t breaking gaming laws, according to the Nevada Gaming Control Board (GCB).

Keith Copher, the chief of the board’s Enforcement Division, told GamingToday that casinos such as the Stratosphere and Harrah’s that offer promotions to out-of-town players may do so, even though Nevadans are excluded.

"There’s no regulation against such a promotion, and they’re not subject to our approval," Copher said today. "We would become involved if there’s an issue of suitability of the method of operation."

Copher said the issue of "suitability" would not cover cash back rebates, which are currently offered to out-of-state players who sign up with Harrah’s Rewards and Stratosphere’s Players Club.

Casinos have always been able to discount or completely eliminate players’ markers, or negotiate a settlement of owed gambling debts, Copher said.

"Rebates to players is not a gaming issue, it’s a business issue," Copher said, adding that casino rebates are "just business discounts."

The issue of receiving cash back has generated complaints from Las Vegas’ players who feel discriminated against because of their residence.

Representatives of the slot clubs have argued that they often have exclusive promotions for local players. Those promotions usually include comps, but typically don’t offer to return cash losses to players.