by Mark Mayer | Tom Rinaldi was a meat cutter, who got the sports bug hanging around gamblers. Two decades later, he carved a niche in the Las Vegas sports book industry.
"I never met anyone that didnt love the guy," said GamingToday columnist Sid Diamond, who ran the Excalibur Race and Sports Book when Mr. Rinaldi worked there. "I appreciate everything he has ever done for us. For a little man, he made a big impression."
Mr. Rinaldi passed away last Wednesday at age 76, exactly one month before his 50th wedding anniversary. His wife Barbara was also in the business, having worked at the Stardust as a race cashier for 24 years.
"We grew up in Syracuse and married after an off-and-on nine-year relationship," Barbara said. "Tom always liked sports and when we came to Vegas in 1980 he was able to get in the business working as a writer at the Castaways under Sonny Reisner and Bill Friedman. "Of all his jobs in Vegas, he was happiest at Castaways."
Tom spent seven years at Castaways until the hotel closed in July 1987. He went on to become the first sports book manager at the Santa Fe in 1991.
In 1993, Mr. Rinaldi moved on to the Excalibur and later worked at the Luxor, Las Vegas Hilton (under Art Manteris) and finally the Sahara, where he left in 1999 when his health began to deteriorate.
"Tom loved all the people he worked with," Barbara said. "He was very loyal to all the companies he worked for. He was a part of the good old days of Vegas."
Sid Diamond added, "I never met anybody who didnt love him, as I certainly did. I loved his upbeat attitude and always desired to work with him.
"He helped solidify our organization at the Excalibur when we took over all the Circus Circus stores," Diamond continued. "We needed a night time sports man to run the operation and I reached out for his services. I was never disappointed with his performance, and couldnt imagine how we could have done it without him."
Mr. Rinaldi succumbed to lung cancer, a heart condition and pneumonia. There will be a memorial service on Saturday, May 10 at 1 p.m. at Palm Mortuary on Eastern.