Flashbacks: 25 years of GamingToday

Aug 1, 2001 1:12 AM

Flashbacks: 25 years of GamingToday

Over the course of its 25-year history, GamingToday has become the nation’s premier newspaper of, by and for the gaming industry. Its creed ”” News You Can Bet On ”” extends to fund managers, stock analysts and board directors, as well as casino consumers, sports bettors and the millions who work in and follow the commercial gaming industry.

Because of its unique mission, GamingToday has a unique perspective of the news. While daily newspapers and other media follow their respective callings by publishing mainstream news events, GamingToday has endeavored to find and report the specialized news and information intrinsic to the gaming industry.

While most retrospectives invariably contain a “time line” of significant historical events, GamingToday goes one step further. Rather than simply recount the obvious milestones ”” the MGM fire, building of the Mirage, etc. ”” the GamingToday staff has assembled a chronology of Flashbacks from the newspaper’s pages that provide an insight into the unique nature of the gaming industry. While not Âí­always earth-shattering, the Flashbacks give a glimpse of the growth and development of the gaming industry.

May 1, 1976
Di Rocco Edits Sports Form

Chuck Di Rocco, veteran horse racing publicist and official, was named editor of Sports Form, a weekly tabloid newspaper which covers horse racing, sports, gaming and entertainment.

Sports Form will be published every Saturday morning and will go on sale at leading locations in Las Vegas and Los Angeles. It will feature a number of nationally known columnists and selections from expert handicappers at major racetracks.

As an added attraction, Sports Form will carry graded handicap ”” complete with comments of every horse on the nine-race card at Hollywood Park.

Besides coverage of horse racing, the newspaper will also report on major sports with special emphasis on college and professional football, basketball and baseball.

Highlights of the gaming and entertainment industries will also be followed each week.

Well-known in both thoroughbred and harness racing circles, Di Rocco, 41, has spent nearly 20 years at racetracks on both coasts. While most of his associations have been in the field of publicity and promotion, Di Rocco also served as a judge at racetracks in Ohio, Kentucky and Delaware. He gained national prominence in the early 1960s when he pioneered the use of trading stamps at Latonia Race Course, Northern Kentucky. The promotion gained notices of syndicated columnists Red Smith, the late Arthur Daley and Preseton Sullivan. All three television networks also reported on ladies standing in long lines to redeem losing tickets.

A graduate of the School of Journalism of Penn State University, Di Rocco was a Philadelphia newspaperman before beginning a career as a publicist. In addition to his duties at Sports Form, Di Rocco edits and publishes Post Time, a weekly newspaper on harness racing at Hollywood Park.

August 21, 1976
Do Bookies Cry Tears?

Las Vegas bookmakers were crying bloody murder Friday when a horse quoted at odds of 2-to-1 by their service came back with a $49.40 mutuel.

“How can that happen?” screamed one bookmaker. “It had to be a bad line.”

The horse, Born Optimist, won the second race at Monmouth Park. In his last ten races he was only under 10-1 once. He went off at 23-1 the last time out and finished sixth “Winners tell jokes and losers say deal those cards,” quipped one unidentified bettor who reportedly bet on the winner and “loved” the payoff price.

October 29, 1977

Ken Uston Strikes! Aladdin is victim

Ken Uston is up to his old tricks again.

He’s beating Las Vegas casinos at the game of blackjack. And, just as he did last December at Benny Binion’s Horseshoe Club, Uston is winning in front of television cameras.

Las Vegas SPORTS FORM has learned that Uston’s latest victim ””a willing one at that ”” was the Aladdin Hotel on the Strip, just across the street from Uston’s posh condominium at the Jockey Club.

SPORTS FORM learned that Uston challenged the Aladdin to a $50,000 match just as he did at the downtown Horseshoe Club. The Aladdin accepted Uston’s challenge and camera crews of Oakland television station KTVU-Channel 2 set up for the action. The event was filmed for possible national syndication, it was also learned.

Uston said he told Aladdin bosses he would risk $50,000 and wanted 11 hours of play. The hotel had other ideas. Following a compromise, the rules were agreed upon by both parties.

Play was limited to two hours. Uston played three hands ”” one for up to $100 and two hands for up to $1,000 each. A double-deck (104 cards) was used. And, Uston said, the deck was dealt down to the last 15 cards before a new shuffle.

May 27,1978
Bobby Waits, Wins Poker

“You sit and wait and that’s why they call the game Hold ’em.”

That’s how 27-year-old Bobby Baldwin explained his non-aggressive style of play during the early days of the $420,000 World Series of Poker Tournament at Benny Binion’s Horseshoe Club in downtown Las Vegas.

“Don’t knock a winner,” commented an observer as Baldwin beat out 41 rivals to win first place in the poker championship.

March 18, 1978
Four new betting parlors planned

Four new betting parlors are planned for Nevada this spring, Las Vegas SPORTS FORM has learned.

The new MGM Grand Hotel and Casino in Reno is seeking approval for a license to operate a race and sports book.  Two Las Vegas locations ”” the Silver Bird Hotel and Casino on the Strip and the former downtown Saratoga Race and Sports Book are also planning to open bookie shops.

A fourth betting shop, Sportsman’s Club Race and Sports Book, 124 S. First St., also in Las Vegas, is pending approval of Nevada gamers. That parlor will be owned by Jack Leavant.

April 28, 1979
Poker emerges as major competitive sport

The 10th annual World Series of Poker will signal a return of the best poker players in the world to the championship tables at Binion’s Horseshoe Casino.

This year the combined Series action should total well over $1 million with close to half a million riding on the World Championship “Hold’em” event.

As in last year’s events, the preliminary championships will see prize money split between the first three places in a ratio of 60 percent, 30 percent and 10 percent.

The main “Hold’em” tournament will see the top five players sharing winnings in a ratio of 50 percent, 20 percent, 15 percent, 10 percent and 5 percent.

April 28, 1979
Jockey sues for $100 million

Jockey Ron Turcotte, who has been paralyzed from the waist down as a result of injuries suffered in a spill at Belmont Park last July 13, is suing the New York Racing Authority, among others.

Through his attorney, Edward Cooperman, of  Mineola, N.Y., Turcotte is claiming that the NYRA and the stewards “failed to maintain compliance with the rules of racing which resulted in his injuries. Turcotte is also suing jockey Jeffery Fell, owner David P, Reynolds, steward E.J. Kelly who was representing the Jockey Club, Gerald Burke, steward representing the New York State Racing Association and Wagering Board, Kenneth Noe, Jr., steward representing the NYRA, and the Jockey Club for $100 million.

July 7, 1979
Santa Anita open for bets on NFL preseason

Football bettors are huddling at the Santa Anita Horse and Sports Casino on the Strip as the Las Vegas betting parlor offers the only betting line to date on the upcoming first weekend of preseason NFL action.

In addition to offering the only straight betting on preseason NFL action, the Santa Anita also has the first football parlay cards of the season.

May 19, 1979
Chagra knows when to hold or fold; wins $3.4 million

That’s Jimmy Chagra’s credo. He follows it to the letter, not only at the craps tables but also at the blackjack tables and betting parlors all over Las Vegas.

If you don’t believe it, you haven’t been to Benny Binion’s Horseshoe Club lately.

According to reliable sources, Chagra ran $50,000 — won betting basketball — into more than $3 million cash in less than a week at the craps and blackjack tables.

“Gambling is all chemistry,” Chagra told Sports Form. “I had the vibes going for me.”

May 26, 1979
Horse racing wizard to leave KY

Money makes the mare go.

And, so after a lifelong stretch in Kentucky, horse racing wizard John Battaglia is packing it in along the Ohio River.

Battaglia, a former turf editor of SPORTS FORM, has tossed in the towel at River Downs Racetrack in Cincinnati where he served as general manager and assistant to the president. He’s off to Charleston, W.Va., to apply his genius at running Charles Town Race Track.

“They made me an offer I couldn’t refuse,” Battaglia told his longtime friend Chuck Di Rocco, publisher of SPORTS FORM. The 49-year-old Kentucky native, father of nine children, is selling his Fort Mitchell home and moving the younger Battaglias and his wife, Nancy, to his new post.

May 26, 1979
Entertainment News

Paul Anka has a new home at the Las Vegas Hilton. The talented singer-songwriter gave the opening night crowd everything they had come to hear.

The audience became totally involved in the show from the moment Anka stepped into the aisles to sing his golden oldies. “Diana” and “Puppy Love” had the ladies melting.

John Davidson and Jerry Van Dyke are co-headlining through May 31 in the South Shore Room at Harrah’s Tahoe.

The Congo Showroom of Hotel Sahara resounds with the music of Helen Reddy and the comedy of John Byner as they fulfill a limited one-week engagement through May 30.

The Captain and Tennille return to the Celebrity Showroom of the MGM Grand Hotel on May 24 for one exciting week as two of the hottest stars now performing in the Entertainment Capital.

July 7, 1979
Bingo Palace lures parlays

Baseball bettors who wager on parlays are heading for the Bingo Palace.

That’s because Vince DiMare, manager of the bet shop, has come up with a $500 weekly giveaway which is winning patrons to the Rancho and Sahara location.

“For every $20 worth of parlays, we give a player one ticket,” De Mare told SPORTS FORM. “All we ask is that he fills in the final score of the televised Dodgers game that weekend. The bettor who comes up with the right score gets $500. Even if he loses his $20 parlay, he can still win the free $500 drawing.

May 3, 1980
Di Rocco ends wire monopoly, plans horse racing simulcast

It’s official!

Nevada bookmakers now have a choice when it comes to obtaining race wire service!

The Nevada gaming commission voted 4-1 last week to grant an unrestricted gaming license to Chuck Di Rocco and his SPORTS FORUM, Inc. of Las Vegas.

Di Rocco, editor and publisher of SPORTS FORUM newspaper, and his attorney, Jeff Silver also convinced the five-member commission to remove a number of restraints recommended by the three member Gaming Control Board a week earlier.

November 29, 1980
MGM staggered by tragic blaze

Measuring the total financial impact of the MGM Las Vegas fire on its operational future and on Nevada’s overall economy and annual state revenue collections is a task that would keep several major accounting firms busy, 24 hours a day.

The financial picture is a shambles, just as is the casino.

But clear futures have emerged.

MGM’s future will depend on highly skillful management of its now restricted revenues and some very creative planning for the ongoing development of its far-flung properties.

April 30, 1983
Racebook Industry Awakens After 30 Yrs.


Boycott To End

In a surprise move late Wednesday, the Nevada Gaming Control Board ordered both race wire suppliers ”” Sports Form, Inc., and Swanson News Company ”” to supply race information from New York racetracks to any racebook in the state.

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