Dogs prove to be Bookies’ best friend

Dec 31, 2001 11:06 PM

LAUGHING ALL THE WAY TO THE BANK: “That’s what the Las Vegas sports book operators have been doing in recent weeks,” reported our race and sports book observer.

“You know, fans like to support the faves, especially in post season games, but so far the dogs have been having a field day,” he explained.

But, the good times may be short-lived, in the opinion of some Congress-watchers. Making noise of late has been Congressman Tom Osborne, the former coach of the Nebraska football team. He has vowed to place the bill to ban wagering on amateur sports on the top of his priority list.

“A team now has to win twice,” Osborne told an interviewer. “The team has to not only win outright but also must beat the spread,” he said, adding that he thought this placed too much pressure on college, high school and Olympic competitors.

Sure to be brought up in the debate were the comments made by the quarterback of Syracuse University following that team’s victory over Kansas State in the Bowl.

Referring to the fact that “Syracuse was a 5½ point underdog in the game, QB James Mungro remarked, “That was an incentive for us. Let’s go out there and prove to America we’re a better team than them.”

SLOT MACHINE RUSH CONTINUES IN CALIFORNIA: In just over a year and a half, the number of slot machines in California has more than doubled to about 41,000.

And even though Gov. Gray Davis contends there’s a constitutional limit of 45,206 machines, don’t expect Indian tribes to stop expanding any time soon.

“The tribes will keep installing the slots, as long as they have people who will play them,” said a California pipe. “They don’t agree with the limit and they’ll find a way around it.”

The tribes may get some help from the state legislature, whose office of the analyst has said the actual limit could be as high as 113,000 machines.

Regardless of which limit is used, the tribes plan to hammer out a new compact agreement in 2003 that will let them expand practically at will.

IT JUST KEEPS GROWING: A story out of Toronto, Canada, had to bring smiles to the face of Las Vegas gaming executive Larry Woolf. The story indicated that the area train service called GO Transit was looking to expand its train service to Niagara Falls and tie in with Casino Niagara.

Problem is that Casino Niagara has been averaging more than 20,000 patrons a day with part of the year registering as many as 30,000 a day. That doesn’t leave much room for the Toronto customers who would be taking the GO Transit trains.

The story had to cause Woolf to chuckle, because if was he who as a visionary saw the huge potential of a casino in Niagara Falls nearly a decade ago. He and his Navegante Group, opened what was then called a temporary casino. He turned the facility over to the permanent manager, Falls Management Corporation.

But, even back then with no history to guide Navegante, Woolf saw the huge potential and set the foundation for the future growth.

END OF AN ERA: Ed DeBartolo, Sr., was proud of a number of accomplishments in his life. Ranking high was his academic achievements at Notre Dame; his real-estate development career that made him America’s most successful mall developer, and his success in sports with both the San Francisco Forty Niners and a Louisiana horse track.

He never forgot his roots and always made his business headquarters in Youngstown, Ohio. From there, however, his business overview was national.

During the 60’s and 70’s, he was operating a pair of racetracks in Ohio with moderate success when he heard of a developer who had run out of money while building a track in Bossier City, La. An ultimate deal maker, DeBartolo soon owned the property and was pouring in the funds needed to complete it.

He hired Vince Bartimo away from an obscure racetrack in Vermont and watched as his Louisiana Downs became the biggest success story in pari-mutuel racing.

DeBartolo passed on and his children took over his business enterprises and it was soon obvious that they missed the “Old Man’s golden thumb.”

Last week, it was announced that Louisiana Downs, soon to become a racetrack with slots, was being sold to a Dallas-based investment firm. This, only a couple of months after the family announced that the Ohio tracks would be taken over by Frank Stronach’s Magna Entertainment.

And, so it appears that Ed DeBartolo’s legacy is being pieced off. What a pity.

DRAWING A LINE IN THE SANDS: From Atlantic City, the word is that former Sands president and CEO Alfred Luciani resigned under pressure from his boss, Carl Icahn.

“The property wasn’t making any progress, bottom line-wise,” said an insider. “Even though it was in Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection, it kept falling behind other casinos.”

Through the first nine months of 2001, the Sands posted the lowest operating profit margin of any Atlantic City hotel ”” 9.1 cents on the dollar versus a citywide average of 24.7 cents.

Icahn got the news from his top Vegas lieutenants, led by Rich Brown (the Stratosphere’s COO), after they visited the Sands two weeks ago. Apparently, they didn’t like what they found.