Papa Joe places his chips on Las Vegas

Dec 24, 2002 6:49 AM

   Papa Joe Chevalier is known across the 50 states for his weekday show on Sporting News Radio, but many aren’t aware his start originated at GamingToday.

   Chuck (GT publisher/CEO Di Rocco) gave me opportunities early on when I was not known,” Chevalier said after competing in the finals of the Stardust Invitational Football Contest last Friday. “Chuck said that if I wanted to live in Vegas, I needed to learn the casino business so I would never starve. I took his advice, went to crap dealing school and rose up in the Hilton organization.”

   That was 1977, and what sparked the Papa Joe phenomenon was a copy of this newspaper on the lobby floor of the old Marina Hotel.

   “I was eating a big bowl of Chinese soup for lunch and saw the address of this paper,” he said. “I drove down to the office and took Chuck’s advice. It was the difference in my life. It kept me eating.”

   Chevalier took his appetite to new heights with his biting attacks at the politically correct, women’s activists and, most specifically, Washington legislators believing that the gaming industry is harmful to the country.

   “There are idiots in Washington whining against sports betting based on not having an understanding of this business,” he said. “Somebody told them when they were 8 years old that gambling was bad, and they just assumed it must be true.

   “They don’t understand that the biggest protection to honest sports is the gaming industry in Nevada.” Chevalier continued. “If money moves illegally, these guys (Vegas books) get hurt. They stay up nights protecting the games. We’ve had six point-shaving cases out of a million games. I mean, what are we talking about? It’s like saying alcohol is a problem because there were 10 car wrecks.”

   Chevalier is ready to lead the fight to kill any measure political opponents bring up to damage the gaming industry.

   “Las Vegas in hurt by its history,” he said. “Some people have never gotten over the fact that the mob once owned this town. They still think Bugsy Siegal runs the Flamingo. I have a future show coming out on this very subject — educating the American public that sports betting is not a bad thing. We have more bookies in Chicago that in Vegas. Gambling does not equal crooked.”

   The future for Chevalier could involve a permanent move back to Las Vegas, where he spent 17 years before relocating to Chicago.

   “I like Vegas more than ever,” he said. “Here, you can afford a good house, live real well, eat inexpensively on the Strip. I have a five-week stint at Mandalay Bay coming up shortly after Super Bowl. They treat me great over there. I wouldn’t mind shifting my radio show to Vegas year-round or doing a weekly television show out here.”

   Papa Joe also left open the possibility of resurrecting his weekly columns for GamingToday.

   “I could see myself writing again for you guys,” he said. “I love keeping my hand in Vegas. I never thought I would be in Chicago for 10 years. The climate out here is the best and I could golf all the time. I’m 54 and would enjoy getting spoiled again.”