The Spirit hit us! We stood up, shouted!

Jul 1, 2003 7:09 AM

STAND UP AND SHOUT WHEN THE SPIRIT HITS YOU! And, boy has it hit us. Not only do we celebrate Independence Day this week, we at GamingToday also celebrate our 27th year in publishing.

Now, 1,500-plus editions since its inception, this lively, weekly newspaper never missed a beat pumping out stories of readers’ interest.

Frequently, they read it here first. And, the majority tell us they read us cover-to-cover. That’s unheard of in the newspaper business.

As our trust grew, the easier it was to dig out news you can bet on and news before it’s news. We loved every minute of it!

With newspapers losing ground to radio and television, GamingToday grew. We gained respect and credibility. How sweet it is!

There were many stories. So many stories to write about. While others focused on news in general, GamingToday zeroed in on news our readers wanted to read ”” how to win, how to lose, how to manage money, how to play smartly, how to enjoy the challenge, how to stay in control, etc., etc.

The how-to stories appealed to casino players. But, GamingToday also reported on gaming news for gaming executives. From Wall Street to Main Street to nearly every casino boardroom, GamingToday earned respect for being Âí­credible.

In gathering news we called upon a bevy of sources ”” pipes, rosebuds and in-the-knowsters. They kept us ahead of the curve.

Did it work? Indeed! Although we weren’t always on the button, we were mostly always in the money.

In putting it all together for the past 27 years, we uncovered a number of delightful characters and writers. They willingly shared their inside stuff with us.

One readily comes to mind. The late Huey Mahl. He was our resident genius. Huey had a gift as a mathematical whiz kid. He unearthed methods and systems that will live on forever. Huey would often appear at GamingToday functions. He brought with him his army of loyal fans. From hither and yon they came calling for a chance to hear of Huey’s latest method or system. If he didn’t have a new one, he always had an improved version of an old one.

Unkempt, bearded (at times) and seldom all shined up, Huey was one of a kind. So sharp were his insights into casino games that we often thought of Huey as a visitor from another planet.

Another all-time favorite of ours was the late Ken Uston. He, too, had the mind of a genius when it came to winning at blackjack. The late John Luckman, the casino industry’s best historian, introduced us to Ken over 25 years ago. We started out doing a two-piece series on Uston. Readers clamored for more and the Ken Uston story spanned 15 consecutive weeks.

Bob Basket was still another All Star member of our staff. We called him The Basket. He had a sharp sense of humor and knew exactly where to dig in search of news to excite our readers.

Almost from day one we featured the handicapping selections of John Bennett, who just a few months ago hung up his handicapping spurs for good. At one time in his career with GamingToday, Bennett’s page one headline was so strong that bookmakers often moved the line to offset his knack of spotting winners. Also, when John Quinn was the bet boss at the Union Plaza, he posted a line each week on whether Bennett’s headline would win or lose.

Characters! By the numbers. One was a loveable gent named Bill Dark. He ran a tiny little bet shop (Del Mar) in North Las Vegas. When we pioneered live horse racing via satellite, Dark was forced to take the signal or run the risk of losing customers. He did what he had to do. But, he had more than six ways to Sunday to figure out why he shouldn’t have to pay for the signal. Mainly, we tolerated his antics because we both shared the same attorney. He wanted us to go gentle with Bill. We complied. One of his best excuses still provides us with laughter.

Bill said he wasn’t going to pay his bill because he had not been receiving the signal. We told him that was impossible since others had no problem off the same satellite. He still refused. Finally, in desperation we sent a technician to his site. That is when we discovered that the antenna atop his roof was laying flat on its side and unable to receive. His response was a classic: "No one ever told me the antenna had to be standing up!"

Another favorite character from the past was also a bookmaker. He was known as Artichoke Joe. The name followed him after he left his successful artichoke farm to become a bookmaker. He was an original. He built his bet shop on the main highway in Carson City. It was a very tall one-story structure. His favorite resting place was a perch high atop an 18-foot ladder. It gave him a bird’s eye view of the activity, just in case he ever got busy.

It didn’t take long to learn of his nest. Whenever we walked into his book he would shout from onhigh: "I don’t need anything, Di Rocco. Go away. I’m busy!"

The way it was? The Spirit of ’76 was alive and well at the time of our publishing birth. The USA was celebrating its 200th anniversary of independence . . . The Olympic games

were played in Montreal . . . ”˜Rocky’ was the movie blockbuster . . . Howard Hughes left us. He was a man who changed Las Vegas into a corporate "good thing."

Vegas was a different place then. Its operators were mainly gamblers from other parts of the country who knew the business inside out. They lived by the rule ”” "Give them anything they want!" I can remember one casino host at a Strip hotel who upped a player’s limit by $10,000 when the player begged for more credit. After the player lost the extra $10,000, the host erased the debt by ripping up the marker.

Those were the days, my friend. And, believe it or not, they haven’t ended. The faces have changed. The antics are different. But, the spirit, the spirit lives on. And, we hope it will continue to do so for at least another 27 years.

Thank you!