USFantasy will succeed because of Salerno, Knapp

USFantasy will succeed because of Salerno, Knapp

September 13, 2016 3:00 AM


All the best to Vic Salerno and partner Mike Knapp who are launching a unique version of fantasy sports. Their company, USFantasy Sports (USF), is a natural, and in my opinion will soon pass the current fantasy sites.

Its format will fit like a glove with millions of fantasy players already hooked and should even attract some of the more traditional sports bettors.

Vic, a Marquette Dental School graduate, had a nice dental practice in affluent West Los Angeles, but bookmaking was more appealing to him. He took over a grimy, downtown Leroy’s storefront book known for its outlandish assortment of “customers.”

Leroy’s amenities included a combination cashier and chili dog stand and a bar. Later Vic was a founding partner in Computerized Bookmaking Systems (CBS). Vic, super successful sports marketer Jim Feist, and programming genius Javed Buttar put up $5,000 each to start the CBS race and sportsbook betting and accounting system. It was being used in Gary Austin’s race and sportsbook, but they had no major customers. Enter the Stardust and in a twist of fate we launched them into a multimillion dollar company.

Around 1985 the Stardust was going to install NABS (Nevada Automated Betting System). It was an atrocious betting system forced upon me in my brief stay at the Cal-Neva in Reno. New Stardust owners and my bosses, Boyd Group, were also partners in NABS and were about to install it in the Stardust against my never-ending protests. Warren Nelson, my beloved boss in Reno and also a minority partner in Boyd Group, hired Marc Alden, a super-hyper accountant-type guy to convince me to at least give the improved version of NABS a try.

Didn’t work. In less than a week, I convinced Marc that NABS would be disastrous in the high-volume Stardust, and Vic’s CBS was the way to go. Then Mark and I convinced the Stardust owners to ditch a system they already owned, and go for big money to install CBS.

Vic and CBS knew what it would mean to get the Stardust. It would make them, so there was plenty of room for negotiation. We ended up with a good price, but it was still a big number.

The Stardust had around 30 stations so due to the high volume we put race and sports each on its own mainframe. It took three anxiety-filled days to install CBS. Vic, Javed and Feist stayed in the hotel the entire time. When it was finally ready, it worked like Mark and I said it would. I would have been gone if it didn’t. The Boyd Group avoided a disaster.

Vic, Jim and Javed eventually ended up in court. Vic settled with the others and kept CBS. He upgraded his position to American Wagering and was eventually bought by gaming giant William Hill. The old Leroy’s chain (Wm. Hill) is in 95 locations in Nevada.

Add Vic and CBS to Roxy (Roxborough) and LVSC to the list of those launched by the Stardust. They would certainly have made it without us, of course, but we certainly put them on top instantly.

Knapp began at Computer Sports World (CSW), which was located in Boulder City. In this same mid-80’s time frame I made a deal with CSW to send them our opening line and regular updates in return for free use of their extensive sports database. They put the Stardust Line on their wire service that was then distributed by Sports Ticker in New York. From there, it appeared on 1,400 reader boards around the globe. We, in turn, received and printed out CSWs vast updated sports data.

For our players we built the Sports Handicappers Library next to the sports counter and displayed for them these unending reams of sports information. I also gave the Stardust Line to Mickey Charles, who owned The Sports Network (TSN) out of Philadelphia. Mickey was the competition to Sports Ticker. He also had reader boards in Las Vegas sportsbooks and now our numbers appeared on his as well as on Sports Ticker’s boards.

The rub here was Las Vegas sportsbooks now had The Stardust Line appearing in their sportsbooks. Their customers began asking, “Why don’t you have this game? Why not this number, the Dust has it! Oh, well.

I make Mike and Vic big favorites to succeed with USF.