Changing times in the sportsbook reflects back to Stardust bookmaking

Changing times in the sportsbook reflects back to Stardust bookmaking

October 25, 2016 3:00 AM


One of my favorite sayings is “times change, change with them or get out of the way.”

And, boy have they changed.

A real game changer is the remote app. A definite upgrade for today’s sportsbooks but not so much if applied to our bookmaking in the Stardust during its heyday in the 80’s.

Today it’s painless for both layer and player. Just make a deposit at your favorite book or books and wager from anyplace in Nevada. Play from anywhere – your hotel room, car, work or even sitting in the sportsbook. In the palm of your hand the current odds are displayed, including in-game odds.

Even an old goat like me, a reformed Luddite, with my extra thumbs can maneuver the hand-held device. Most sportsbooks today, including hotel/casinos, are part of a chain that comingles the action into a central computer. It’s all very neat and cost effective with most of the decision making taken out of the process till it gets to that big, central computer screen, wherever it may be.

In the beginning of remote betting a cash deposit in person was still required. From that point nothing resembles today’s operations. Then it required a phone on both ends of the transaction.

We still refined phone betting into a smooth machine in the 80’s when the Stardust ruled Las Vegas sports betting and influenced most of the rest of the country. Our remote betting consisted of two phone stations where we quoted current odds and wrote tickets by hand till computer stations were installed in 1987.

Then our writers still communicated with potential players with phone in hand while punching in the wager became easier. The phone action was aggregated and could be accessed on a screen for our supervisors to make decisions but they still charted big action by hand.

This mostly nonstop phone business took place in full view (per the Gaming Board) situated behind our seven in-house counter stations where all wagers were cash.

On a busy basketball Saturday we could handle around $2.5 million. That’s a lot for those times in Las Vegas, but it was all done with good ole back East bookmaking skills. Las Vegas sportsbooks shunned anyone they considered a wiseguy, going so far as to limit their wagers or just “86” them.

We encouraged wiseguy business and used their action to our advantage. Simple. We could take any and all cash wagers at the counter no matter how big or how out of balance we became. We had wiseguys on the phones ready to take most any number we were forced to move to.

The phones were, in effect, our own layoff source, only we were collecting the juice this generated. A so called square at the counter makes a ten dime bet with cash. No problem because when we change the number the phones will likely snatch the new number right up. It was simple bookmaking.

Our counter business was about 60% of our handle while the phones were around 40%. When wiseguys on the phones won, the action from the counter lost. We wanted the wiseguys to win. The more they won on phones the more cash we won.

When we opened our very own, self-made virgin numbers at 8 a.m. every morning we held off opening up the phones for half an hour. After all, we were part of a bigger picture, a hotel/casino. We honored that by being loyal to the person who showed up every morning in person.

It was beautiful, a perfect harmony between counter players, phone players and management who went along with it. It all ended around 1990-91 when I could no longer convince management, no matter what research and proof I presented them, it was a mistake to eliminate our wiseguy business.

They, along with bean counter types, actually thought if we cut our phone action the money we lost to the phones would increase their bottom line. They lost the concept that 11 is bigger than 10. I left in late 1991 but myself and many others still yearn for those hard scrabble but rewarding times.

Take care, Scotty