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Phones in the sportsbooks were banned once upon a time

Mar 7, 2017 3:00 AM

There was a time when you weren’t permitted to use a phone in a race and sportsbook. The thinking of Nevada regulators was you could read the line off the odds boards and disseminate it across state lines, take or make bets with a street bookmaker, or take orders and bet with the sportsbook where you were stationed.

Get caught with a phone to your ear and you were 86’d from some sportsbooks by management. The antiquated thinking was a “wiseguy” on the other end might give out betting information or more absurd he might give you a winner.

The Stardust was different, of course. We wanted wiseguys, squares and anyone else who was inclined to make a wager. The more information there was floating around the better. We understood that. The gaming regulations said no phone – whether a payphone, house phone or even a phone in the pit – was allowed where the odds boards were visible. I got around this by converting a porters’ store room, in the rear of the book, into a phone room.

I installed five free phones in the closet, on a wall where you couldn’t see the odds boards. They could only be used for outgoing calls, only using the local 702 area code and wouldn’t accept incoming calls. The Gaming Control Board was not pleased but no rules were broken.

If anyone remembers, Little Abner took over the cleaning duties. He erased pencil marks off the walls, threw out any trash and policed it for us. Heaven forbid if a tourist wandered in and occupied a phone.

The most used pay phones in the state were the seven outside the north doors of the Stardust. Our race and sports customers fed them more quarters than a slot machine. They were used to call the Stardust Line out to the rest of the country, make bets with street bookmakers or take bets. You get the idea. The feds watched them from afar to monitor who was using them.

Those were the phones Bobby The Owl left his false teeth on and Montana Mel got a line client buried on. Montana was always getting 86’d from the Stardust when he bothered too many customers. We always let him back in but he still had to call his client with our line. One day he was 86’d and needed the line to call out. He stood next to another service guy who was calling the line out and simply copied it while listening to the conversation on the next phone.

Big problem for Montana Mel though: The service guys knew what Montana was going to do so they used a phony line for him to copy. The numbers were way off and I hate to guess what happened to his client’s bankroll if he used them.

It’s all different now. Every kind of phone imaginable is allowed in the books and even encouraged. Las Vegas was finally dragged into the real world. Take care.