Missing the junket days from Old Vegas

May 16, 2017 3:00 AM
by

Time was when junkets were something to look forward to. They flew into Las Vegas loaded with high rollers, low rollers, gamblers of all stripes, bookmakers, players, mobbed up guys and their associates.

They were guests of the bigger hotels like the Dunes and Caesars Palace across the Strip from Churchill Downs sportsbook. They stayed in the hotels and gambled there but most of the guys also spent considerable time in Churchill. They could bet on sports and horses with us or each other without a worry about getting busted.

The gambler laden planes arrived from Pittsburgh, Chicago, New York, Providence, Texas, Jacksonville, New Orleans and other gambling meccas. I especially looked forward to the ones from back East. As the youngster of the Churchill workforce I was looked after by the junketeers and their invited guests. I was the recipient of many a box of cannolis from Providence and Baltimore, generous tokes and expensive shirts and jackets from the New York crowd.

But it was the Pittsburgh planes I was most interested in. I could hitch a free ride since there were usually a couple empty seats on flights returning home. In those days there was virtually no airport security to deal with. I was already invited and on the list by the junketeer. All I had to do was show up and get on the plane.

The junkets were full of gamblers from Pittsburgh of course but also Youngstown, Wheeling/Weirton/Steubenville. All good people. To get back to Las Vegas was a different story. I had to take a scheduled flight like anyone else since the junket planes were always full coming to Vegas.

Over the years I would catch a name I recognized from the junkets. People would get busted back East and every once in a while I’d remember the person. A couple were big time busts.

Those days are sadly gone. Las Vegas is now impersonal. Casinos treat us like they’re herding cattle. An expensive herd I might add.

Scotty Schettler began his Las Vegas journey in 1968. By the time he quit the race and sports book business he had booked over $1.5 billion for different employers. He says he knows where most of the cans are buried. His book, We Were Wise Guys and Didn’t Know It is available on amazon.com. Email: ScottySchettler@GamingToday.com