Stardust could still work in today's Vegas

Stardust could still work in today's Vegas

May 30, 2017 3:00 AM


When I took over the Stardust in 1983 it was already the Cadillac of race and sportsbooks in Las Vegas. All I had to do was drive it and not wreck it.

We drove it to the pinnacle of odds making not only in Las Vegas but the country. We were featured on CBS, NBC, ABC, FNN (Financial News Network), half time of a Super Bowl, Sports Illustrated, Wall Street Journal and dozens of other newspapers, magazines and local TV stations all over the country. Our odds went out on two national wire services. It was all free advertising for us.

They came to us and asked our permission. The most expensive advertising available anywhere, but for us it was all free – moneywise that is, but we paid for it with hard work every day of the week making the odds.

Those endorsements were great and put us on top but the ones that really mattered and made all our hard work worthwhile came from our customers. It was like a love affair. We needed each other and knew it. Players and bookmakers around the country needed our odds to do their business and we needed their action. It worked to perfection. We both understood and respected each other’s position on both sides of the counter.

Players and bookmakers from all over stayed and played with us whenever in Las Vegas. Big connected guys, corner BMs and their Runyonesque players who we took care of even when they came up lame. The Stardust Hotel was mostly full; our bars, restaurants and shows were jumping with race and sports bettors who we all know are loose with their BRs. It was beautiful.

At that time our upper management never sweated decisions or questioned big losses because they also understood the game was in our favor. A big loss in the book could add to the table drop and hotel amenities. They understood nobody won a bet then said they were going to keep the money and quit playing. I have to say though, our bosses probably got heartburn in private but never sweated a decision for us to see.

It’ll never happen again in Las Vegas and I’m certain there are plenty of us left who yearn for those times. We know what we were part of even though at the time we never realized it. You’ll have to go outside Las Vegas to find a bookmaker-player relationship. No one today actually knows where the morning line comes from. All we know is it’s somewhere else, those huge, monster books in the islands.

Could we make it in today’s Las Vegas? Of course we could. The 11 is still bigger than 10. Could we get along with management? Not today because Las Vegas has morphed into a mercenary, efficient money machine. Spend a double saw ($20) at the bar, a light goes off and you might get a free drink. Another $20 and you get a ham sandwich. Every bean is counted. Twice.

Like my book says, “We Were Wiseguys And Didn’t Know It.” Take care.