Vegas' Muggsy is a passing we all feel

March 29, 2016 3:00 AM


Robert “Muggsy” Muniz was an affable, fun loving guy from Pittsburgh. He hit the Vegas scene in the late 70s and soon found his way to a job in the sportsbook at the Barbary Coast (now the Cromwell), working for one of the best – Jimmy Vaccaro.

Muggsy had found a home, one where he would spend the next 22 years. Under Vaccaro’s tutelage Muniz proved a quick study and it wasn’t long before he found his niche on the racebook side of the business, eventually working his way to director of race operations.

During his tenure Muniz, known to nearly every race and sportsbook customer in Las Vegas simply as Muggsy, was outspoken about what he liked and didn’t like in the industry. He encouraged the growth of the then-fledgling business of horse racing simulcasts and was active in the Nevada Pari-Mutuel Association, which negotiates simulcasting contracts with racetracks.

He was also an innovator and was one of the first racebook operators to offer handicapping contests. And, he was a pioneer of the horseplayer rebate, which gave big players some of their money back; the local betting scene prospered as handle soared.

In fact, the program was so popular several racetracks, especially those in California, complained of losing big-betting customers, causing their handle to suffer. As is often the case in these situations, politics and arm twisting ensued and the practice was eventually stopped when Nevada passed a law making rebates illegal for horse betting.

Muggsy wasn’t happy about that and felt it was all downhill for racebooks from then on.

But, agree with him or not, Muggsy always displayed a rare enthusiasm toward his work. We never saw him appear to be having anything but fun every moment of every day. Friends admired that trait in him.

“Muggsy was a true friend, a great innovator who lived life in overdrive,” Jimmy Vaccaro said recently.

Yes, the man enjoyed life and, if you knew him well or even just a little, he was always willing to take you along to the party.

Sadly, there are no more parties for Muggsy, who passed away last week at the age of 63 at his home in Acworth, Georgia where he devoted much of his time to coaching the North Georgia Heat, an AAU basketball team, and helping deserving youngsters get athletic scholarships.

“He was a kind and generous man,” said Gordon Berger whose son was coached by Muniz. “Many of the boys who played for his teams had no money, so he’d pay their way. He helped a lot of boys get college basketball scholarships, too.”

A memorial service was held Saturday, March 26, at the Darby Funeral Home chapel in Georgia. Interment will be in the Monongahela Cemetery in Pennsylvania at a later date.

He is survived by his son, Robert Zane Muniz, Atlanta, Georgia; brothers Joe (Martha) Muniz, Donora, Pennsylvania, and Fred (Barbara) Muniz, Norfolk, Virginia; and sister Dolly (Chuck) Vaira, North Las Vegas. A fundraiser has been set up to assist with funeral expenses:

Robert “Muggsy” Muniz will be missed.

See you around town.

Eileen DiRocco is the owner and publisher of GamingToday, the bible for gaming news “you can bet on.” Contact Eileen at