There was a mystique about Jackie Gaughan

Mar 18, 2014 3:00 AM

When I first heard Las Vegas pioneer Jackie Gaughan had passed away last Wednesday, it was like a power punch to the gut.

I had never met Mr. Gaughan, but there was a mystique about him that carried with me since the time I was a kid in 1981 when we first moved to Las Vegas. He was Las Vegas royalty; and between the stories my father would tell me to hearing several different colleagues at the various sports books I worked at tell their Mr. Gaughan stories, his legend grew in my heart.

Las Vegas has been my home and the gambling business within the city has afforded me a decent life, one I am proud of, and in many ways it can all be traced back to Mr. Gaughan. And, I’m not alone. You could probably play the six degrees of separation Kevin Bacon game with almost any executive in town and link back in less than six traces to Gaughan being the origin.

He was the Oak Tree of our city with his branches and limbs reaching far and wide, and making a great impact. He has his thumbprints all over this city, especially downtown where he owned the Golden Nugget, Showboat, Union Plaza, Boulder Club, Las Vegas Club, El Cortez, Gold Spike and the Western.

Between the walls of those casinos generations of locals were bred into the casino business, which allowed them to make prosperous lives for themselves and their families and helped build this oasis in the desert into a prosperous community. Mr. Gaughan gave many prominent people their first shot at the business.

The small part of Gaughan’s overall impact that has me affectionately bowing to the King is his contribution to the sports book as we know it today. Gaughan was decades ahead of his time and had small bet shops where booking legends like Mel Exber got started and later turned his experience there into the Las Vegas Club, with the help of Gaughan.

And it was Gaughan who also put the first sports book inside a casino and was instrumental in the 1970s in getting the 10 percent excise tax reduced to 2 percent to make it attractive for casinos to open books as another tool to keep guests entertained in every aspect under one roof.

In 1975, as the South Point’s Jimmy Vaccaro tells it, Gaughan opened the first book inside a casino at the Union Plaza and brought in two heavyweights to run it, Johnny Quinn and Bob Martin. Those two revolutionized the sports book world behind Gaughan’s name, and spawned several other casinos to take notice and get their own.

And, of course, the new books needed people who were smart enough to do it, and protégé’s of Martin, Quinn and Gaughan would get their shot.

We have a short history in America compared to the rest of the world, and here in Las Vegas, it’s even shorter. But when you consider Jackie Gaughan was a prominent figure in those humble beginnings in Las Vegas, and you look up and down the Strip and see all these beautiful places that have grown since, you can’t help but quietly say, thank you. He was as close to royalty as we can get here in the city.

And it’s no surprise that today the locals’ favorite casino is the South Point operated by his son, Michael Gaughan, who does things his way, the old school way, with a special connection to his guests. He keeps them coming back by giving everyone a fair shake, just as his father always did.

For those wishing to pay tribute and swap Gaughan stories, the El Cortez – the place he owned and lived the last years of his life – will be having a toast with champagne and cake Tuesday at 2 p.m. at the Parlour Bar. All hail the King!

NFL totals posted: CG Technologies, formerly known as Cantor Gaming, and South Point sports books have posted their 2014 NFL Season win totals. This is the earliest they have ever been posted in Las Vegas.

The reason most books don’t open the totals until April is because the NFL schedule dates haven’t been set. However, all the home and away dates from each team are known, which gave CG and the South Point something to work with in setting their numbers.

Right now, both the bookmaker and bettor are kind of in the same boat of the unknown, such as how many road games in a row a certain team might play, that could affect the number and price. I like the air of uncertainty and think it was a great idea by both chain of books to post them this early, especially with thousands of new guests walking through their doors for March Madness over the next three weeks.

March Madness contests: Be sure to check out Station Casinos, William Hill, Aliante and South Point before Thursday to enter any one of their four great contests.

Entry fee is minimal, and while none of them are bracket contests and are more geared toward the point spreads each day of the Tournament, there is over $100,000 in prize money waiting to be grabbed just by being smart about college hoops.

We are only talking $25 and all are highly recommended if you’re going to be betting the games anyway.

Bracket tips: We all like to be that guy who predicts the upset in the tournament; you know what I’m talking about, right? The guy who boasts – and rightfully so – that he had No. 9 seed Wichita State making it all the way to the Final Four last year in their bracket.

A definite tip of the cap; but in bracket contests, we’re not talking about point spreads, it’s all about wins, and the best way to approach it is by leaning to high seeded teams. The goal is to get the most teams advancing as far as possible to gain the most points in your pool.

So, considering 85 percent of the Final Four participants have come from top four seeds, it makes sense to steer that way in your bracket. I have all kinds of theories how New Mexico could make the Final Four from the South Region, but in the end, I laid up and played it safe with the best team in the country, penciling in Florida.

My Final Four bracket has Michigan State, Arizona, Louisville and, of course, the Gators. If you have a nice upset, take the points at the bet window, but for the bracket, play it safe.

Micah Roberts is a former Las Vegas race and sports book director, one of The Linemakers on SportingNews.com , and longtime motorsports columnist and sports analyst at GamingToday. Follow Micah on Twitter @MicahRoberts7 Contact Micah at [email protected].

 GamingToday on Facebook      and         GamingToday on Twitter