Quite a bit of hoopla surrounded a $1.1 million wager on the Atlanta Falcons this past Super Bowl. However it was not the first million dollar Super Bowl wager made in Las Vegas history. There was a million dollar laydown on the 1989 49ers/Bengals Super Bowl in Miami.
Legendary bookmaker/bettor Gene Mayday owned Little Caesars mini-casino/sportsbook in the same mini-mall as Churchill Downs race and sportsbook, next to the Galaxy Motel on the north end of the Strip. Little Caesars anchored one end of the block-long mall and Churchill anchored the other end. Little Caesars casino had a quarter craps game and maybe a hundred slots. The menu consisted of popcorn and hotdogs.
Gene, originally from Detroit, owned then sold Checker Cab Company in Las Vegas and as such gave cab drivers free coffee. The parking lots front and back were always full of vacant cabs while they kept the quarter craps game inside live. Gene was a fearless bookmaker and took monster action but would balk at a hot dog comp. The old red carpet was mostly tape and not a cocktail waitress was in sight.
Gene booked and bet monster action. He had some very sharp handicappers behind him. Bob “Toledo Blackie” Black was Gene’s right-hand man in the sportsbook. The Little Caesars line was highly regarded, and the business the pay phones out front generated was legendary, as were the ones at Churchill. Little Caesars pioneered “Midnight Madness” in which they gave an extra half-point on football bets on Friday and Saturday nights after midnight.
In that 1989 Super Bowl, Gene booked Bob “Polish Maverick” Stupak’s one million dollar bet. Stupak was a Las Vegas legend in his own right, as quirky as he was rich. He owned Vegas World before it became The Stratosphere.
In that 1989 Super Bowl he took the Bengals +7. The 49ers won, 20-16, and so did Stupak who promptly presented Gene with a custom-made, three wheeled, one-man car, which Gene proudly parked in front of Little Caesars. It became a landmark.
Churchill Downs and Little Caesars co-existed on the same block till Gene passed and his casino/sportsbook closed. Harry Gordon’s Churchill Downs is also long gone as is the mall they occupied. All bulldozed to make room for the Paris Hotel and a gaudy replica of the Eiffel Tower, but they can’t bulldoze the memories of Mayday or Churchill Downs. Like I say, even Hollywood can’t reproduce them.
As a side note, that same Super Bowl was the biggest win I ever oversaw in any sportsbook I ran in Las Vegas.
Take care, Scotty, www.wiseguys.com