Golden Nugget’s Miller born to run

Golden Nugget’s Miller born to run

October 10, 2018 3:01 AM


No history of sports betting in Las Vegas would be complete without a section on the “runners,” those middlemen who would literally run around town making bets for their clients.

Tony Miller, executive sports book director at the Golden Nugget, is part of that history.

Back in the early 1980’s, Miller used to run bets for customers of his father, the late Mike Miller, who worked in security at the old Desert Inn.

“He’d give me the bets in an envelope,” said Miller, one of the contestants in Gaming Today’s Bookies Battle. “I would run down, make the bet and I’d run back to the D.I. and hand it to my dad.

“I didn’t know who I was running for. Word was some of the bets were for Howard Hughes. I never knew for sure. I remember my dad saying, ‘Don’t ever open the envelope, don’t ever ask what’s in them.’”

One of the most popular spots to make sports bets in those days was a hole-in-the-wall dive, Little Caesar’s, partly because its fearless bookmaker, Gene Maday, would take just about any wager. Miller would start at 8 a.m. and finish around 4 p.m., seven days a week.

“It was incredible,” he said. “I was a kid right out of college. I made bets, called in lines. I always had a lot of quarters in my pocket for the pay phones.”

A bell captain at the “old MGM” (Marina Hotel and Casino) was another of Miller’s clients. One day that bell captain told him that Dean Martin had just checked in and wanted to make a sports bet.

Miller said he went up to the Vegas legend’s suite, rang the bell and entered the room.

“He had all the furniture pushed to one side,” Miller said. “Back then the patio doors swung wide open. He was in the middle of the living room, with a bunch of golf balls, hitting them, full swing, out into the desert. I ran the bet for him. He gave me a $100 tip.”

A few years later, Miller got hired as a ticket writer at Caesars Palace and he’s been in the sports-book industry for more than three decades, including the last 12 years at the Golden Nugget.

While runners don’t stand out quite like they used to, they’re not extinct.

“They’re out there, they’re just lurking,” Miller said. “I can change a number on a game and they’ll be here within seconds to get it back in line.”

Miller, 62, was born in England while his father was serving in the Air Force. He didn’t come to the United States until he was 6 years old and ended up in Vegas at age 19 when his dad retired. Miller made the UNLV football team as a walk-on cornerback. 

“I’d get in at the end of the game when we were getting slaughtered,” he said.

After getting his start at Caesars Palace, Miller went on to work at the Barbary Coast, Las Vegas Hilton, Santa Fe and Hard Rock before taking an offer from a British sports book.

That turned into the worst nightmare of his life.

Miller’s daughter, Kristi, joined him in England to work as his secretary. “She wanted to travel and see the world,” he said. “She fell in love with a British guy.”

Kristi Miller and her boyfriend took a trip to Egypt. Miller believes they were getting engaged. A terrorist attack, however, took both of their lives. It was July 23, 2005. The suicide bombing occurred at a hotel, the Ghazala Gardens, in the resort city of Sharm El Sheikh.

“She died on her birthday, 27 years old,” Miller said.

Devastated by the loss, Miller returned to Las Vegas. He has a daughter and two grandkids living here, plus another daughter in Tacoma, Wash. He and his wife, Kelly, consider their Golden Nugget friends to be part of their family.

“It’s hard to leave family,” Miller said. “This might be my last job.”