Posted: 2/1/2013 2:41:41 PM
The line was out the door at Barbary Coast from people who wanted action on Ali-Holmes in 1980.
By: Jimmy Vaccaro
Nov 27, 2012
LAS VEGAS -- So the stage was set in Las Vegas for sports books to operate within casinos. The pioneers set forth what would become a new way of doing business. Bob Martin was at the Plaza, and Lefty Rosenthal showed us with his place at the Stardust how to dress up a book, but we needed a push to get the machine in motion throughout town.
That push came from the corner of Las Vegas Boulevard and Flamingo at the Barbary Coast, which opened on March 30, 1979—with me running the book—and it played a pivotal part in the future of racing and sports.
This was way before there were dozens of street performers in character as Batman and Megatron, and before the street peddlers and jugglers took up residence in front of what is now called Wild Bill's. There were no overhead walkways, nor peddling of cards with the phone numbers of escort services on them.
The common thread to a Las Vegas experience in those days was shows and gambling, in no particular order.
Picture this on an NFL Sunday morning way back when: The Flamingo was on our right. Caesars Palace was across the street. The magnificent Dunes was catty-corner, and the original MGM was to our left. The four of them combined had over 8,000 rooms.
At the Barbary Coast, we had only 200 rooms.
But with all the opulence at those great casinos, you could do everything except bet your favorite team. We had a sports book, they didn't.
And as each big event came and went, Michael Gaughan emphasized giving leeway on things that would get spillover play from our neighbors on the tables and slots. Again, we had a sports book, and they didn't
I can't even begin to tell you what the Barbary Coast was like on October 2, 1980. That was Holmes vs. Ali.
Part V: Union Plaza first hotel to jump into book business
When I think about that day, I can't help but remember the crew behind the counter with me in the Barbary book — Archie Manteris, Ricky Herron, Jerry Ludt, Muggsy Muniz, Chris Andrews, Mary Sapp, and Mary Stumbo. ... I hope I did not forget anyone.
On this particular fight night, it was non-stop ticket writing, as the lines of people wanting action extended out the door to the Flamingo. It was a sight to behold, and 98 percent of the people betting were from other hotels. You get the picture.
But it came to a head one Monday morning when I was summoned to Michael's office, and he was livid after receiving a phone call from the brass at Caesars wondering why we had so many of their chips.
You used to be able to walk into any casino and exchange or bet another casinos chips. Early in the week, what was called a chip run was put into use — security would gather our chips and get cash from the other casinos.
Well, on one big football weekend, we were to return over $200,000 of Caesars chips, and they didn't like it too much. Their customers were coming to the little red casino across the street, playing sports and sticking around. Pretty good marketing tool, wouldn't you say?
Books were coming to the big joints eventually, but this put some 5-hour energy into the CEOs' to-do lists, and it wasn't long before they all had their own books.
Even though Ali was totally outclassed that night in 1980, he might have won a big decision in getting you to the window quicker when you stay at your favorite hotel.