In my opinion these are among the most influential figures in Las Vegas sports betting history. They actually influenced the evolution of sports betting in Las Vegas and helped export the Las Vegas brand to the masses.
With the exception of Jimmy the Greek who couldn’t resist microphones, TV cameras or sports writers the rest of my list doesn’t self-promote. My over/under of those who disagree with my selections is 1,213 but here goes.
First has to be Bob Martin. Bob didn’t seek or need marketing, he was the real deal. He booked his own numbers and they were high. His numbers went out to the World. His odds and his word were the bible.
Bob gave Las Vegas sports betting the face of legitimacy and integrity and in addition he was good company, humorous and a gentleman.
The opposite of Martin was Jimmy “The Greek” Snyder (Synodinos). The Greek put an early face on the Las Vegas mystique. He was a marketing genius not an expert handicapper. His selections went out to the country and in the 60’s and 70’s he was perceived as having inside information.
Those of us who knew him knew he wasn’t particularly sharp. In fact his office girl “Sally the Greek” called Churchill for the line he claimed. Jimmy had an early stand-alone book downtown and went tapioca. He made the big time on national TV before blowing it by blurting what was perceived as a racial slur.
The Computer (aka The Computer Group) started in the mid-70’s when three men joined forces and talents to form a high tech computer driven approach to handicapping the right side of a game and mastering how to get down for as much as they needed.
They were the first to hammer the Las Vegas sportsbooks and bookmakers around the country. They employed legions of runners and phone personnel and were very adept at disguising “the right side,” the side they wanted so as not to ruin the market.
Michael “Roxy” Roxborough and I traveled a sometimes rocky road together but I recognize his accomplishments and the positive face he gave the Las Vegas betting industry as it later came to be known. It’s late 70’s and Roxy gets a haircut, puts down his Coors companion, puts on a nice suit and establishes Las Vegas Sports Consultants (LVSC). They made odds and serviced for most of Nevada’s sportsbooks. He put a corporate spin on Las Vegas Race/Sportsbooks as our spokesman for most of his reign. Roxy sold LVSC, quit winners and moved to Thailand. Roxy was the bridge between the Martin era and the advent of the offshore books where the odds now begin.
Vic Salerno: Vic and I also traveled a rocky road together. Vic has to be included as the force behind modernizing the business by computerizing race/sportsbooks. He founded Computer Bookmaking Systems (CBS) and like it or not, the bookmaking business in Nevada changed forever.
Vic later founded the Leroy’s chain of books and sold out to William Hill. Vic is now pioneering another game changer. He’s the first to seek a license for Fantasy Sports in Nevada and it will be nationwide if I know Vic.
There are more of course like Mort Olshan founder of The Gold Sheet, Jerry Kilgore who published The J.K. Sports schedule, Lefty Rosenthal who built the Stardust race/sportsbook, bookmakers like Harry Gordon and Gene Mayday, Ken Swanson who serviced the early racebooks, Chuck DiRocco the simulcasting pioneer and publisher of Sports Form now GamingToday. There’s more of course and as soon as I hit send they’ll come to me. Maybe we’ll do a bettor’s column.
Scotty Schettler began his Las Vegas journey in 1968. By the time he quit the race and sports book business he had booked over $1.5 billion for different employers. He says he knows where most of the cans are buried. His book, We Were Wise Guys and Didn't Know It is available on amazon.com. Contact Scotty at [email protected]