EVERYBODY IS IN LOVE WITH SPORTS BETTING

When I left in January, Michael Gaughan joked and said, “You’ll be back.”

The only place I would ever consider leaving Las Vegas for was Pittsburgh, because it’s 22 miles from Trafford, Pa., and my family. Going back was just like old times. I had a lot of time to spend with my cousins and close friends, and I enjoyed it immensely.

I went to work for the Rivers Casino with the expectation that I might be there for a long time. But like with most every business, things change. And I’m old school and they are new school, so it didn’t work out. Departing was a mutual agreement. It was a cordial goodbye.

But I’m really looking forward to this year -- year No. 45 for me in this business.

We are seeing a metamorphosis of sports wagering across the country.

Why it took all these years, I don’t know. No senators would listen to me in 1985. I am glad to at least be a part of it while it’s happening nationwide.

Within three to fve years, there will be 30 to 35 states offering sports betting. Arizona will be up and running in the near future. Each state can make its own rules, and I think some states wanted to see how others do for a year. It’s only the beginning.

The Rivers paid a $10 million fee to get in Pennsylvania and operate sports betting. It has a beautiful place. The sportsbook is 100 yards from Heinz Field, where the Steelers play. It’s a new era with a new way of doing business. I welcome it.

This I can tell you — and I think this old timer is right on this — whatever you think it’s going to be, it will be three times bigger. What you see now is nowhere near what it’s going to be because everybody is in love with sports betting.

I got a real strong perspective of the new way of doing business. The major change is the use of kiosks, and they are everywhere and they are growing. There were 12 kiosks and four windows with ticket writers. The Rivers plans to have 18 kiosks, and I told them that might be a low number on Saturdays and Sundays. The young kids are used to the gadgets. At all these places, the signups are through the roof and the young people are getting involved.

I hate to be the bearer of bad news, but in three years you might see two writers and the rest will be kiosks. You might not see it here at the South Point. Michael is old school and he’s not going to change.

When I was a kid running around here, you had to keep your ears and eyes open because it’s a changing business.

At 73 years old, turning 74 in October, nobody can hit it better than I did. This is a major part of my life. I was always involved with this stuff. I came to town at the right time. It’s hard to say no to Michael, who opened the door for me in 1975.

Michael is the only owner who keeps as much interest in the sportsbook as he does in the rest of the casino. The sportsbook is very important to him. It’s marketing, too. There’s no doubt the South Point’s gets a lot of ink.

Michael said, “You can come back anytime you want.” But he wanted me back by Aug. 1 for football.

The thing we didn’t know was with Chris Andrews and his health issues. I speak to Chris every day and we’re hoping for the best. He’s in for a fght and he understands this. It will at least be the middle of October before Chris comes back. The kids are running the book. Chris checks in almost daily and he’s feeling good.

I truly enjoy the football season. The rest of the year I really don’t care much for, except March Madness. For this old-timer, I can’t wait for football. I love college football 10 times more than the NFL. There’s more intrigue in college. If you tell me you can beat the NFL, you’re a genius. In the NFL, 10 percent of the teams will overachieve, 10 percent will underachieve and the other 80 percent will be within a feld goal.

I like what I do here and I enjoy being on the VSiN shows. People like the shows because they are devoted to gambling. It’s good for everybody.

When I was in the Rivers sportsbook, I would get questions. Three that everybody asked me: How was VSiN? How is Brent Musburger? Is Pauly Howard really crazy?

It’s 50 hours from Pittsburgh to Reno on the train. I was on one that was delayed because boulders fell in the Rocky Mountains. There was a rock slide, and the conductor said we can’t go because there’s a boulder on the track. We sat there for four hours. It took awhile to get here, and it’s great to be back.

I’m back going to the spa every day and I just had lunch with Nick Bogdanovich, Richie Baccellieri and Jeff Whitelaw. I’m going to give away a lot of the South Point’s money this year.

I will be here every day. I don’t take any days off, because I’m crazy

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