In the true fashion of oddsmakers, friends and associates of legendary Las Vegas bookmaker Jimmy Vaccaro are more than willing to “make book” on Vaccaro’s future plans.
They just can’t believe Vaccaro, a fixture in the Nevada sports betting universe for more than four decades working at the Royal Inn, Barbary Coast, the Mirage, William Hill US and other stops, will depart his current post at the South Point sportsbook in Las Vegas. Jokingly, some have even set odds on how long their bookmaking colleague can stay away from Las Vegas after he returns to his Western Pennsylvania roots in Tafford, near Pittsburgh.
Vaccaro has apparently confided to close friends and associates he’ll be headed east — not on an airplane because he refuses to fly — to assume an executive marketing and promotional role with Rush Street Gaming, operators of the Rivers Casino in Pittsburgh and the SugarHouse Casino in Philadelphia, where sportsbook operations opened in mid-December.
Vacarro Reportedly Bound for PA
Rush Street also owns and operates casinos in suburban Chicago and upstate New York, where sports betting in Illinois and New York could be legalized sometime in 2019. Rush Street additionally operates an online and mobile sports betting/casino gaming site in the rapidly growing New Jersey marketplace.
Former Las Vegas Review-Journal sports wagering columnist and current Vegas Stats & Information Network (VSiN) personality Matt Youmans and Bert Osborne, the now-retired former South Point sportsbook director, a past Vaccaro colleague and also a Western Pennsylvania native who returned home, tweeted in November about the surprise move.
Fresh off the presses. My Rivers contacts tell me it is a Done Deal. Jimmy is coming home. They're even going to build a studio to compete with outlets in Las Vegas and New Jersey. I guess that would be be VSiN. How is that for boots on the ground?
— Bert l Osborne jr (@BertlOsbornejr2) December 13, 2018
— Matt Youmans (@mattyoumans247) November 16, 2018
Vaccaro has yet to speak publicly on his plans.
Rush Street has informed Sports Handle that there’s no official statement on the hiring as yet, but did not deny the move. Vaccaro, a regular, in-person fixture on the Brent Musburger-hosted VSiN “My Guys in the Desert” program that originates at the South Point, is expected to continue as a show contributor. As with Rush Street, VSiN has yet to make a formal announcement regarding Vaccaro.
Vic Salerno, a member of the American Gaming Association (AGA) Hall of Fame, and current CEO of USBookmaking, told Sport Handle Vaccaro’s influence on sports betting was pervasive as both a spokesman for the industry and as an innovator. “He was the first to introduce Super Bowl propositions that definitely changed the business,” Salerno said.
‘A Bookmaker’s Bookmaker’
Salerno added, “He was the bookmaker’s bookmaker.”
William Hill US CEO Joe Asher told Sports Handle, “Jimmy Vaccaro is a legend in Las Vegas and in the sports betting business. It’s not going to be same without Jimmy in our city, but I know how he feels about Trafford — hometowns are special to a lot of us. I’m really glad that the overturning of PASPA has made it possible for Jimmy to stay in the business and go home.”
In his most recent stint at the South Point, Vaccaro continued pressing for the legalization of sports betting in other states, always inviting visiting lawmakers and regulators to “come behind the counter” to see how it’s done. A frequent guest on national radio and television shows, he has continuously advocated for the national expansion of the sports betting business.
Most recently, he was a major contributor to ESPN’s “42-1” documentary on the 1990 Mike Tyson vs. James “Buster” Douglas heavyweight boxing match. Working at the Mirage at the time, Vaccaro was the only bookmaker to post odds and take legal wagers on the bout, won by Douglas in an astonishing ninth-round knockout of Tyson at odds that closed at 42-1.
Vaccaro is known for his approachability, often warmly greeting newcomers to sports wagering and showing them how to make a bet. In the mad crush of wagers for sporting events such as the Super Bowl and the NCAA basketball tournament, he would take to the sportsbook’s public address system to remind bettors exactly how to place their wagers to keep long betting lines moving.
Pennsylvania just picked up a Five ⭐️ pick. Jimmy Vaccaro is coming home. Rush Street Gaming which operates Rivers Casino in Pittsburgh and Sugar House in Philadelphia signed the # 1 free agent. Congratulations and welcome back. Can't beat Western Pennsylvania. This morning. pic.twitter.com/ibLaiqSGVu
— Bert l Osborne jr (@BertlOsbornejr2) November 16, 2018
Vaccaro Known For Generosity
Usually working the late afternoon and evening shift, Vaccaro could often be seen assisting casino porters picking up stray parlay cards, ashtrays and loose paper throughout the sportsbook.
Vaccaro was favored by the media because of his “everyman” approach to sports betting, his dry wit and keen recollection of famous sporting events. His comments often focused on how sports betting usually helped to shape personal history by providing bettors with a miracle win or a horrible bad beat.
Longtime observers of the Nevada betting scene recall how Vaccaro, on a visit to Sam’s Town, a popular casino frequented by Las Vegas locals, made several large parlay card wagers. After cashing a bet for several thousand dollars the next day, he promptly distributed the winnings equally to all the Sam’s Town sportsbook workers to the tune of several hundred dollars each.
“It’s a good bet that Jimmy Vaccaro knows more about the world of sports wagering than virtually any other American,” wrote Pittsburgh Post-Gazette columnist Gary Rotstein in a June feature on Vaccaro.
It’s odds on that Las Vegas’ sport betting scene without Vaccaro will never quite be the same.