Jimmy Vaccaro

Director of Public Relations for William Hill U.S.—37 years as a Las Vegas bookmaker


Photo by Anthony Mair

Every day they write the book: Reading between the lines with four Vegas oddsmakers.

The first football bet I ever made … was the 1958 NFL Championship Game between the Giants and the Colts—“The Greatest Game Ever Played.” I was 13 years old, and my brother made a $10 bet for me. We actually had a place in Pittsburgh called Louie’s Pool Room—Louie was a local bookmaker—and I laid 3½ points with the Colts, and they won by six. I immediately ran out looking for my brother to get my $10.

We call them parlay cards now … but when I was a kid, they were called spot sheets, and I played the spot sheets every Thursday for 50 cents. We had to pick four or more games, and I vividly remember playing those as a youngster. Also at that time, the Pittsburgh Press had a weekly football contest, and I entered it religiously. I remember getting the paper on Wednesday, cutting out the contest form, filling it out and sending it in. Never won anything, but it was an indoctrination.

Put money on a game … and you’ll watch it completely differently than you say you always watch games. When there’s two minutes to go in the first quarter and someone screws up, if you don’t have a bet, you’re like, “Ah, what a stupid play.” If you have $100 on it, you’re saying, “What the fuck did that asshole do?”

The walls aren’t tumbling down … but they’re coming down brick by brick. Just a few short years ago, you couldn’t even talk on your phone in a sportsbook—they used to damn-near arrest you. That stuff is all gone. We’ve had overtures from Gaming Control time and time again recently, “If you have an idea, bring it to us, and we’ll talk about it.” We never used to get that far 20 years ago. William Hill being here is a major, major deal, having a foreign company coming in here and running a race and sportsbook.

The best Super Bowl value bet … is the Cleveland Browns. Obviously, that’s a real, real long shot. But I think the Steelers and the Ravens are going to take a step back, so there’s a chance for the Browns to get into the playoffs. And once you get in, anything can happen. And with the Browns, at least you’re getting a fair price—75- or 100-to-1 to win the Super Bowl.