10/14/81 Stardust Race and Sports Book

The Beauty of the Book

It used to be all about the game at the Stardust Race & Sports Book.

The Stardust may be long gone, but the legend of its sportsbook lingers on. The notorious oddsmaker, mob frontman and Casino inspiration Frank “Lefty” Rosenthal, opened the Stardust Race & Sports Book in 1976. Its 25-foot-tall computerized reader board, 48-square-foot TV screen and Western Union wire were considered state-of-the-art.

The Stardust Line, 1983

Over the years, the boards and screens got bigger, but the focus always remained on the games and the odds. For years, the Stardust set the opening Las Vegas line for the NFL. Hard-core gamblers would line up well before the 5:30 on Sunday release time to be first at the betting window (the limit on NFL bets was a then-unheard of $10,000) and lock in their odds before countless other bettors and books across the nation began dicking with the numbers. Further evidence that the Stardust was not exactly geared toward the casual fan: a closet dubbed the Sports Handicappers Library, which was papered with blindness-inducing printouts of every imaginable relevant statistic, from the Sacramento Kings’ 3-point percentage to three years’ worth of Cowboys/Steelers matchups.

Today, sportsbooks are barely about betting—they’re about plush seating, specialty cocktails, themed food menus, foosball tables and cocktail waitresses in hot pants. But take a moment to recall the Stardust Race & Sports Book, where it was always and only all about the game.