These books have a lot of history | TahoeDailyTribune.com
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These books have a lot of history

We’ve come a long way baby!

My first memory of Tahoe’s sports books goes back to when I was a wide-eyed kid of 24.

I placed my first bets in a small, smoke-filled room, where a crusty crowd of individuals spent hours betting horses and sports. The lighting was poor, the reception on the TVs was questionable, a form cost $1.25 and there was no such thing as Direct TV. All the bets were booked manually and the odds were written out on large chalkboards.



A bookie’s primary job qualification was outstanding penmanship and the manager’s job was to limit liability by keeping their eyes open for “Wise Guys,” ensuring there wasn’t too much money bet on a hot horse. Most important: Make sure nothing was bet after the race was over! Real-time race simulcasts didn’t start until 1977. Remember the movie “The Sting”?

By 1979, the State of Nevada had approximately 30 sports books and the betting “handle” or volume for that year was $289.6 million dollars.




In January of 1983, the federal tax on sports betting was lowered from 2 percent to the current level of one-quarter of one percent. As you could predict, the number of books in the state soared and the old dens of iniquity became big business.

By 1986, the number of legal books in Nevada had doubled and the handle rocketed to $989,188,000. Today, there are 146 properties with sports books performing $2,007,378,000.00 in volume.

The small, poorly lit rooms have been replaced with smoke-free, state of the art books featuring electronic reader boards and wide screen TVs on every wall. Television coverage has been expanded where virtually every game can be watched. The old crusty horse players have been replaced with younger, more affluent players, who love testing their handicapping skill with those of the oddsmakers.

While the modern day book is attracting more and more women, single guys looking for the ladies are still better off at a hot spot like Altitude, Harrah’s Lake Tahoe’s newest nightclub.

A sports book gives the casino just another reason to throw a big party. Sporting events such as the upcoming Breeders Cup on Oct. 26, the Kentucky Derby and the Super Bowl are a great opportunities to invite not only sports players, but also our best slot and table games customers to a party.

All in all, the race & sports book is a great place to meet friends, root and cheer for a common interest and bet a few bucks to keep the adrenaline level high.

Thanks to all the regular characters from Spyglass to Bridge Jumper for making sports books what they are today.

We’ve come a long way baby!


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