In a follow-up, Roxy Roxborough suggested adding Vic Salerno's name to those listed here.
No one has bothered to establish a hall of fame for sports bettors.
Howard Schwartz wants to correct that oversight.
Schwartz, proprietor of the Gambler’s Book Shop in Las Vegas, is not so presumptuous that he would call himself the driving force behind the idea. Instead, he prefers the term “curious initiator.”
In that spirit, Schwartz informally introduced a list of 14 potential candidates for a sports betting hall of fame last week at a gathering of sports handicappers, poker players and other gambling figures at his store on East Tropicana Avenue.
Though the idea is still in its infancy, Schwartz envisions a sports betting hall of fame that would eventually have a physical location and perhaps an annual induction ceremony. It would honor the accomplishments of gamblers and others of influence in the sports betting business and serve as a resource for those interested in the history of gambling.
Inductees would fall into one of three categories: Bettors (self-explanatory); bet-takers, including bookmakers, oddsmakers and executives; and innovators, a catchall classification that could include politicians, publicists, talk-show hosts and the like.
Schwartz’s initial list was not meant to be all-inclusive, but rather to act as a starting point in the discussion of a sports betting hall of fame.
All are worthy candidates:
Lem Banker — The dean of Las Vegas sports bettors, Banker has been gambling high and hobnobbing with movers and shakers for more than a half-century.
Sen. Howard Cannon — In 1974, Cannon championed legislation that reduced the 10 percent federal tax on sports wagers to 2 percent (it was later cut to .25 percent, or one-quarter of 1 percent), paving the way for an explosion in popularity in Nevada sports betting.
Bill Dark — An innovative bookmaker in the early days of Las Vegas sports betting, Dark is credited with creating the over/under (total runs) bet in baseball wagering.
Gene Maday — At the helm of the old Little Caesars Sports Book on the Strip, Maday was famous for booking the biggest bets in town.
Art Manteris — A veteran gaming executive, Manteris helped usher in the modern era of sports betting in Nevada, where sports gamblers now collectively risk as much as $2.6 billion a year at the windows.
Bob Martin — The manager of the old Churchill Downs sports book in Las Vegas and later the Union Plaza sports book, Martin was the nation’s No. 1 oddsmaker in the 1960s and 1970s. His Las Vegas Sun obituary in 2001 stated that he was called “the most powerful man in football” because of his oddsmaking prowess.
Charles McNeil — A gambler and bookmaker who got his start in Chicago in the 1930s, McNeil is credited with developing and popularizing the concept of the point spread.
Mort Olshan — In 1957 Olshan founded the national betting publication “The Gold Sheet,” dedicated to offering readers no-nonsense gambling advice and sports predictions.
Lee Pete — He’s now retired in Ohio, but in his prime Pete brought betting talk into the lives of millions of listeners throughout the West as the host of the Stardust Line radio show. “We reached 38 million people, and about half of them were bookies,” Pete, an inveterate wisecracker, told the Toledo Blade in 2007.
Sonny Reizner — The director of the old Castaways sports book from 1976 to 1987, Reizner popularized football handicapping contests, now a major part of the Las Vegas betting scene. In an era of less stringent regulation, Reizner gained fame for posting betting lines on the “Dallas” TV show cliffhanger “Who shot J.R.?”
Frank “Lefty” Rosenthal — In his obituary last year, The New York Times wrote that Rosenthal established the prototype for the modern sports book at the Stardust in 1976, “with plush seating and myriad television screens, bringing a comfort and glamour to the kind of betting that had always been treated as a little bit sleazy.”
Michael “Roxy” Roxborough — The world’s most influential oddsmaker for much of the 1980s and 1990s, Roxborough issued an authoritative opinion on betting lines from his Las Vegas office.
Jimmy “the Greek” Snyder — Before his career came to an ignominious end, Snyder was a prominent booster of Las Vegas-style sports betting as an oddsmaker and, later, as a (sometimes) fearless forecaster on “The NFL Today” on CBS Sports.
Billy Walters — In the book “Gambling Wizards,” author Richard W. Munchkin wrote that Walters’ betting group, one of the first to harness the power of computer-assisted analysis in sports gambling, crushed bookies from coast to coast in the 1980s. Walters helped revolutionize football betting in the process.
Las Vegas Sun, Sept. 9, 2009