From gambling with nuns to running the Caesars Palace and Wynn Las Vegas sportsbooks, there’s not much that Sports Betting Hall of Fame inductee Vincent Magliulo hasn’t seen during a lifetime in an industry he loves.
Vincent Magliulo is definitely one of life’s natural raconteurs.
Over the course of a one-hour Zoom call, the anecdotes flow easily from the current Vice President of the Las Vegas Dissemination Company and Sportsbook Director at Gaughan Gaming. Some are surprising and laugh-out-loud funny, while others reveal the background to some key developments in the history of sports betting. Together they tell the story of a remarkable life.
Perhaps the most eyebrow-raising of the stories is how this Brooklyn native came to book the ‘Miracle of 69’ World Series. You may think there’s nothing unusual about a bookmaker taking bets on a major sporting event, but in this case the bookie in question was just 12 years old. And the bettors were the nuns who taught at his Catholic school!
“The nuns were from just outside Baltimore and they were talking about how bad the Orioles were going to win, how dominant they were going to be and how the Mets were a fluke,” Magliulo recalled.
“So I took the liberty of making a deal with the Sisters. I would volunteer for detention on Fridays for a month if the Orioles won the World Series, but if the Mets won, I would get free milk with my lunch for the ensuing month.
“Well game one goes by and the Orioles win 4-1, and I’m on the playground the next morning and the Principal of all people was funny, saying ‘Oh, Mr Magliulo, it looks like it’s going to be a long fall for you young man’. Can you imagine? I’m a student and here’s a nun talking trash to me. She’s really pressing me, so I did the only thing I could think of, and said ‘Well Sister, how about we press and make it two months?’ She replied, ‘what language, I can’t believe you; you’re on!’’.
“History tells us that the Mets came back and won the next four games, and young Vinny Magliulo drank a lot of milk in the autumn of 1969. But I still got detention for gambling on campus!”
If his school experiences and boyhood trips to New York’s racetracks with his uncles hadn’t already made Magliulo’s mind up about his career choice, then a visit to Las Vegas to see his godfather in 1971 certainly did. “It was a wonderful experience. I fell in love with the city and everything it had to offer,” he said.
In 1978, he moved to Vegas and trained to be a dice dealer at Michael Gaughan and Frank Toti’s dealing school, before taking a job with them at the Royal Inn Casino. Four months later, he was transferred to Gaughan’s new casino hotel, the Barbary Coast, where he learned the building blocks of what would become his career.
“The Barbary Coast opened in March of 1979, which is a career highlight, as being a 21-year-old opening a casino on Las Vegas Boulevard was just a great experience,” he recalled.
“The greatest part of the experience was that Michael Gaughan really had what I consider to be the first cross-training programme in Las Vegas. It was quite basic and worked like this, ‘make sure you’re good at what I hired you for and go learn what you want throughout the property’.
“So on most of my breaks, I was in the race and sportsbook with my fellow Hall of Famers, Jimmy Vaccaro, Chris Andrews, and Art Manteris. And that’s where I met Johnny Avello, who was also a dice dealer at the time.”
The skills Magliulo developed at the Barbary Coast resulted in a job offer to join Jim Mastroianni and Lou D’Amico at Caesars Palace, as they looked to develop a successful sportsbook operation. He moved there in 1986 as supervisor and stayed until 2000, by which time he was Vice President of Race & Sports Operations.
As a boxing fan, his time at Caesars Palace could hardly have been better timed, as it coincided with the property hosting such classics as Sugar Ray Leonard v Marvin Hagler, Leonard v Tommy Hearns II, and Riddick Bowe vs. Evander Holyfield II.
“We had some of the most legendary boxing events in history,” Magliulo said. “The energy and excitement not only permeated the property, but the fights transcended the entire city. Wherever you went in Vegas – taxis, restaurants, other casinos – those fights were the talk of the town.”
Popularizing the Super Bowl prop bet
The sportsbook saw plenty of action on those big fights, but the lasting legacy from Magliulo’s spell at Caesars is the development of NFL prop betting.
Super Bowl prop betting first came to prominence in 1986 when Art Manteris offered odds on whether William ‘The Refrigerator’ Perry would score a touchdown against the New England Patriots, only to incur a six-figure loss when the super-sized Chicago Bear bludgeoned his way into the end zone from a yard out.
Magliulo loved the idea of the prop bet though, reasoning that during the three hours of an NFL match, there were scores of “games within the game” that fans would want to bet on. Within a couple of years, he was offering a dozen football props and by 1994, Caesars was able to offer a then record of 80 props for Super Bowl XXVIII.
“I gathered the staff and said, ‘I want us to put together wagers that you would want to bet on, so put yourself in the customers’ shoes and formulate the bets they want but have never been able to make on the Super Bowl’,” Magliulo said.
“To my staff’s credit, we wound up putting up about 80 different wagers on that Super Bowl. I encourage operators today to get their staff involved because they have good opinions, good ideas.
“It just took off from there and, with the creativity in the industry, you see some places with anywhere from 350 to 500 different wagers on the Super Bowl. There’s probably more talk about the proposition bets than the game itself now, as they can account for 60 per cent of the handle.”
Bringing pari-mutuel wagering to Nevada
One other important change he helped to bring about during his time with Caesars was the introduction of pari-mutuel wagering in Nevada in 1991. He was part of a group of industry professionals who, along with the Nevada Resort Association, crafted the legislation that allowed bets to be commingled across the country.
“At that time, we were booking horse races, like we were booking sports. But I can tell you that there were some races that had far bigger decisions than some NFL football games,” Magliulo explained. “So bets were capped – we paid full track odds up to a certain amount, depending on the property, but there was no real extreme exotic wagering, like pick sixes and things like that.
“So the addition of pari-mutuel wagering allowed patrons to wager and be paid as though they were actually at the racetracks.”
After leaving Caesars Palace for John Gaughan’s Las Vegas Dissemination Company, Magliulo received an invitation to consult on the design of the sportsbook at the new Wynn Las Vegas development on the site of the old Desert Inn. A subsequent meeting with Steve Wynn turned into the briefest of job interviews, when the casino mogul asked him what he thought about the project.
Magliulo recalled: “Steve Wynn asked me what I thought of the project. I said, ‘well, sir, I think that this is certainly going to be a project that not only raises the bar, as you’ve done in the past with with the Mirage and Bellagio, but it’s going to set the new standard and resurrect the entire north end of the strip’. And Steve Wynn said, ‘I already know all of that. Tell me what you really think’.
“I said, ‘well, you probably need a bookie from Brooklyn to run your race and sports book’. He said, ‘I love that’ and hired me the next day.”
Magliulo oversaw the design of the resort’s sportsbook, its opening in 2005 and operations for the first 12 months of trading, before returning to the Las Vegas Dissemination Company and Gaughan Gaming, where he remains to this day.
Pleasingly, he also now has a media outlet to share his anecdotes and insights, after helping Brian Musburger to found the specialist sports wagering broadcast network VSiN. With so many stories to tell and an almost unrivaled knowledge of sports betting, it’s unlikely that there’s much dead air on his shows.
Magliulo credits his wife and children as the major supporters of his long career. “They’ve endured more sporting events and the betting associated with them than most operators. They are my true Blessings.”
The Sports Betting Hall of Fame Class of 2022 ceremony takes place at Meadowlands Racing and Entertainment on the evening of July 13.
It forms part of the SBC Summit North America 2022 conference and tradeshow for the sports betting and igaming industries, which runs across July 12-14 at Meadowlands Exposition Center, New Jersey.