The bold black letters on the huge white marquee, which spins around once every 28 seconds here in the middle of the desert, tells a gambler or a football fan everything he needs to know:
"Minn Vikings Plus 5
Oak Raiders Minus 5
Odds Subject to Change
One Qtr $ Million Limit"
There was a report a bettor had approached the sports bookin the Stardust's casino and attempted, with a marker, to go for the limit - $250,000 to win on Oakland in Sunday's Super Bowl game.
"Not true," Joey Boston said Friday, and Boston should know because he is the hotel "sports writer"" in charge of such goings-on. "That sign's a gimmick, but a good gimmick," Boston added. "It brings attention, and if a man would show up here today or Saturday with the $275,000, we'll take it. I'd then make the game 5 1/2 or 4, depending which way he bet. He'd need the extra $25,000, of course, to cover the 11-to-10 price of making of the bet, if he lost.
"The biggest bet we've taken so far is $50,000," Boston said. "There will be one of $100,000 tomorrow and there's another fellow getting ready to bet $180,000 to win $100,000 on Oakland straight up. (Conversely a bettor needs risk only $100,000 to win $160,000 on Minnesota)."
The Stardust's elegant sports room, on the Strap, will handle more than a million dollars on this year's super-duper. Overall, more than $2 million will be taken at the Union Plaza, Circus Circus, Churchill Downs and the other legalized betting parlors in the Vegas area.
"We did a million-two ($1,200,000) on last year's Dallas-Pittsburgh game," Boston informed. "We'd do as much this year, except the date is bad; it comes at the end of a dull week after a big weekend (for New Year's). Last week this place was crazy, with all the bowls. Michigan-USC was super two-way action. We handled about a half-million on the Rose Bowl alone, more than for the World Series."
Boston's is the only book here offering Oakland as a five-point favorite. The others make the Raiders a 4 1/2 point favorite. Only in Minneapolis are the Vikings less than a four-point underdog at 3 1/2. There are "Super Bowls Specials" in which, by risking $6 to win $5 instead of the customary $11 to win $10, a bettor is given a half-point to do with as he pleases.
For instance, at 6 to 5, he can bet Minnesota getting 5 1/2 points or Oakland giving 4 1/2.
Then there's the "point-total" bet.The figure for Sunday's game is 38, or 37 1/2, depending on the bookmaker. You can go "over" or "under" the combined total, at 11 to 10. Thursday, when word reached here of possible rain Sunday at Pasadena in the Rose Bowl, there was a strong rush of money to go "under".
Anyone brave enough to think he can pick both the winning team and the point total (over or under 38) can get a $12 return for every $5 invested on a combination bet.
Then there are the truly exotic or gimmick wagers. They are available on a man-to-man basis, such as 100 to 1 for correctly predicting the final score.
Bob Martin, the nation's finest figure man who now is the sports advisor to the Union Plaza said, "the only thing better than Oakland and Minnesota, from our business point of view, would be to have Angeles in there against Oakland. Many professionals already have gotten down on Minnesota. They thought it was a two-point game, not four like we opened. Still others are holding off. There are rumors, all unconfirmed, that (Fran) Tarkenton still has knee trouble. We know (Ken) Stabler's ribs are okay." How? "A man fairly close to A1 Davis has already made his bet, on Oakland."
This Super Bowl has an unusual point range, at 4 1/2 or 5.
"Four and six are key numbers, five isn't," Boston explained. "At four I can get all the Oakland money I want. At six I can get all the Minnesota money I want. If I'd change it either way, you guys would come flying through the doors with satchels."
Not that the "smart money" is always right.
"It's the public that makes the price, not the wise guys," Boston said.
Boston said that for the Fiesta Bowl (Wyoming-Oklahoma) someone bet $30,000 on Wyoming at the last minutes, enabling him to balance the books in what had been a precarious position.
"The college games will do that to you, once in a while," Boston said. "It doesn't happen with the pros. The pro line can always be adjusted to attract a good two-way play. Like for this Super Bowl. Five is a nothin' number, and we're higher by offering at than anyone else in town. But I'm confident the people will come in from California this weekend and lay the . . . out of it."
Of 202 games played in the NFL this season only six resulted in five-point decisions. They were Buffalo 14, Tampa Bay 9; Houston 31, New Orleans 26; the New York Jets 19, Buffalo 14; Green Bay 32, New Orieans 27; Atlanta 21; San Francisco 16; and Dallas 19, St. Louis 14.
"And of those," Boston noted, "St. Louis and Dallas was the only one that landed on the five-point spot," meaning the Cowboys had been a five-point favorite.
Bookmakers live and die by the utilization of such information. Theirs is a tough game, and they make winning over the long run extremely difficult for the best of bettors. Not that they will ever silence their critics most of whom don't know what 11 for 10 is.
"The Super Bowl that created the biggest outcry was when the Jets upset the Colts as a big underdog," Martin recalled. "A lot of people said how dumb I was when, actually the 18 point price I opened with one of the best lines I ever made. It just about split the country down the middle. Which is what I'm supposed to do. It never went under 17 1/2, and it went out to 20 or a little more in some areas.
"Still, when the game was over I got a call from a journalist student at Columbia University. He was doing a paper, and he said to me, "Aren't you ashamed to have come up with such spread?" I told him I wasn't. That I was proud of the beting the line had generated, with balanced books, but I don't know that the young man ever believed me."