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Gaming Guru

Jeff Simpson
 

Gaming Today Publisher Di Rocco Dies

9 March 2004

and Ed Koch

LAS VEGAS -- Chuck Di Rocco, the colorful publisher and founder of Gaming Today and a pioneer in bringing racing simulcasts to Las Vegas casinos, died Saturday morning after a long illness. He was 69.

In addition to publishing Gaming Today, a weekly gambling, horse racing and sports betting publication in its 28th year, Di Rocco's Dirson Enterprises also prints parlay cards for the city's sports book industry and sells the wallboards used to post race and game results in the books, Gaming Today Executive Editor Ray Poirier said Monday.

Services will be 10:30 a.m. Friday at St. Joseph Husband of Mary Catholic Church, 7260 W. Sahara Ave. Interment will follow at Palm Mortuary. Viewing will be 4 p.m. to 7 p.m. on Thursday by Palm Mortuary, 7600 S. Eastern Ave.

"No question he helped gamblers get some of their money back from the casinos with education through his free publication that is available virtually everywhere," said Andy Isoke, who for six years has written Gaming Today's sports gaming column.

"He started when gaming was frowned upon and he helped make it respectable."

Di Rocco also was a high-stakes gambler.

"He backed up his own advice with his own money," said Dave Tuley, Las Vegas correspondent for the Daily Racing Form, who was managing editor of Gaming Today from 1998 to 2000. "He was a high-roller at the blackjack tables, and he was not afraid to step up to the big (betting) window if he like a horse.

"Chuck would rub elbows with casino executives. He knew everyone in town. But he also considered himself one of the little people because he grew up on the tough streets of Philadelphia. He was proud of being a Depression-era kid who became a self-made millionaire."

Di Rocco moved to Las Vegas from the East Coast in the mid-70s and founded Gaming Today's forerunner, Sports Form, in 1976.

Di Rocco's column, "Heard on the Strip," typically appeared on the front page of each issue of Gaming Today. It contained information about people and events linked to the gambling scene in Las Vegas.

In his other regular column, "Marker Down," Di Rocco offered his viewpoint on gambling-related topics or recounted old-time gambling tales, some drenched in nostalgia.

Di Rocco said he fell in love with horse racing when he was a teenager in parochial school.

One day he discovered a priest sitting in his vehicle in the school parking lot listening to a race over the car radio. The priest later asked young Di Rocco to accompany him to Garden State Raceway, where Di Rocco was enamored by the characters who hung around the track.

After studying journalism at Penn State University, Di Rocco worked for a newspaper in Morristown, N.J., and did public relations work at horse racetracks in New York, New Jersey and Maryland. He worked several years at Buffalo Raceway in New York before coming to Las Vegas in 1975.

Di Rocco generated much of his wealth in the 1980s from his ownership of Winco, one of the market's pioneering race simulcasting services that sold video rights to races to casino race books.

In 1991, facing a lawsuit and a state Gaming Control Board complaint charging that he'd overbilled a couple of race books, Di Rocco agreed to sell his company and to pay state regulators $250,000, including a $100,000 fine and $150,000 in expense reimbursement.

After selling the dissemination service, Di Rocco refocused his attention on Gaming Today, expanding its coverage, Poirier said.

In 1998, Di Rocco told the Las Vegas Sun that he was proud of Gaming Today's ability to report hot news before mainstream media outlets.

"That's the essence of GT," Di Rocco said then. "News you can bet on. News before it's news."

Di Rocco is survived by his wife and business partner Eileen Di Rocco, his son Edward, two sisters and several nieces and nephews.