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As I See It

8 April 2002

When I left the spa I stopped in the book to catch some scores and saw a couple of guys who were chasing down run lines. Exchanged pleasantries and discussed the Sunday Night Movie "Big Shot". These two have been in town for as long as I have and were playing when the four games that were in question concerning the scandal unfolded.

They like a lot of people have their own slant on what took place and asked me what I considered fact and fiction as depicted in the movie. At that time I was running the Mirage Properties' books so I probably know a little more than most, but definitely not everything.

I thought the movie was done well from an entertainment standpoint. The young kid who played Benny was especially believable. However, there were serious gaffes, and they could have used better technical advice. You just do not call up outs and simply hear, "Yeah, you got Buffalo for $200." You do not pay out big tickets with 20-dollar bills, and the way they accepted the bets would have been a bonanza for "claim jumpers".

FACT: There were four games involved. ASU vs. Oregon, Oregon State, USC, and Washington. They did bet progressively more after each win and the bulk of the money was played by the kids. I surmise from the movie that the bettors were Benny's roommates and Benny. Now in the movie, Benny says he did not show in Vegas for the last game and that I do not know. The only thing I know for sure is that there were three kids that Saturday morning who were playing the game everywhere and ultimately ended up at the Mirage where I had a few conversations with them. But I could not pick them out of a lineup today if I were asked. At least twice during the day I saw a fourth person come up to them and engage in short conversation. Did not get close enough to have any idea who that person might have been.

FACT: On the fourth and final game they got off a lot of money. The first bet that was accepted was at the Golden Nugget and we gave $17,000 on Washington at +10. This was a little after 8:00 in the morning. This bet was approved by my sportsbook manager, Russ Culver. I came in a few minutes later, and he told me what had taken place. Well, as we get into the latter part of the story we kind of knew this was coming. About 40 minutes later we got a call from the book at Treasure Island that these same guys were in there and were asking how much they could get down on the same game.

I had now heard that they stopped at other Strip properties and were betting the limits there also. I then gave them $20,000 at 9 as money was showing from other factions also. I instructed the people at T.I. to tell those guys to come by the Mirage if they wanted any more over-the-limit bets. They showed up about 30 minutes later as now they were doubling back on the Strip properties they had earlier played at. By the time I first talked to them, the buzz was all over the city.

When they came in, they were polite and naturally played the hayseed role, insisting they were students and playing the game just because they liked it. Now the number was starting in its pinball mode as all the sharps were trying to take as high a number as they could. They were not trying to do anyone a favor, but because this turned out at least from the beginning to be a chance for anyone with brains to have a 6- or 7-point middle going for them for big money. I recall now by the time I had given them +8 for 20 or 25 thousand because I could tell by the screen that there were still plenty of 8's out there. So the cat was out of the bag and it was every man for himself.

FICTION, or at least semi fiction: In the early part of the movie, when Benny is flashing the money after the second game and he is talking into the camera on just how easy this was and the best part is nobody has a clue well, young fellow, I hate to break the news but you were basically busted from that point. Not that much was done from our standpoint but we knew this was not close to being normal. Listen, Benny, not that we are or ever will be considered geniuses, but we had seen this act too many times before.

I believe it was just a mere nine years earlier when a few college kids showed up at the Barbary Coast and were asking how much they could bet on the Tulane game. Did not understand what 11 to 10 means, but they said they did not care. There have been others but this reminded me a lot of that day. So we were clocking you pretty much from that day on.

FACT: The famous Roxy Roxborough was now the conduit from Nevada Gaming Control to the books and was passing on the messages and recommendations from the Board. They ran the gamut from outright silly to ridiculous. The regulations said that they would leave it to each individual book to decide to keep on booking the game or take it off the board.

I chose to keep the game up on the board, which was both a very good decision and also a very bad one, as I ultimately took a lot of heat down the line for my decision.

FACT: But now, with us having just the game on the board and their pockets still full of hundreds, it was quite a lot of fun. Remember now we still had all the smarts with phone accounts with us who were chomping at the bit every time we moved either up or down. These guys were finding out there simply was nowhere else to play big sums. I was moving the game a point or point and a half, but really just adjusting a half a point to the phone outfits where we were creating huge middles for ourselves with no jeopardy at any number. We ended up writing $580,000 on a game that in normal circumstances might be good for 25 or 30 dimes. I know that figure is precise, because Gaming and a few other regulatory bodies went over it a million times.

FICTION: Gaming really was contacted a day before by our corporate counsel and also by people from both the Barbary Coast and the Hilton. I let our people know not so much as I wanted to be a do-gooder, but me and Gaming were not on the same page. They were convinced we did too many things to encourage everyone to play with us and never stopped anyone from playing at any of our books. So Gaming was not contacted as the game was being bet like the TV show suggests, but also their answer at that time was just to keep us informed the next day.

FACT: I was on a conference call on Saturday morning with Archie Manteris and David Price, who at that time was the PAC 10 commissioner. He was a very nice fellow who listened to everything we had to say. He was never overbearing nor a screamer, but rather cool and calm and once again thanked us. I never spoke to him again.

FICTION (Jimmy's view): Coach Bill Frieder questioning his team at halftime which they were leading 25-23 even though they missed 14 out of their first 16 shots, saying he was contacted by both the PAC 10 and FBI were on their way to ask them about this game. By the way, I made the halftime ASU 8 and got great two-way action. My belief is that no one contacted anyone during the game. My contention has always been that they would have gotten to Frieder before the game started as we spoke to Price a good two hours before tipoff.

FACT: I have known Bill Frieder for a long time and as I have stated in the past that the following morning at first post, Bill was betting New York horses from the front row in the Mirage racebook. My assistant Yolanda Acuna came charging into my office to deliver the news and told me Bill was out front. I went out front and rather coyly said, "Bill, what the hell are you doing here?" He said, "Jimmy, you know when I get the chance I like to come in and bet the horses." I said, "Have you seen either the Vegas or Arizona Republic newspapers yet?" He replied no. I said, "Bill, they think yesterday's game was fixed." He said, what game? I said, your game. He said, "We won did Washington throw the game?" After five minutes I said, "This is the last place you want to be." He left us only to go to the MGM and that is when the reporters nabbed him and all the excitement started.

Well, everyone knows basically they fixed four games, but only three worked out, losing everything and more on the last one.

In my humble opinion, you had a young kid who got caught and probably did owe some one some cash and saw an opportunity to at least get even and maybe make a few bucks. No way do I believe he thought it would go as far and as big as it did.

He had a perfect foil in Steven Smith who basically was hungrier than he was and was willing to at least try out the scheme. I honestly believe it fell right in the first three games because ASU was at best a middle-of-the-road PAC 10 team that really did not merit being any type of substantial favorite to any other team in its league.

College basketball handicapper Trace Fields pointed out to me that in just about every stat other than having a scorer like Smith, they were somewhere in the middle or below in the league. They wound up the year 15-13 and really did not have many quality wins. In Smith's own words, after he poured in 39 points in the first of the tainted games he said it was easy.

I do not know of too many guys involved in a fix who went out and threw in 39. Point being they were a team who probably had to do as much as they could just to win. Same thing in the second game as they were in a competitive game and had to play good just to win.

Now I am not bold enough to know exactly how many "Hedake" bricked, but I believe ineptness made it a lot easier. Because in the third game they lost outright to a bad USC team and nothing was mentioned, nor did Smith have enough control of the game by still winning the game but not covering the nine as had happened in the previous two games. But the people who were betting all the money could have cared less if he would have lost the first two outright to insure they would win their bet. So what I am trying to say is, even though the fix was in, it was only in name, and only in the first three games. Not that Smith would have made any one-and-ones with seconds on the clock, but it never came to that and they were playing lucky to a degree.

The last game, as I believe was shown in the movie, Benny was in a squeeze as now he had to feed the appetites of at least two factions and too many people were finding out and wanted to be involved. I believe that it unraveled just like what was portrayed in the movie.

The last game they ran into a bad team like Washington, where no matter how they tried the other team could not even help out by making few buckets from three-minute mark. I have that box score somewhere in my files and two guys who were not scorers who were not involved had big second halfs and Washington kept turning it over and missing make-able shots.

So as I stated earlier, they played a little lucky in the earlier games but could not control the one that was for all the cheese.

Who knows what might have happened "IF".

Personally, it was exciting, fun, aggravating, and ultimately not worth it.

Stay smart,

Jimmy V.

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