First of all, there is no such place as the Sports Betting Hall of Fame. There should be though, as a way to recognize the individuals who helped shape the business that millions of people partake in on a daily basis.
If there was a Sports Betting Hall of Fame it would no doubt be located somewhere in Las Vegas. Even if Las Vegas has lost some of its luster in the sports betting world due to the offshore sportsbooks, it still deserves a special place in the hearts of all sports bettors.
This is simply a fun article that I’ve wanted to do for a while and already have several names in mind to be inducted shortly and in future years.
But the five initial inductees are some individuals whose impact on the sports betting scene is felt on a daily basis. Without further ado, let’s get to the inaugural Sports Betting Hall of Fame inductees.
The Inaugural Sports Betting Hall of Fame Class
Charles K. McNeil
The odds are pretty good that you’ve never heard of Charles K.
gend has it that McNeil, a former teacher, was working for a Chicago bank for low pay and decided to supplement his income by going to baseball games and wagering with other fans in the stands. He did well enough to quit his banking job and gamble full time.
After the Chicago bookmakers put limits on his bets, due to him constantly winning, McNeil opened his sportsbook in the 1940s and introduced the point spread, which gambler’s immediately loved. He quit booking bets several years when the mob wanted in on his operation and resumed betting for a career.
When it comes to oddsmakers, there is Bob Martin and there is everybody else.
Martin began gambling at an early age and paid for his way through college by selling parlay cards, along with betting his own games. Martin was a successful bettor until the college basketball fixing scandals of the early 1950s left him broke.
After several scrapes with the law, Martin moved to Las Vegas and became the official oddsmaker for Churchill Downs Race and Sports Book. While there, Martin’s numbers were used by practically every bookmaker in the country, as crowds would gather around Churchill Downs for the posting of his numbers, which would set off a stampede to the telephones and his numbers were passed to bookies throughout the country.
Martin had another scrape with the law in 1977 that led to him serving 13 months in prison for violating the Wire Act. Lem Banker was another defendant in the case, but received a suspended sentence and fine.
Martin went into semi-retirement until his death in 2001.
The sports betting world has its share of colorful characters and Sonny Reizner is definitely on that list. Reizner ran the famous Castaways Hole in the Wall Sportsbook, which was among the first sportsbooks to be located inside a strip casino.
While there Reizner came up the idea of the first point spread-based football contests and the Castaways Challenge is the predecessor to the famed Hilton Supercontest that currently takes place.
Reizner helped develop Las Vegas parlay cards and was the forefather of Super Bowl proposition wagering, which has recently taken on a life of its own. Reizner’s greatest claim to fame, however, is his short-lived accepting of wagers on “Who shot J.R.?” Trying to pass it off as a sports wager, Reizner listed Dallas Cowboys coach Tom Landry as a possible suspect, but was turned down by the Nevada Gaming Commission.
Reizner ran several other sportsbooks before retiring.
Mort Olshan was simply a man of integrity in the often shady sports service business. The founder of the famed Gold Sheet in 1957, Olshan’s dedication to providing a top-notch publication for sports bettors is unmatched.
Olshan’s power ratings became the industry standard and his detail for honesty and accuracy became legendary.
As the father of the sports service industry, Olshan didn’t like the crooks who invaded the business in the 1970s and 1980s and responded to their claims of 75 percent winners by giving 100-to-1 odds against anybody picking 70 percent winners over the course of 100 NFL games during a season.
Despite Olshan putting up $100,000 to a bettor’s $1,000 only a few ever tried his proposition. None ever came close to collecting.
If you want to find the man who influenced more successful present day sports bettors than any other person, look no farther than Jim Barnes. Barnes’ Journal of Handicapping was the premier sports betting newsletter in the 1980s. It wasn’t a traditional newsletter, as it was primarily a teaching tool to learn about sports betting. It is getting more difficult to track down copies, but there are a few out there for the diligent shopper.
Barnes gained fame as the creator for baseball games produced by Avalon Hill Game Co., and sold under the Sports Illustrated Series name, which led to him moving to Las Vegas, where he published the Journal of Handicapping.
Barnes also served as a college basketball adviser to the Stardust Race and Sports Book for more than a decade.
Barnes was the forefather of many of the creative handicapping methods that are still used today, such as yards per point, and presented methods that allowed bettors to look at games in a whole next context.
Barnes recently retired from posting daily forecasts, but his work will live on for many years.