Updated 9 hours ago
Jimmy Vaccaro has seen decades of big sports bets. But even the seasoned veteran of Las Vegas sportsbooks is excited for what’s to come now that sports betting is legal in Pennsylvania.
“I waited all my life to see this,” the 73-year-old Trafford native said.
And Pittsburgh hasn’t seen anything yet, he added. Vaccaro thinks the region is a hotbed for the legal sports betting market and the crowds at sportsbooks are only going to grow.
“I’ve been telling everybody who would listen: Whatever impact you see now, not just in Pennsylvania but across the nation, it will be three times busier,” Vaccaro said Friday.
He returned to his hometown days before the Super Bowl to work as director of sports relations for Rivers Casino on Pittsburgh’s North Shore, which will celebrate the big game — the first Super Bowl with legal sports betting — at its new sportsbook Sunday.
“We’re thrilled to bring Jimmy back home to Pennsylvania,” Bill Keena, general manager of Rivers Casino, said in a statement. “When it comes to sports betting — customer experience, operational excellence, setting the odds — Jimmy is the gold standard.”
Vaccaro boarded a plane for Las Vegas on Jan. 4, 1970.
“And that’s where I stayed until last week,” Vaccaro said, who over the past 40 years has become a household name in the sports betting industry.
Vaccaro showed up in Las Vegas as a “youngster” with “no understanding of anything,” he said. But he did know a thing or two about betting on sports. He set out to get a job in a casino, attending dealer school and landing a gig as a blackjack dealer at the Royal Inn.
He went on to become the facility’s first sportsbook manager and to hold a series of sportsbook leadership roles with several other properties throughout Las Vegas.
Most recently, Vaccaro was director of sports marketing for South Point Hotel, Casino and Spa in Las Vegas.
In his new role, Vaccaro will advise and develop the Rivers sportsbook, which opened Dec. 13. He plans to spend the Super Bowl at the casino.
Vaccaro is often described as a legend in the sports betting business.
When news of his departure from Las Vegas leaked in late 2018, leaders in the sports betting community lamented Las Vegas’ loss.
“He was the bookmaker’s bookmaker,” Vic Salerno, CEO of USBookmaking, a sports betting consulting firm, and a American Gaming Association Hall of Famer, told the sports betting news site Sports Handle in December.
Salerno and others lauded Vaccaro’s knowledge of the business as much as his warm personality and willingness to share his love for the craft of sports betting with newcomers.
Vaccaro has become a frequent expert voice on sports betting. But he remembers when being a bookmaker wasn’t a respected profession and before the interview requests or invitations to appear at gambling conferences started rolling in.
“That would have been absolutely unheard of 30 years ago,” he said.
Jamie Martines is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Jamie at 724-850-2867, [email protected] or via Twitter @Jamie_Martines.