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Las Vegas Storytime With Harry Gagnon

Las Vegas Story Time With Harry Gagnon

I was just three years into working in a Las Vegas sportsbook when I witnessed a boxing match Las Vegas resident Mike Tyson would be proud of. I was supervising the betting line on a regular busy day. We were extremely busy that day and mostly because of our horse bettors.

A “regular” of ours named “Johnny” used to bet about $100 a day on horses and he liked to sit in his same seat every day, and like most older race guys (he was 73 at the time) liked to bitch about anything and everything, whether it’s too hot/cold in the book, the volume isn’t high enough, and still wanting a comp even though they have no comp points to use.

Johnny was this type of guy but he always came to me for whatever and he liked me so what could I do. Johnny even invited me over to his house for Italian and Japanese meals (his wife was a tiny Asian woman about 20 years younger than him and weighed probably 90 pounds if she was lucky). I always wanted to help her out with the place settings, bringing the food into the living room, but Johnny insisted to me to let her do it. YIKES!! Needless to say, Johnny was “the king of his castle.”

​​​​​​​So back to this busy day in the book and there was a guy who knew a big bettor in our establishment so I guess this guy, who was probably 35 years old, wanted some special treatment so he had brought up wanting to get a comp from me while he was smoking a cigar. I personally despise cigar smoke and probably the only other guy in the book that hated it more than me was – you guessed it – Johnny. Johnny was a tough guy from New York and an ex-cop who back in his day was a boxer. Yes, I said a boxer!!!

So, after maybe 20 minutes of this guy standing right in front of where Johnny’s race forms and mini television are, Johnny tells him not so nicely to move along with his cigar, especially since he wasn’t a “regular.” I go over there and start to speak to this guy and ask him nicely to maybe stand somewhere else away from Johnny and try to get along.

The guy tells me not to worry about it and says he is leaving so I go over and tell Johnny the news and he couldn’t have been happier and kept telling me thanks for getting him out of the book. For Johnny to thank anyone took a lot because like I said he was a whiny old guy who for the most part didn’t bet that much, wanted everything under the sun and was a pain in the buttocks.

Twenty minutes had passed by and everything seemed to be just fine, even though you could still smell the trail of that beyond gross cigar, until it wasn’t fine again. The guy came back with a new lit cigar, made a wager of $40 and went back to standing right in front of Johnny AGAIN. Johnny stood up raising his hand at me, signaling me that he was back.

At the time, I saw Johnny, but I was in the sports side of the book helping another guest. (BTW … another thing about Johnny that was annoying was if any supervisor was helping another guest, he would always intrude and want his issue taken care of first, so … yeah ... I think you might know where this story is headed.) I couldn’t exactly get over there right away, and now I’m annoyed at this guy because doing what he just did, he is rubbing mine and Johnny’s nose into this building issue and I was going to have to really do something with this guy, I realized, as soon as I was done with this other guest.

Well, I must have taken too long in Johnny’s eyes, so he decided to take things into his own hands, you might say?? Now in my peripheral vision I can see Johnny get up and go around the railing and get in this guy’s face and at the moment I excused myself from the guest and in like three seconds I see Johnny raise his dukes like a boxer would and the guy is getting loud saying, ”get the hell away from me, old man” and Johnny rebutted with something like, “old man … I’ll give you old man” and cold-cocked him with one punch in the jaw/nose and the 73-year “old man” knocked this 35-year-old guy cold in the middle of the sportsbook at like 10:45 a.m. on a Tuesday (you know, your average type of stuff for a Tuesday at 10:45).

This guy had to be revived by EMTs who were on property and Johnny was banned for two months but weaseled his way back into the book and we never again saw this dude who got laid out. After a few weeks, in private I told Johnny that he really didn’t help matters that day with his anger and he actually did realize it and apologized. But then he and I had a funny moment when I told him that was a tough day but I then said that knockout punch was one of the greatest things I had witnessed in my life.

At this time, Johnny would be about 90 years old and I don’t know if he’s still alive and I don’t know if he still bets (he loved Aqueduct, Belmont, Saratoga, and Hialeah/Gulfstream racing parks, for your information, and bet $1 exacta boxes with the two favorites and like a 6/1 so even when he would win, he would break even or lose). He was that type of terrible bettor but no one was telling him that. But whatever he’s doing or not doing, he could say he did things “my way.”

Speaking of My Way, the great song by Frank Sinatra, Johnny said he used to work for Old Blue Eyes for extra money in the 1950s. He and some other cops would work security for Sinatra in New York so Johnny definitely did things in his life his way, like it or not.