From small-time bookmaker to Vegas legend, Michael Roxy Roxborough has had one hell of a run. He started off as a small-time bookie in the 1960s, when he was still a college student and bookmaking was done literally by the book, and finally moved to the dream destination for bookmakers back then – Las Vegas – in 1975.
So who is Michael ‘Roxy’ Roxborough? How did he get so famous? Read on to know all about the amazing journey of this bookmaking legend.
The Early Years
Back in the 1960s and 1970s, bookmaking and placing bets on sports was still in a very rudimentary state compared to what you have today. There were no computers; you would have to call the bookie by phone to get details about the daily odds and then place your bets. If you were in Vegas, too, you needed to go to an actual land-based casino to compare the lines and place your bets.
That was the scene Roxy Roxborough entered back in the 1960s, when he was still a student – a long-haired hippie redhead at that – at American University in Washington, D.C., where he studied political science. A more practical study venue, one that possibly formed the backbone of his success, was at the Bowie Race Track in Bowie, Maryland.
He continued to be a bookmaker and place bets after his return to Vancouver. At that time, he would actually call Las Vegas from a payphone – so that there was no chance of being the subject of a wiretap – to get the daily odds that the Churchill Downs sports book put out.
Moving to Las Vegas
Roxborough had been to Vegas on and off a few times as a bookie from Vancouver and knew that was where the future lay. The Vancouver police were strict and warned Roxborough a number of times about his activities. And that was possibly the boost – along with the innate need to be in the gambling capital of the world – that made him shift base to Vegas in 1975 and start the next phase of his career.
At Vegas, he worked in a few sportsbooks and also earned money as a bettor, mostly betting on over/unders in baseball.
Riding the Vegas Wave to Success and Legend-Status
Two key elements to success, apart from hard work, are luck and timing, and in Vegas Roxborough had these in good measure. 1982, Bob Martins, the well-known odds-maker in Las Vegas, was found guilty of violating the Wire Act – the charge was that he transmitted betting information across state lines – and convicted. It left a yawning gap that needed to be filled out quickly and Roxborough was there to do it.
In Roxy’s own words, the first person to approach him was Chris Andrews of Club Cal Neva, seeking his help on the baseball lines. Roxborough took it up – he decided to try it for a year – and things just fell in place. In 1983, the IRS lowered its tax on sports bets from 2% right down to 0.25%. And that was just the push that the Vegas casinos needed to add sportsbooks to their offering.
Once sportsbooks found their way to the casinos the floodgates burst open and Roxborough was the first one out, riding the wave to unbelievable success. He founded Las Vegas Sports Consultants (LVSC) – a bookmaking company that offered international odds and was licensed by the Nevada Gaming Control Board – in 1982, and hasn’t had to look back since.
Making the Critical Transition to Stardust Casino
The critical requirement to being a good bookmaker was to have good information. One of the people who worked at Churchill Downs, Scott Schettler, would actually collect newspapers from the airplanes at Las Vegas airport – by networking with the cleaners there – to keep in touch with the latest sports news across the world.
Schettler was another key figure in the Vegas scheme of things, and the success that Roxborough was enjoying brought him on Schettler’s radar. On 26th December, 1983, he hired Roxborough to consult with and set odds for the prestigious Stardust casino.
Consulting with Stardust was a turning point of sorts; as Roxborough said, “The Stardust became known for setting the opening line and taking the largest limits, so signing on with Scotty Schettler was key”. And Schettler had good reason to hire him; he thought highly of him. “I respected his numbers more than anybody”, Schettler said.
Adding Distribution was a Key Milestone
When Roxborough started off as a bookmaker, it was more about making the odds than about distribution – the ratio between the two elements was 95%:5%. Once he was on his own and running LVSC, he realized the criticality of distribution.
In 1995 Roxborough merged his company, LVSC, with DBC Sports, a data broadcasting company, and the way things worked at LVSC changed. Now the approach was more data-driven – linking all the sportsbooks by computer allowed them to real time line moves across properties.
Roxborough took things to the next level by acquiring Computer Sports World in 1997. From using the computers to store data, LVSC now began to use them to search for trends in the industry and also to provide power ratings. By now, LVSC was providing the odds for about 90% of the sportsbooks in Nevada and was way ahead of peers and rivals.
Knowing When to Walk Away
One of the biggest assets a gambler can have is to know when to quit, they say – you may want to quit when you are ahead so you don’t have to watch your winnings evaporate. Roxborough managed to do exactly that – sell LVSC at the right time.
Once the Internet came into the picture, the advantage that LVSC had over their rivals began to quickly diminish. In an interview with Dave Tuley of ESPN, Roxborough said, “And then the internet came along and we were starting all over again on a level playing field.”
Also, sportsbetting is no longer just a hallowed offline activity; things changed drastically once it made the transition to the online platform. There are loads of new companies offering online sportsbetting, along with the traditional ones that have their own online version.
Interestingly, online casinos which are fully-licensed and operating in the province of Ontario aren’t so in B.C. This includes providers who also offer sports betting services. A quick search on NoDepositWorld, your completely free no-deposit casino bonus guide, not only confirms this, but also offers many Canadian bettors exclusive deals.
Roxborough in Retirement
Roxborough sold LVSC in 1999 and is now, at 71, technically retired from business, though he does consult independently from time to time. Speaking about sportsbetting now, he says both corporate and entities must take a look at the bigger implications that sportsbetting comes with. “I think there has to be some conscience driving the industry… I don’t know where that comes from”, he says.
While his love affair with the industry began at what is today known as the Hastings Racecourse in East Vancouver – because he wanted to escape from the suffocating confines of a 9-5 job – he says there is no romance in gambling; it is an illusion and you usually lose money.
More than that, he feels that the opportunity for a quick escape ends up being just another business. Quoting his own example, he said he went to Vegas to escape the drudgery of a conventional 40-hour work week, and it turned out, that to avoid that drudgery he ended up doing 60-70 hour work weeks.