In his mind's eye, Gaughan can recall a Las Vegas where the Flamingo Hotel, now in the heart of the Strip, "was like going out of town to play."
Gaughan, who began as a bookmaker in Omaha, came to Las Vegas for military training at the start of World War II and never left. He knew Bugsy Siegel and other pioneers who built Las Vegas.
Gaughan smiles at talk of an $80-million handle for Super Bowl week.
"It's all bookmaking," he says. "Nothing has changed except the amounts and the computers. We used to do it on a pad of paper."
As the game draws nearer, there is a bit of nostalgia in the air as natives prepare for the last big push of Super Bowl weekend by swapping their favorite betting stories from a more colorful past.
Such as the one about Bob Stupak, a local hotel and casino personality who walked into Little Caesars and bet on the Cincinnati Bengals.
They were 11-point underdogs to the San Francisco 49ers in Super Bowl XVI, but the Bengals beat the spread in that 1982 game, losing, 26-21.
Stupak walked out of the casino carrying his winnings--$1 million in cash--in a box.
As dusk falls on this Friday evening, Interstate 15, the long, asphalt trail linking Las Vegas with California, is filled with incoming traffic, the seemingly endless line of headlights providing a glare to rival that of the Las Vegas Strip itself.
Ninety percent of all Super Bowl bets will be made from here on.
"And those," Bogdanovich predicts, "will be made by the squares."
The squares are out in force at Mandalay Bay, bringing with them their charts, their calculations, their intuitions and their beers.
There are well-dressed couples coming out of a show, stopping by to check out the odds. There are the serious bettors, who scan the floor-to-ceiling, wall-to-wall wagering board, carefully checking every sport, every game, every Super Bowl proposition, before targeting their money. There are the casual young bettors, who come in groups, drinks in their hands, baseball caps on backward. They reach in their pockets for leftover chips from the blackjack table or petty cash. They'd like to win, but even if they lose, they will have fun doing it.
Glenn Rothstein lives in Atlantic City, N.J., but he comes across the country for Super Bowl weekend.
"Atlantic City can't hold a candle to Las Vegas," he says. "We don't even have sports books there."
Carl Hoenle, a retired Las Vegas schoolteacher, is putting his money on the Patriots.
"Maybe $150," he says. "Maybe an additional hundred. I remember back in 1969, everybody said the [New York] Jets couldn't win [Super Bowl III]. I think these odds are ridiculous. Of course, I'm an old AFL guy. I still bleed for the AFL."
The biggest misconception in oddsmaking is that the line is the bookmaker's prediction of the final outcome.
"It's a myth," Walker says. "When we say the Rams will win by 14, what we are trying to do is to come up with a number that will get the most people to bet. Ideally, it would be an equal amount on either side."
The 14-point line is pulling a lot of the squares' money over to New England today.
"It's an excessive line. It's psychological, not factual," Jack Holland of San Francisco says before placing his wager at Mandalay Bay.
Clay Bullock from Orange County also plans to bet. How much? "Depends how I do at blackjack," he says.
Woody Rill from Chicago is ready to put down his money.
"I got a system," he says. "I pray and then bet it all, baby."
It will be over today. Sometime before 8 p.m., the sports book counters will be crowded with joyous winners showing off their tickets, while the floors will be littered with the torn and crumpled tickets of the losers.
The wise guys will cash in, but not all of them.
"How many professional gamblers have chauffeurs?" Epstein asks. "Not too many. Playing this is like playing the stock market."
Over at Las Vegas Sports Consultants, the page has already turned. Anybody have an idea who the favorite should be in next week's Pro Bowl? How is that Final Four shaping up? Who looks like a sure pennant winner?
The lights never go out in Sin City. Not as long as the wise guys, and the not so wise, have money in their pockets and a sure winner in mind.
(BDEGIN TEXT OF INFOBOX)
The Week in Las VegasTR
* As the final seconds tick away on the Rams' NFC championship victory, four oddsmakers are at work to set the opening line for Super Bowl XXXVI. They make the Rams 16-point favorites, but in hours the line at many major books is down to 141/2.
* The books wait for the so-called "wise guys" to make their bets, which will give them an indication as to whether the line needs to be adjusted. It does, and the spread is lowered to 14 points.
* The proposition bets--geared more for the general public unfamiliar with the intricacies of point spreads--come out. So, who will score more points, Jordan or the Rams?
* The line holds firm at 14 even after New England Coach Bill Belichick names Tom Brady--injured ankle and all--as his starting quarterback.
* The wagering is long since over for professional gambler Billy Baxter, who bet $80,000 on the Patriots--with a 15-point spread--on Sunday. Baxter bets as much as $1 million a week on football.
* The roads are clogged with incoming traffic as Las Vegas gears up for the weekend. Ninety percent of all Super Bowl bets will be made from here on.
* There is plenty of day-before betting, most of it done by the "squares," whose wagering amount is often determined by how well they do at the blackjack table.