Saturday, May 5, 2012 | 5:37 p.m.
Two quick shots from MGM Grand Garden Arena’s press room as Floyd Mayweather Jr. and Miguel Cotto sort out who is the night’s Ring King:
• Cantor Gaming delivered as promised on its new sports book at the Palms. The Friday morning opening of the 10,000-square-foot space, which merges the casino’s poker room and sports book, opened in time for bettors to wager on today’s Kentucky Derby. The relatively swift 10-week build-in schedule led to a wager between hotel President Joe Magliarditi and Cantor Gaming CEO Lee Amaitis. The two had originally bet a dinner that the book would not be ready in time for the Derby, then doubled it in the days leading to Friday’s unveiling. Thus, Amaitis won two dinners from his longtime buddy (the two have known each other for years).
The new space itself greatly resembles the Cantor Gaming-operated sports books at the Hard Rock Hotel and M Resort. It’s flush with red effects, with dozens of padded seats and a wide-spanning LED screen with variable display sizes depending on the number of events scheduled. Two poker spaces are offered: one open-air area for commoners and a glassed-off space for high-limit players. Looks a little like a high-roller habitat.
What’s missing from the new book, though, is ace shoe shiner David, a fixture in the former sports book between the seats and bar. David’s from Eritrea, and he’s shined my shoes a bunch of times. Don’t know where he wound up, but last, I saw he was set up by the restrooms by Fantasy Tower. Otherwise, the whole sports-betting operation has been vastly improved. The auxiliary sports betting kiosk next to the Mint lounge is still in place, as promised, and the bar Tonic was ready for business, too. The first drink served was a bottle of Bud Light, but I’m not sure Magliarditi and Amaitis made a bet on that.
• The Dave Rice Foundation held its first fundraising event Friday night, also at the Palms. The event was to raise money to help treat those suffering from autism. Rice’s 9-year-old son, Dylan, is one such child who is affected by the condition, which strikes one in 88 children nationwide. The event was emceed by UNLV Senior Associate Athletic Director D.J. Allen, who also has a child -- his son, Daniel -- diagnosed with the condition.
The night was an inherently personal experience, with Rice talking of the development of Dylan after his wife, Mindy, and he noticed that he was not talking as much as other children as early as age 2, and Allen relating that his son is playing team sports and growing into a healthy and happy young man. The support for Rice, the former Runnin’ Rebel reserve guard and current head coach, was remarkable but expected. Expected to draw about 300, the night drew a crowd of more than 400. And, most important, more than $100,000 was raised. Nice night, all the way around, yet another instance where people in Las Vegas displayed their too-often overlooked willingness to give.