During the early 1980s, Mickey Charles was at the epicenter of the sports gambling business. This unassuming Philadelphia garage was receiving a whopping 20 million phone calls each month. At the peak of the business, Charles' outfit was grossing millions. The calls could cost as much as 50 cents and came from all parts of the country.
While these may seem like shady dealings to some, this was not a black market operation. Charles had already built a name for himself as a public gambling advocate during the 1970s and 1980s, even making an appearance on The Today Show, where he not only predicted the outcome of Super Bowl XII, he also nailed the score as well, telling Tom Brokaw (the host at the time) that he couldn't ask for another score if Charles were to come back.
He called his service Dial Sports. While the service received millions of calls, Charles joked that it was very likely that a million calls came from the same "17 degenerates". Many of the calls would come from places such as the pay phones outside of Madison Square Garden, as callers would re-dial over and over again, desperate for an update.
Charles' garage was well equipped for the time period, with neon lighting and drop flooring. Five announcers would each work an incredibly busy shift, using their phones to work a list of 200 contacts apiece. The garage was elevated, which allowed for much better reception and the ability to pick up any score from anywhere, even Canada.
This method of gambling gave birth to the tout, a pick seller who would make bold proclamations and promise gamblers that their picks were guaranteed winners. However, Dial Sports was also one of the first service to employ an analytical approach, using tried and tested systems to determine NBA scores. They were also receiving last second injury updates, as well.
Now, Charles is on the cusp of turning 80 and spends much of his time working on music. He will release 31 songs, as well as a digitally enhanced book to Amazon in the fall. While Charles eventually distanced himself from the phone calls, he has millions of dollars to show for his efforts. Not too shabby for a self-proclaimed "kid from the Bronx".
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