Strips and Stones for this couple

Bet on it: Longtime Vegas fixture Jeff Stoneback and wife Donna fulfill dream by following favorite band in Europe.

SHARE Strips and Stones for this couple
Jeff and Donna Stoneback

Jeff and Donna Stoneback

Provided photo

LAS VEGAS — Jeff and Donna Stoneback had been directed toward various Hyde Park entryways in London last summer, so they tried the nearest gate. Green lights greeted their paper tickets.

“We go around the corner and, wow, right in the front row,” Jeff says. “I had paid an extra $300 a ticket, but I didn’t know we were this close. Mick Jagger could have spit on me from the stage!”

Fortune had been with the longtime Vegas bookmaker and oddsman, for their actual seats were farther back.

Jeff says. “We lucked out.”

The Stonebacks were rolling, off to a splendid start as de facto Euro groupies of the world’s greatest rock ’n’ roll band, the Rolling Stones.

Jeff, 60, had retired from a 38-year career in early June 2022. His retirement bash filled their home in the eastern Vegas foothills, where he beamed about their imminent excursion.

He’d seen the Stones eight or nine times in Vegas.

Eight days after that first Hyde Park show, they saw them there again, and they’d watch performances in Brussels, Belgium; Lyon and Paris, France; and Stockholm, Sweden.

Those were the only dates set in stone. The rest would be a rudderless Continental free-for-all.

And even though Mick’s prodigious pie hole models one of the great logo designs, he expectorated on nobody.

“Every time the announcer said, ‘Ladies and Gentlemen, the Rolling Stones!’ and they’d walk out, I’d get goose bumps,” Jeff says. “They’d go out on that runway and that girl would sing ‘Gimme Shelter’ with Mick. The best.

“Mick turns 80 [July 26], but they run around like they’re 25. Mick would be at the end of that long runway, and at the end of a song he’d come sprinting back to the band, not out of breath. How do these guys do it?”

THE ACTION

Jeff was 10 when his father, Norm, took him to Longacres Racetrack in suburban Seattle. Smitten, at 21 he came to Vegas to try making a year-round living picking ponies.

“Like everyone else, though,” he says, “I went broke.”

He wrote tickets at the old Santa Anita Race and Sportsbook on the Strip. When it shuttered, he eased into the new book at Circus Circus. He’d spend the rest of his career with that parent company.

“Ticket writer, administrator, supervisor, manager, director of trading . . . a blast. I always told people, I couldn’t imagine having a real job. Number one, I’m a sports fan. Number two, I like betting. And Vegas is the mecca.”

He was surprised when in May 2018 the U.S. Supreme Court allowed states to pursue their own sports-betting fates.

“Never thought it would happen in my day. Shocked. Obviously, it’s been a good thing for states’ tax revenues. But, like marijuana; who would have ever thought that marijuana would be legalized?”

For a friend’s temp service, he has been working as an aisle usher at college hoops tournaments and occasional concerts — and playing softball, where he’s a lethal pitcher —when he and Donna aren’t traveling.

They’ll be in Seattle for New Year’s Eve, to see the Seahawks play Pittsburgh at Lumen Field. Inside T-Mobile Park on New Year’s Day, they’ll watch the Kraken play Stanley Cup-champion Vegas in the outdoor Winter Classic.

Jeff has stayed in touch with pals, who’d report being up x-dollars, inside BetMGM’s Mandalay Bay headquarters. “And I’d think, Gosh, I should be a part of that.”

Come football season, he might return to help book games twice a week.

“Nothing definite. We’ve discussed it. I do miss rooting for a game with a big decision at stake, the excitement, the tension. ‘Oh, we need a stop there.’ Gets the adrenaline going.”

ROLLING STONEBACKS

Jeff and Donna’s Excellent Adventure included seeing the boyhood home of Keith Richards in England and Serena Williams playing on Centre Court at Wimbledon.

They saw Elton John, the Eagles and Guns N’ Roses on different stages. Beatles-like, they strolled across that Abbey Road crosswalk. In Brussels, they attended a Jack White concert.

Commotion outside a Stockholm hotel alerted Jeff. They moved closer as a limo carrying Stones guitarist Ronnie Wood, his window down, cruised by; Ronnie gave them a thumbs up.

In Paris, they saw the Mona Lisa in the Louvre and visited Jim Morrison’s gravesite at Pere-Lachaise cemetery, where the Doors’ late frontman is buried near Chopin.

“I tell everyone, ‘We not only saw live rock stars, we saw dead rock stars.’ Some of those crypts were creepy,” Jeff says. “I wouldn’t want to do that place at night.”

As they canvassed Vatican City, Pope Francis poked his head out of that alcove.

Their adult son, Seattle, visited for a week in Venice. And in Rome, they saw Lazio defeat Inter Milan 3-1 inside the Stadio Olimpico on Aug. 26. The next morning, Jeff awoke and said, “Hey, let’s go to Spain!”

They’d left Vegas on June 18.

Donna paused, calculated some figures of her own and said, “Uh, we gotta go home.”

Jeff is amazed when he recalls all they accomplished in 10 weeks in Europe.

“The trip of a lifetime, but I hope the Stones tour South America,” he says. “There are always many people from Argentina and Brazil following them, their flags are at all of their concerts. So we’ll do it again.”

The Latest
“It’s not the first half we wanted, but we just gotta keep showing up, playing hard,” left fielder Andrew Benintendi said.
The White Sox selected left-hander Hagen Smith from Arkansas with the No. 5 pick in the 2024 MLB Draft.
Forecasters say ‘torrential rains’ are likely. Chicago is under a flood watch. The storm could drop 2 to 3 inches of rain and bring winds in excess of 58 mph. Another storm system could move through the region Monday evening.
On the acclaimed NBC police drama, Sikking played Lt. Howard Hunter, uptight head of the Emergency Action Team.