05/31/2002 12:00AM

200-1 Senegal starts World Cup with a bang


LAS VEGAS - The World Cup couldn't have started any better for underdog bettors in the wee-morning hours on Friday.

Senegal, the longest shot on the board at 200-1 to win the Cup, upset defending champion France 1-0 in the first game of the tournament that started at 4:30 a.m. Las Vegas time. France was the 9-2 second choice (behind Argentina at 3-1) to win it all, and now has to battle to move to the next round.

Bettors who took a flyer on Senegal got as much as 9-1 for the victory. Las Vegas Sports Consultants, which supplies odds to 90 percent of the legal books in Nevada, had France as a -300 favorite (bet $3 to win $1) and a draw at +325 (bet $1 to win $3.25).

Many books offer that kind of three-way betting with the draw option - a mode of bookmaking that's more popular in England and Australia - while others chose to offer a goal-line so there are no pushes. France was the biggest favorite of the 16 opening-round games at the Palms, which made France a 1 1/2-goal favorite with a money-line of -125, meaning bettors had to wager $1.25 to win $1 and also lay a goal and a half. Senegal was +1 1/2 goals and +105.

At this time of year, most sports books stay open until 11 p.m. or until the last baseball game of the night is over. For World Cup matches in the host countries of Japan and South Korea, many of which will start at 2 or 4:30 a.m. local time, bettors have to make their wagers the night before. Most books are turning on their TVs so guests can watch the games live, and all of the games are also available on ESPN, ESPN2, or Univision.

The United States' first game is Wednesday at 2 a.m. Vegas time against Portugal, the favorite in the U.S. group. Portugal is a -180 favorite with the U.S. +450 and a draw is +250. The Palms has Portugal -1 and -125, with the U.S. at +1 and +105.

Culinary strike averted for now

Las Vegas has averted a public relations nightmare as the Culinary Union - which represents cooks, dish washers, maids, and other service industry workers - has called off its plans for a city-wide strike if it didn't have an acceptable contract by the end of May. The union has extended its deadline to June 30.

Workers are expected Thursday to accept a five-year deal offered by the major casino companies on the Strip. The union is still in negotiations with 17 downtown and stand-alone hotels that say they can't afford to pay the same salaries and benefits as the Strip casinos.

Nuclear waste site battle rages

The Senate is expected to approve Yucca Mountain, 90 miles northwest of Las Vegas, to store the nation's nuclear waste.

But the fight continues with both sides spending more on TV commercials and lobbying attempts in Washington, D.C.

Anti-Yucca forces have long argued that it is unsafe to ship nuclear waste across the country. They received unexpected validation of their argument recently with three major accidents that would be devastating if nuclear cargo was involved: the collapse of the bridge in Oklahoma that sent a dozen cars and trucks into the Arkansas River, the derailment of a freight train containing hazardous materials in Michigan, and the collision of two trains in Texas.

NHL: Give me the dog Hurricanes

The Red Wings and Avalanche were set to meet Friday night in Game 7 of their Western Conference series, but it doesn't matter who advances to face the Carolina Hurricanes in the Stanley Cup Finals

In either case, the Hurricanes will be pretty big underdogs (probably +200) in the opening game at either Detroit or Colorado on Tuesday night.

I'll take the 'Canes to win the first game, and then I'll use the same strategy that worked for me with the Avalanche and with the Lakers in the NBA two weeks ago: If the 'Canes lose Game 1, I'll come back and bet them again in Game 2 on Thursday. If they win Game 1, I'll take the money and run.

The Hurricanes play great defense and move the puck well on offense, but I don't see them stealing the Cup. However, at the prices at which they will be offered, you can still make money on them. Another way to play is to bet the Hurricanes to win the series, and if they steal a game on the road, find a book offering adjusted series prices. You should be able to find a plus-price on the Wings/Avs survivor and lock up a profit.

Race book notes

Arizona Charlie's East, located on Boulder Highway, has moved its sports book and has added horse racing to the betting menu. New York financier Carl Icahn bought the casino, formerly Sunrise Suites, in 2000 and branded it with his Arizona Charlie's theme that has worked on Decatur Boulevard. The property opened almost two years ago to the day (May 23, 2000, to be exact) and had only a small counter in the front of the casino. Now, the expanded race and sports book has been relocated to the back of the casino and it includes 45 seats and 19 televisions. The sports book gets its odds from Icahn's flagship property, the Stratosphere. Pat Rethore is the book's manager.

o Texas Station will have a big Belmont shindig Saturday. Free coffee and donuts will be available Saturday morning and food and drink specials throughout the day as well as triple points for Boarding Pass (players club) members. In addition, drawings will be held for Texas Station ice chests, and free dinners to Austin's steak house, Lorenzo's Italian restaurant and the buffet.

o In addition to future-book odds on the Belmont - War Emblem is the 6-5 favorite to complete his Triple Crown quest - the Coast Casinos has odds on the Travers Stakes, to be run Aug. 24 at Saratoga. War Emblem is the 7-1 favorite, followed by the quartet of Buddha, Perfect Drift, Proud Citizen, and Repent each at 12-1; Medaglia d'Oro and Sunday Break at 15-1; and Harlan's Holiday and Labamta Babe are 18-1. Oddsmaker Frank Minervini has War Emblem at 18-1 to win the Breeders' Cup Classic. Street Cry is the 15-1 favorite.

o Park Place Entertainment, where Mizzen Mast has been bet down from 60-1 to 7-1 favorite in its BC Classic futures, has added the Sprint and Distaff to its BC betting menu.

Squirtle Squirt is the Sprint favorite at 10-1, followed closely by Xtra Heat and Left Bank at 12-1.

Azeri is the 6-1 favorite in the Distaff with Take Charge Lady at 7-1.