07/12/2005 11:00PM

Avello switches to Wynn


LAS VEGAS - Vinny Magliulo is a company man.

A 27-year casino veteran, previously best-known for his longtime stint as Caesars Palace sports book director, Magliulo has spent the better part of the last four years designing the sports book at the recently opened Wynn Las Vegas megaresort, which opened in April, and he recruited an All-Star staff from the top sports books in town.

But Magliulo is also a family man. For that reason he's stepping down as race and sports book director.

"The most important time needed in the book is also family time," said Magliulo, 48. "Right now, my family needs me, and I didn't want to compromise my duties for Wynn and be a part-time director."

Magliulo said the company has been very understanding, and allowed him to pick a successor to take care of his "baby." On Monday, Magliulo is turning over the reins to John Avello, the longtime race and sports book director at Bally's and also Paris, who is close enough to Magliulo to be considered family.

Avello is certainly no stranger to horseplayers with his innovative promotions, including having the most extensive Kentucky Derby and Breeders' Cup future books in town, hosting the Daily Racing Form/NTRA National Handicapping Championship as well as his own Summer Stakes and Bally's Moolah tournaments, the Horseplayers' Expo, various handicapping seminars, and a pick six club for local bettors last summer.

Avello said he was contacted about the job three weeks ago and, despite his friendship with Magliulo and as appealing as the offer was, it wasn't a slam dunk.

"I've been here [Bally's] for 15 years and built a lot of relationships," Avello said. "That's not easy to walk away from, but this is a tremendous opportunity and a great place to hang my hat."

Avello said he has recommended that his assistant, Chris Egger, succeed him at Bally's, though no official announcement has been made by the casino's new owner, Harrah's Entertainment, which last month acquired Caesars Entertainment in the largest merger in gaming history.

"She has assisted me in all sports, she already has the title of race and sports book manager and she's already been running things on a day-to-day basis," Avello said.

The Wynn book, under Magliulo, has already earned a reputation for taking big bets and Avello certainly has experience with that. He said he still wants to meet with Wynn management to know exactly what they're willing to book, but he said he will certainly put up his Breeders' Cup futures, which have been a mainstay at Bally's. Currently, Avello has odds on the Classic, Distaff, Sprint, and Filly and Mare Turf and said the Mile and Turf will go up shortly after his move to Wynn with the Juvenile races due in August after the 2-year-olds start running at Saratoga and Del Mar.

Poker finale set for Friday night

Any discussion of this weekend's sporting events has to start with the World Series of Poker No-Limit Texas Hold'em Championship Event.

The final table of nine players will be contested at Binion's on Friday starting at 2 p.m. In most years, a champion is usually crowned in the late evening, though two years ago in the historic victory by Chris Moneymaker - an unknown who earned his $10,000 entry fee with a $40 investment on the Internet and is credited with launching the poker explosion - wasn't wrapped up until 1:30 a.m. Saturday.

This year's champion, who will have outlasted a record field of 5,619, will receive a record $7.5 million with every player at the final table earning at least $1 million.

Sports book notes

I'm sure that people who actually bet the game made up a majority of the late audience for Tuesday's All-Star game.

The American League was between a -130 and -145 favorite at most sports books here in Las Vegas, with an over/under of 9 1/2 runs.

The Orioles' Miguel Tejada started the scoring with a home run in the bottom of the second, winning bets for those who took the AL to score first (+110 at Station Casinos) and to hit the first home run (-140). The AL padded its lead with two runs apiece in the third, fourth, and sixth innings and appeared on the way to a rout with a 7-0 lead (and an easy win for those who got +160 for laying -1 1/2 runs with the AL on the run line), but the NL battled back to make the final 7-5.

For future bettors, keep in mind that the AL now has home-field advantage in the World Series.

* Middleweight champion Bernard Hopkins defends his title for the 20th time on Saturday night vs. Jermain Taylor at the MGM Grand Garden Arena. It's an intriguing matchup of experience vs. youth as the champ is 40 and the young stud is 26 with a record of 23-0 with 17 knockouts. When this fight was first announced, Hopkins was in the range of a -200 favorite, but as of midweek the line was down to -160 at the MGM Mirage books, with Taylor offered at +140.

* Dale Earnhardt Jr. finally got off the schneid last Sunday, winning the USG SheetRock 400 at Chicagoland Speedway at generous odds of 35-1 at Station Casinos. Junior is usually not offered that high, but that just shows how badly he's struggled this year. He's still 14-1 for this Sunday's Nextel Cup race, the New England 300. Jimmie Johnson and Ryan Newman are the 8-1 co-favorites with Tony Stewart at 10-1 and Jeff Gordon and Kasey Kahne at 12-1.

Star watching in Tahoe

While most of the golfing world's eyes will be on the British Open this weekend, the American Century Championship celebrity tournament is taking place at Edgewood Golf Course in South Lake Tahoe, Nev.

The event, in its 16th year, is the richest celebrity tournament in golf with a purse of $500,000. Former hockey player Dan Quinn is the defending champion and has won three of the past four years. He will take on a field of about 80 stars, including Michael Jordan, Charles Barkley, John Elway, Mike Schmidt, and Donald Trump.

The Golf Channel will have coverage of Friday's opening round from 3-5 p.m. Eastern, with NBC jumping in Saturday from 4-6 p.m. and Sunday from 3-6 p.m.