01/05/2007 1:00AM

Bet and watch races on slot machines

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LAS VEGAS – I remember - in another lifetime it seems - jumping into the car with my buddies in Torrance, Calif., halfway through a day at the beach, and heading south down the San Diego Freeway to make the last race at Del Mar. We would drive for over an hour to play the last race of the day. Of course, we were into Joey at the barber shop at the time, so the only other way to get action on the race was going to the track itself.

You no longer have to drive 90 miles to make a race bet. You would have to be living in a bubble not to have action on any race at almost any track in the nation with just a dial, click, or punch of a button, and watch the action as it happens.

Now a Las Vegas-based company has come up with a way to allow slot machine players to bet on horses or sports and watch the race or game without leaving the machine.

According to a Jan. 3 story in the Las Vegas Review-Journal business section, a company called Las Vegas Gaming Inc. has devised a computer program that brings the horses to the slot machine screen. The system is called PortalVision, and gaming executives who attended demonstrations of the yet to be approved system have been impressed.

The machines can also be programmed with pop-ups of casino promotional material and allow players to bet on keno or the Nevada Numbers game, which is the state's version of a lottery.

As the company starts the long, tedious journey through application and approval from the Nevada Gaming Control Board, it has arranged field-testing at the Treasure Island hotel casino.

The Nevada Gaming Commission will certainly have many questions and tests before the product can actually make the gaming floors in Nevada casinos. Among the concerns to be addressed by the commission's technicians are sure to be security, including computer hacker concerns; how payment will be made to Las Vegas Gaming, perhaps through a percentage of handle or a flat fee; and the overall integrity of the system.

The company, which dates back to 1998, believes that no matter how long it takes, the wait will be worth it. Las Vegas Gaming chairman and chief executive officer Russell Roth told the Review-Journal, "We all feel we're hanging onto a tiger, and he's ready to rumble."

PortalVision also could have an impact on racing. With racetracks throughout the country leaning on revenue-producing slot machines to buoy purses and attendance at retrofit racinos, such an invention would allow slot players to bet and watch races while never leaving their favorite machine.

Ralph Siraco is turf editor for the Las Vegas Sun and host of the Race Day Las Vegas radio show.