12/04/2002 1:00AM

Bettor is angered by ban


LAS VEGAS - The sports book operations for Station Casinos are under fire for an incident that took place a week ago Sunday, Nov. 24.

Ron Boyles, a professional sports bettor from the suburb of Henderson, went into the Green Valley Ranch Station that day and made a $2,200 bet on the Miami Heat +8 1/2 against the Orlando Magic, plus two other $1,110 wagers. He turned over the cash and received his tickets about 15 minutes before the Heat-Magic game began. Around that time, many books in town took the game off the betting boards because it was learned that Tracy McGrady and Grant Hill weren't going to play.

Boyles claims he was asked to fill out a player tracking application to qualify for comps, and then shortly after the game started, he was approached by Green Valley sports book manager Kelly Downey and asked to void the bet. Boyles says he didn't have previous knowledge of the injuries and was playing the Heat because the Magic were playing their first home game after a lengthy road trip, which he said is one of his favorite angles.

Boyles said Downey went to make a call, and then returned and said if he didn't agree to void the wager that Art Manteris, vice president of race and sports book operations, would bar him from all Station Casino properties.

Boyles refused. The Magic went on to win 77-75, meaning the Heat covered the spread and Boyles won the disputed bet (for the record, he said he split his other two wagers).

"I refused because I didn't do anything wrong," Boyles said. "I made my bet in good faith, and they booked it. I didn't know about the injuries, but even if I had, it's their job to adjust their lines or take a game off the board. Plus, I didn't know the legality of canceling the bet after the game had already started. That didn't seem right."

Later that week, he cashed tickets at Boulder Station and Sunset Station (two Station properties where he bet more frequently than Green Valley) and was told he wasn't allowed to bet there anymore.

Manteris declined comment Wednesday because he said he is prohibited from discussing individual customers' wagers. He did say, however, that there are inaccuracies in Boyle's account. Manteris refused to be specific.

Boyles went to the Gaming Control Board this week to file a complaint. Boyles said he was told by agent Renee Rivera Shaffer that Gaming would investigate the incident, particularly the accusation of voiding a bet after the game started (in light of the Breeders' Cup pick six scandal, any talk of altering a bet after an event has begun is sure to draw scrutiny).

Calls to the Nevada Gaming Control Board were not returned by early Wednesday afternoon.

Ride 'em cowboy week

The National Finals Rodeo makes its annual 10-day visit to the Thomas ND Mack Center starting Friday.

Only the best in the cowboy world are invited to compete at this year-end event, which crowns national champions in bull riding, steer wrestling, calf roping, saddle bronc riding, and barrel racing.

But only part of the action will be at the actual rodeo, which starts at 6:45 p.m. the first nine nights (and shown on tape delay on ESPN2 at 9 p.m.) with the final go-round held at 1:30 p.m. on Sunday, Dec. 15.

Cosmopolitan Las Vegas turns back into the Wild West during the 10 days of the rodeo. The NFR draws tens of thousands of visitors. Cowboy hats and boots can be seen in every direction. Even local businessmen put on their Wranglers when going out on the town this week. Levi's are considered gauche by the NFR crowd.

The gold buckles that are given to the winners of each day's events will be handed out nightly at 11 p.m. at the Gold Coast Hotel and Casino, and that is a great place to see a lot of the participants.

Another popular hangout during NFR is the Cowboy Christmas Gift Show at the Las Vegas Convention Center. More than 400 vendors will sell western-themed merchandise such as leather goods, truck accessories, and jewelry. It's also home to the NFR Ticket Exchange, where people can buy or sell extra tickets.

This used to be a slow time of year in Las Vegas, but the rodeo boosts room occupancy, and hotels cater to the cowboy crowd with concerts lined up by acts such as Charlie Daniels (Fremont Street Experience, Friday), Randy Travis (The Orleans, Friday through Sunday), Jeff Foxworthy (Paris, Friday through Sunday), and Brooks and Dunn (Las Vegas Hilton, Dec. 9-11), among others.

Charity time

This time of year is also when charities step up their fund-raising drives. Some notable efforts:

* The Las Vegas Sun auctions off the free gifts that its reporters and editors receive during the year and uses the money for its Sun Camp Fund, which sends disadvantaged youths to summer camp. A full list of items - everything from duffel bags to bobblehead dolls to sunglasses to videotapes - is at www.lasvegasun.com/auction. Bids can be mailed to the Sun or sent via e-mail (details on the website) but must be in by Friday, Dec. 13.

* Speedway Children's Charities, sponsored by the Las Vegas Motor Speedway, is donating $228,000 to 31 local youth charities and foundations, topping last year's contribution of $196,500.

* Station Casinos didn't wait until the holiday season to start giving to local charities this fall. Since the start of the football season, Stations has been donating $1,000 a week in its media football contest. Each weekly winner chooses which charity gets the prize money. Robert Martinez of KVBC-Channel 3 (playing for the Nevada S.P.C.A.) and Jim Tofte of KSFN Infinity Radio (playing for Shade Tree Shelter) have each won two weeks apiece through the first 13 weeks. In addition to the weekly winners, the season-end winner will receive $3,000 for his or her charity, with second place winning $1,000 and third getting $500. With four weeks to play, Craig Williams of the KOMP Morning Show (playing for Ronald McDonald House) is the overall leader with 122 wins.

Stardust semis start

The semifinals of the $10,000 winner-take-all Stardust Invitational begin Friday at 9 p.m. in the sports book (and aired live in nine western states on KDWN AM-720).

Local handicapper Andy Iskoe takes on Sporting News Radio national host "Papa" Joe Chevalier in the head-to-head battle in which each contestant picks seven football games against the spread.

The other semifinal will be next Friday between Mike Lee, who went 4-3 to defeat sports betting publisher Buzz Daly (2-5) last week, and Notre Dame legend Rudy Ruettiger.