06/28/2002 12:00AM

'Cocktails' may no longer be a dirty word


LAS VEGAS - One of the perks for gamblers in casinos has always been the free drinks. As long as they are playing, gamblers get the same treatment in Atlantic City as they do in Las Vegas. The difference has been that waitresses in Vegas are able to pitch their more potent refreshments by saying "cocktails" when they stroll the gaming areas, while waitresses in Atlantic City have been forbidden from using that word. They may say "coffee or juice"0/00 but not "cocktails" or anything else that would connote alcohol.

The law has been on the books since casino gambling was legalized in Atlantic City in the late 1970's. The legislators were trying to protect gamblers and felt that a more subtle approach was necessary to discourage people from continuing to drink.

But now the state senate is moving toward passing a deregulation bill that would remove the restriction, as well as rewriting some other rules, one that barred the main entrance of a hotel to be through a gaming area and another that limited personal checks to $1,500.

What a feeling (chemical, that is)

Many studies have shown that people will gamble more if they've been drinking, but a growing feeling is that some people gamble beyond their means because of a chemical imbalance in the brain. It's being viewed as not just an addiction, but as a disease.

Either way, the University of Nevada School of Medicine is doing its best to help those people who can't control themselves. The school is conducting tests with the drug nalmefene, which researchers claim triggers euphoric feelings that are similar to what a gambler feels when he has action. If they get that feeling, researchers argue, gamblers will be less inclined to give in to their gambling jones.

If the clinical trials are successful and they could be concluded by late this year, nalmefene will be submitted for approval by the Drug and Food Administration.

Breeders' Cup futures

John Avello, who sets the horse racing odds at Bally's and its sister Park Place Entertainment properties, now has Breeders' Cup futures on the Classic, Sprint, Distaff, and Mile. Azeri has been bet down to 7-2 in the Distaff; Street Cry is the 6-1 favorite in the Classic, with Mizzen Mast a close second choice at 7-1; Snow Ridge is 8-1 in the Sprint; and Avello opened Beat Hollow as the 8-1 top choice in the Mile this past week. The Filly and Mare Turf will be added later this week, with the Turf to follow and the Juvenile and Juvenile Fillies to be added by the time the 2-year-olds start running later this summer at Saratoga and Del Mar.

Contest news

Early birds can get a lot more than worms at handicapping tournaments.

Summer Stakes III at Bally's on the Strip and the Suncoast Invitational at the Suncoast in suburban Summerlin both have incentives for those who enter early. Both tournaments have a $1,000 entry fee, but that's where the similarities end.

Summer Stakes III is a two-day tourney Aug. 2-3 in which players make win-place-show wagers on the first day and exacta wagers on the second day. Prizes are paid through the top 10 spots each day, and the top 25 overall combined scores. Hotel rooms are also available for $60 a night at Bally's and $80 a night at the newer, fancier Paris, which is next door.

The Summer Stakes early-bird deadline is Monday and earns entrants an additional 10 percent on any prize money they win. Last year's winner, Michael Bedol, failed to enter early, and it cost him an additional $3,135 in prize money based on the $30,375 he collected for winning the tourney and another $975 in daily prizes.

Locals can enter at the race book anytime Monday, while out-of-towners can still get in by calling or mailing in an application postmarked by Monday.

The Suncoast Invitational, also taking place for the third time, is a three-day tourney, Aug. 8-10, in which players make win wagers only. Prizes are paid through the top five each day and the top 40 overall scores, with the winner collecting $105,000 if the field reaches the expected total of 300. Rooms are $55 at the Suncoast, and as with all contests, comps can be earned through live play at the betting windows.

The Suncoast early-bird deadline is July 10 and earns entrants a free entry into a $20,000 tourney on Aug. 11, the day after the main tourney ends.