01/31/2007 1:00AM

Crackdown on parties doesn't deter tourists


Super Bowl weekend is annually one of the busiest here in Las Vegas.

It used to be that even if you weren't invited to a posh VIP party, you could come to town and find newspaper ads or signs on billboards for Super Bowl parties that were open to the public with a nominal admission fee.

Times have changed a little. Three years ago, the NFL, citing copyright infringement, cracked down on the use of the term "Super Bowl" - which is why the rare ads you see and any odds sheets and parlay cards will say "Big Game" or "NFL Championship" or other generic terms - and also prohibited casinos from charging admission to parties or using screens larger than 55 inches diagonal unless they were in use every day (hence, large screens in the sports book that are used all year long are legal, but big screens can't be set up in other areas for the Super Bowl).

So, there has been a chilling effect. Basically, unless you have already received an invite to a private party or gamble heavily enough earlier in the weekend to get one from a casino host, you're out of luck.

None of the above is keeping the masses from coming here and outnumbering those that are going to Miami, the host of Super Bowl LXI. Miami is expecting 125,000 visitors this weekend, according to the South Florida Super Bowl Host Committee website, while 287,000 are coming here, according to the Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority. Of course, that makes sense since there are just 20,000 hotel rooms in Miami and only about 48,000 in the greater Miami area, while the Las Vegas valley currently has 133,269 hotel rooms and they will be more than 95 percent occupied.

Ultimate Fighting spices up weekend

The Super Bowl is enough to make this a big sporting-event weekend in Las Vegas, but the enormously popular Ultimate Fighting Championship mixed martial arts organization went ahead and made it even bigger by scheduling a card here on Saturday night.

"UFC 67: All or Nothing" will be held at Mandalay Bay and available on pay-per-view. Unlike during boxing matches, when the arena is pretty empty during the undercard and fills up for the main event, in the UFC, the decidedly younger fans show up early and cheer on all the fights because they've followed the careers of the fighters on reality TV shows and the Internet.

For more casual fans, the big news is that Saturday night is the UFC debut of Quinton "Rampage" Jackson, who was acquired with a buyout of the defunct World Fighting Alliance, vs. Marvin "Beastman" Eastman. Jackson is a mixed martial arts star in Japan and is expected to be in line for a title match with UFC champ Chuck Liddell if he wins Saturday. Jackson, who dealt Liddell his last defeat in 2003, is a -700 favorite.

Leftover notes from NHC

Here are some leftovers from the Daily Racing Form/NTRA National Handicapping Championship, held in the Bally's race book last Friday and Saturday.

* Tchavdar Milanov, a 48-year-old native of Bulgaria and 18-year resident of Concord, Calif., was the first big winner at the NHC. He had Friday's top score and earned $10,000. He earned his berth by winning a contest at Golden Gate last spring, and he didn't know it was a qualifying tournament that came with airfare and hotel accommodation in Las Vegas. On Friday, he didn't know he was the $10,000 daily prize winner until he was contacted in his room by the NTRA to come back down for interviews. When asked if he wanted a drink, he ordered a Pepsi. When someone joked if he wanted some vodka, he said "Yes, I like vodka" in a thick accent. When it was suggested maybe he shouldn't indulge since he had a lot of handicapping to do for the next day, he said, "It didn't hurt me last night."

* Bill Handleman, 58, of Neptune, N.J., was the leader for two hours on Saturday. The columnist for the Asbury Park Press was trying to become the second straight New Jersey newspaperman to win the NHC on the heels of last year's winner, Ron Rippey of the Newark Star-Ledger. Handleman knows what it takes to close out a victory as he won the 1995 Penn National World Series of Handicapping tournament, but he wasn't able to hold on Saturday and finished sixth. "I spit the bit," he said.

* Christopher Parkinson, 30, of Forest Hill, Md., nearly pulled off a double, winning the Last Chance qualifier at Bally's on Wednesday to make the field and then making a big move Saturday to finish ninth. Last year, Steve Valiant of Brooklyn, N.Y. finished 10th in the NHC after earning his berth in the Last Chance qualifier.

* Russ Carlson, 45, of Seattle finished 10th in the NHC and earned $8,000. A week earlier, he finished 27th and earned $1,787.50 at the Horseplayer World Series at the Orleans.

* Chris Eggers, the race and sports book manager at Bally's, had a big smile on her face when Stanley Bavlish, 54, of Virginia Beach, Va., was declared the winner at the end of the tournament. Part of that might have been because she was relieved that her looooong week - which included her personally making a round-trip drive to Phoenix (between five and six hours each way) when it was discovered earlier in the week that they didn't have enough contest cards - was over without any additional snafus. But she was also happy that Bavlish won.

"I'm so thrilled that one of our regular customers finally won this thing," she said. "He comes here about six times of year and always stays at Bally's. Even if he plays in a tournament somewhere else he stays with us."

Bavlish recently bought a house in Vegas and said he will be coming here even more often now.

* Bavlish said that even though he's a longshot player, he did use odds-on favorite Brother Bobby on Saturday in Oaklawn's fifth, one of the contest's mandatory races. He thought that might have been the difference between winning the contest and losing, but when told that the horse was worth $6.40 ($3.80 to win and $2.60 to place) and that he won by $6.80, he said: "If I hadn't used that horse, people would have said I won by a nose . . . and with a nose like mine, they would have been right."