03/07/2013 5:24PM

Dave Tuley: Las Vegas sports books gearing up for March Madness


LAS VEGAS – March Madness has long had the slogan of “survive and advance,” and that’s the challenge that faces local college basketball contest players during the upcoming tournament.

Station Casinos and the William Hill network of books are both offering survival-type contests for local customers here in Las Vegas and in the case of William Hill also up in Reno and at books throughout the state. The contests also are open to out-of-state customers coming in for the very popular opening weekend (this year behind held on March 21-24), though they would have to come back for the following weekend to also submit their plays in person.

The “Last Man Standing” contest at Station Casinos, which also includes its networked Fiesta & Wildfire books and the El Cortez in downtown Vegas, require players to pick one game against the spread each day. One loss and you’re out. The full prize pool, with a $50,000 guarantee, goes to the last man (or woman) standing. Entries cost $25 apiece and if you buy four you get the fifth free, so many will get five entries for $100. Deadline to enter is 9 a.m. Pacific on Thursday, March 21.

William Hill, which bought the Leroy’s, Lucky’s, and Cal Neva chains last year, has adopted Leroy’s “Three ’N Out” format. Like LMS, it costs $25, has a buy four/get one free offer, and has contestants pick one game against the spread each day, but this contest also offers totals and you’re not eliminated with one loss. Instead, you’re alive until suffering three losses, so this pretty much guarantees that it will last through the Final Four and until the title game. The guaranteed prize pool is $25,000, but just like the LMS it will increase with more entries. The deadline to enter is the tip-off time Thursday, March 21, for the first game you play. Contest plays can be made at any of the 75 full-service William Hill books or at its kiosk-only casino or tavern locations.

Horse Player World Series results

Speaking of Vegas handicapping contests, the Orleans is coming off a successful running of its Horse Player World Series two weeks ago on Feb. 21-23. Similar to the Daily Racing Form /NTRA National Handicapping Championship, horseplayers can earn seats at qualifying tournaments throughout the year, but the HPWS also allows people to buy in for $1,000.

This year, a HPWS record 792 entrants made 15 mythical $20 win and place bets each day of the tournament. James Henry of Torrance, Calif., took the title with a score of 5,292 to claim the $356,400 first-place prize. Henry, who goes by the name @TurfMaster411 on Twitter, lived up to his name as nine of his 12 winners were on the turf.

John Connelly came up just short in second place by just $51.60, but his 5,240.40 score was still good for the $79,200 second-place prize. Troy Fountain’s 4,645.40 was good enough to earn $55,440.

Eric Wing, the NTRA’s director of media relations, doesn’t play many tournaments as he’s ineligible for the NHC, but he showed he’s more than a one-liner-spewing handsome face in a tux, as he was the Day 1 leader with 1,752 points and earned $10,560 for the day’s top score. Wing also proved to be more than a one-hit wonder. He put up more than 1,000 points each day and finished seventh with 4,031 points to earn another $7,920.

The Coast Casinos’ handicapping tournament schedule the rest of the year includes the Handicapping Championship at the Orleans ($500 entry) on April 11-13, Gold Coast Summer Classic ($400 entry) on July 25-27, and the Fall Classic at the Orleans ($500 entry) on Oct. 10-12.

Different kind of horsepower

Moving from horse racing to auto racing, this weekend is when the good ol’ boys (and Danica Patrick) come to the Las Vegas Motor Speedway for the third race of the season.

The Sam’s Town 300, named for the locals casino on the east side of town, is the Nationwide Series race at 1:30 p.m. Pacific on Saturday, with the Kobalt Tools 400 (which by any other name is still the Las Vegas 400 to many of us since it’s hard to keep track of the changes from year to year) Sprint Cup race at noon Pacific on Sunday (don’t forget to spring your clocks forward).

A big draw for the fans in town this weekend is the legal wagering that is offered unlike on the rest of the circuit. In fact, Ed Salmons of the LVH SuperBook says his book handles about 50 percent more on the local race than it does on the Daytona 500.

Las Vegas native Kyle Busch is the heavy 9-5 chalk at the LVH in the Sam’s Town 300, with Brad Keselowski at 7-2 and Dale Earnhardt Jr. and Brian Vickers at 8-1. Jimmie Johnson is the 5-1 favorite in the Kobalt Tools 400, while Busch is among three drivers at 8-1 with Keselowski and Matt Kenseth. Other top contenders are Carl Edwards and Kasey Kahne at 9-1, Denny Hamlin at 10-1, and a star-studded group at 12-1 that includes Jeff Gordon, Earnhardt, Tony Stewart, Greg Biffle, and Edwards. Patrick is offered at 500-1.

Just like the Daytona 500, prop bets are plentiful with so many eager bettors in town. In addition to head-to-head driver matchups, there are over/under finish props on most of the top drivers as well as props such as over/under 7.5 caution flags, whether the winning car number be odd (+155) or even (–175), whether it will be 1-23 (–145) or 24-99 (+125), and whether the winning manufacturer will be Chevrolet (+105), Ford (+225), or Toyota (+175).

New resort may rise from the ’dust

The big local news this past week was the Monday announcement that the Malaysia-based Genting Group was buying the former site of the Stardust and the abandoned Echelon Place project from Boyd Gaming for $350 million and is planning to build an Asian-themed resort on the site to open in 2016.

The Stardust was closed by Boyd Gaming in 2006 and demolished in March 2007 to make way for the $4 billion Echelon Place, which was supposed to rival MGM Resorts’ CityCenter. After the recession hit, MGM was able to complete the $8.5 million CityCenter in 2009 with help from money from Dubai while Boyd Gaming halted construction of Echelon Place in August 2008. Since then, the shells of several unfinished buildings and some shutdown cranes have stood as a symbol of what the economic downturn did to Las Vegas.

Genting’s new project is being called Resorts World Las Vegas with 3,500 rooms in seven hotel towers (some of which will use the Echelon scraps), a replica of the Great Wall of China, a 7.5-acre water park, and a live panda exhibit as well as other more typical casino attractions.