11/17/2003 12:00AM

Early bettors soft on Penn State vs. Spartans


When the Stardust posts its opening numbers for the following week's football games each Sunday night - and holds a "lottery" for professional bettors who are betting a minimum of $1,000 to get the first crack at the lines, before the general public - there's usually a lot of activity.

The Stardust staff is putting the opening numbers in the computer to get ready to post them on the big matrix boards, and also printing out the sheets to hand out to the customers. Bettors are running in and out of the sports book, making calls so they have the opening lines from other books (either in town, or from the Olympic or CRIS offshore books). The bettors then draw cards to determine their place in line so that wagering is done in an orderly fashion when bets start being taken after the Sunday night ESPN game kicks off.

On a typical Sunday night, there will be 10-12 bettors present, but this week only three signed up.

"We put up the numbers and they're there for the taking," said Bob Scucci, race and sports book director at the Stardust. "I can't speak for the bettors. You'd have to ask them."

Well, there was no one to ask. About five minutes into Sunday night's Cowboys-Patriots game, the announcement was made over the intercom that "all windows are open for next week's football."

It's not as if the professional bettors are out of money. By all accounts, they had a pretty good weekend, including winning all 11 college games that were bet the previous Sunday night at the Stardust. The early bettors also went 3-1 on NFL sides.

There are many more options nowadays for professional bettors who want to snatch up the best numbers right away, when they tend to be the loosest, but it's still surprising that only three showed up at the Stardust, especially after having such success last week.

In fact, the Imperial Palace and Stratosphere said they had the normal number of early bettors when they put up their lines for next week's games, around 4:30 p.m. Sunday. And on Monday morning, the Rampart had 22 bettors sign up for its lottery, which race and sports book director Eric St. Clair said was a little more than usual. St. Clair said 16 college games were bet enough to move their opening lines, as well as seven NFL sides and three totals.

Since we have been using the Stardust openers all season, we'll continue with them in the accompanying box, but keep in mind that the chart includes line moves from the first half-hour of wagering Sunday night and might not be as accurate a reflection on professional bettors as usual.

Only eight college lines moved at the Stardust, breaking down evenly into four underdogs and four favorites. The only line to move more than a point was Penn St., from +6 down to +4 1/2 at Michigan St.

In the NFL, the Jaguars were bet on the road at the Jets, with the rest of the early money coming in on home teams. Four of the five home teams were favorites being bet upward, with the lone exception being the home dog Chargers - who were bet from +3 vs. the Bengals with the standard -110 on each side to +3 with a premium of -130 (and the Bengals offered at -3 and +110) as the Stardust obviously didn't want to drop the line to 2 1/2 and risk getting sided.