11/26/2003 12:00AM

Ex-ticket writer becomes CEO


For the past 15 years, Ken White has been considered one of the top oddsmakers in the sports betting industry. He acted as an independent consultant to several of the top sports books in Las Vegas, mostly working outside of the public eye, except for the occasional radio appearance or taking part in the Stardust Invitational handicapping tournaments, which he won in both 1995 and 1996.

White, 40, will be back on center stage at 9 p.m. Friday at the Stardust (and broadcast live on KDWN AM-720 in nine Western states as well as worldwide at www.kdwn.com) in a quarterfinal match against Jimmy Vaccaro. But that has very little to do with how White's life has suddenly become high-profile.

On Tuesday, White officially became the CEO, vice president of operations, and one of the owners of Las Vegas Sports Consultants, the top supplier of betting odds in the world. All this from White's humble beginnings of a Las Vegas native who helped his father put together sports statistics magazines and books in the 1970's and started working at the Santa Anita sports book when he turned 21 in 1984.

"I worked my way up from the No. 4 to No. 1 ticket writer, and in those days all tickets were hand-written," White said from his new office on Wednesday. "I also worked as the phone guy and the cashier. I learned the whole operation."

He became the sports book manager at the Fremont in 1986, but after two years there he found his calling and set out as an independent oddsmaker in 1988.

For the uninitiated, LVSC was founded by Michael "Roxy" Roxborough in 1982. Roxy quickly became the top oddsmaker in town, filling the void left when the top oddsmaker of the day, Bob Martin, was sentenced to 13 months in prison for illegal interstate wagering. LVSC and Roxy were synonymous, and still are to this day, as many people still refer to it as "Roxy's Line" - despite Roxborough's retirement in the spring of 1999.

Since then, LVSC has operated under the umbrella of other companies, including Data Broadcasting Company, Vegas Insider, and most recently CBS Sportsline. Earlier this year, part of an agreement for CBS to continue broadcasting the Final Four and for Sportsline to operate the NCAA's college sports site (ncaasports.com) called for the company to sell off its gambling-related companies, VegasInsider.com and LVSC.

That's where White came in.

"When it was announced Las Vegas Sports Consultants was up for sale, I knew right away I wanted to pursue it," White said. "[LVSC] has a place in the history of Las Vegas, and I wanted to keep it going. Roxy did great for this business, and there is a great staff that has been holding it together the past five years.

"I approached Sportsline in July, and I talked to my attorney, Ellen [Whittemore], and asked if she would be interested in forming a partnership."

Whittemore brought in her husband, Jeff Patterson, and her brother, David, who are also attorneys. The deal was officially closed Monday, White said, with Sportsline divesting itself of the company and terminating the employees. The new owners then rehired the employees on Tuesday.

"We're retaining the current staff," White said. "We're looking to expand down the road a little ways, as we look to become a full-service operation, supplying everything we can in all sports."

Ellen Whittemore will be the president of LVSC, with White and David Whittenmore as vice presidents and Patterson as treasurer. White said all four partners will need to be licensed by the state and they are in the process of filling out the 70-page application forms. The Gaming Control Board has previously said that any new owners would be allowed by operate during the process.

Football contest update

White and Vaccaro, the former Mirage race and sports book director who is now running the sports book at the Atlantis Resort in the Bahamas, are battling for the final spot in the Stardust Invitational semifinals, along with Steve Fezzik, David Stratton, and Ted Sevransky. Each week, two handicappers select seven college or pro games off the betting boards, with a best bet used as a tiebreaker. Last week, Sevransky went 6-0-1 to defeat Bob Donahue (4-3) in their head-to-head matchup.

Sevransky's push was on the Seahawks +3, which looked like a sure winner until the Ravens rallied from 17 points down in the final seven minutes. The Ravens got some help from the refs (which the NFL admitted). Sufficient time wasn't run off the clock on the Seahawks' final possession, giving the Ravens added time to get into field-goal range and force overtime in their 44-41 victory.

The winner of the Stardust Invitational collects $10,000.

* That amount potentially could be considered pocket money for a handicapper that is positioning himself for a chance to sweep the two other big handicapping contests in town. A contestant going under the alias "Jarhead" went 4-0-1 last week in the Las Vegas Hilton SuperContest, which has a first prize of $207,600, to improve his record to 38-17-5, good for 40.5 points since pushes count for half a point. Two games behind in second place are "Moxie" and former leader "Peter and Paul" with 38.5 points. "Jarhead" missed a perfect week when the Falcons pushed vs. the Titans as a 7-point underdog.

* "Jarhead" also went 4-1 to take over first place in the Station Casinos Gambler's Challenge, which has a first prize of $65,500, with a record of 39-17-4, good for 41 points. The only reason he had a loss was because the line in the contest here was Falcons +6 1/2. "Jarhead" has opened up a 2 1/2-game lead over "AJ Sports." The selections for "Jarhead" and the other leaders in both contests will be posted in the respective sports books on Friday afternoon.

Imperial Palace contest on hiatus

The Super Saturday contest at the Imperial Palace will take a few weeks off over the holidays. The last contest will be held Saturday with a mandatory payout of the progressive jackpot, which stood at $5,050 after last week.

The entry fee is $10, with a maximum of three entries per person. The contest will use three races from Aqueduct, with the first expected to go off sometime between 11:20 a.m. and noon, and three races from Hollywood. The winner of the contest is expected to walk away with at least $7,500, based on a minimum of 225 entrants.

The Super Saturday contest will resume on Dec. 27.