07/25/2002 11:00PM

Fan's tale at meeting hits home

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The Nevada PariMutuel Association sought to educate the Nevada Gaming Commission Thursday on how Nevada has lost its edge over the rest of the horse racing industry in terms of marketing and technology. But it took a fan to give it a personal touch.

The commission opened the floor to public comment before the presentation. That's when horseplayer Charles Conti summed up what he sees as the problems with over-regulation.

Conti told the Commission that he stays home with his ailing father and that they like to bet the races together with a legal phone account. Conti said doctors credit this with keeping his father's mind and body active. A recent decision that led Coast Casinos to halt their phone wagering system has hurt the Contis through no fault of their own.

"We liked being able to bet legally over the phone," Conti said. "We weren't doing anything wrong. If this isn't resolved soon, I'll take my business offshore."

Horseplayers also spoke by their presence: The meeting room overflowed its capacity of 111. Several horseplayers were seen to check out the scene and decide to go back to their favorite race book instead of fighting for a seat. A lot of other people left early because the NPMA's presentation, which was expected to be start around 10:30 a.m., didn't begin until 12:15 p.m.

* Also at the Gaming Commission meeting, the MGM Grand received unanimous approval to operate the city's first private gaming salon for high rollers. Previously, Nevada's open gaming laws required all betting to be done in the open. Nevertheless, high rollers seeking anonymity from prying eyes of the bourgeois set have been staying away. Caesars Palace is expected to be next to have a private salon approved.

* The Rev. Al Sharpton also made an appearance with a group of protesters to bring more media attention to what they say is unfair treatment of minorities and a lack of business partnerships with minority-owned vendors at the MGM Mirage properties.

Since the accusations began two years ago, when the MGM Grand bought the Mirage properties, MGM Mirage says its diversity program has been very active, but the company continues to be the focus of protestors' attention.

Pot on the ballot

In November, voters will decide whether to make possession of less than three ounces of marijuana legal in the state. Supporters of the referendum say this will free up law enforcement officers to investigate more serious crimes. Opponents say marijuana is a "gateway" drug and shouldn't be legalized for any amount. Suffice to say that the two sides won't be smoking a peace pipe anytime soon.

Radio news

Football season in Las Vegas begins Thursday, Aug. 1. No, there aren't any games, but it is the season debut of "You Can Bet On It," hosted by Larry Grossman, on KENO AM-1460 from 2-3 p.m. Mondays through Fridays.

"You Can Bet On It," entering its 13th season, annually goes on hiatus after the Super Bowl and returns to signify the beginning of the football season each August. Football drives the show - Grossman estimates 75 percent of the content is pigskin-related, including a bookmaker giving current odds and handicapper selections - but all gaming topics are covered, from horse racing to poker to table games and slots. Grossman has earned his reputation for running an honest sports betting show. The words "lock" and "guarantee" are not allowed, nor are plugs for 900 numbers.

Live audio streaming and archives of past shows can be accessed through www.larrygrossman.com.

o Nationally syndicated sports talk host "Papa" Joe Chevalier has been broadcasting shows the past two weeks from Caesars Tahoe and the Mandalay Bay. Chevalier, who broke into radio in Las Vegas, won the Stardust Invitational football handicapping contest in 1999 and will be back in the tournament this season. Chevalier will continue to broadcast from the Mandalay Bay sports book through the end of August. His show is heard locally from 3-7 p.m. on AM-1460 and nationally on the Sporting News Radio network.

Teeing off

Monday's "Battle at Big Horn" made-for-TV event (5 p.m. Pacific on ABC) pits Tiger Woods and Jack Nicklaus vs. Sergio Garcia and Lee Trevino in a best-ball format. The Palms has made Woods/Nicklaus a -160 favorite over Garcia/Trevino at +140.