05/30/2003 12:00AM

House hopes it's 'next year' for Cubs

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LAS VEGAS - Bob Hope turned 100 Thursday. Perhaps he remembers when the Cubs won the World Series in 1908. If he does, he's one of the few with such memories.

But for Cubs fans, hope springs eternal, and it's for that reason the Cubs annually are the team that poses the biggest risk for Las Vegas bookmakers in their World Series future books. No matter how bad the Cubs are, bettors - typically locals transplanted from Chicago and tourists visiting from the Windy City, but also nationwide fans who have followed the team over the years on WGN - annually take a stab that "next year" will finally arrive.

"When the Cubs finally win the World Series, you'll see bookmakers coming to work the next day with black arm bands," said Bob Scucci, director of race and sports at the Stardust. "We get tons of money on them every year no matter what the odds are."

Of course, if it ever happens, you can't feel sorry for bookmakers who have been pocketing that money for as long as future book bets have been made. The Cubs haven't even made it to the World Series since 1945, which was 30 years before legalized sports betting exploded in Nevada.

According to odds released by Las Vegas Sports Consultants, the Cubs opened at 30-1 to win this year's Series, obviously a number that was shaded low in anticipation of all that Cubs money. The Cubs have since been lowered to 18-1. Sports books that take actual bets have the Cubs as low as 6-1 because they can't risk any more on them.

Entering this weekend's action, the Cubs were 29-23 and had a two-game lead over the Astros and Cardinals in the National League Central. They were also getting Sammy Sosa back from the disabled list. But the biggest challenge facing the Cubs is the calendar. Any Cubs fan can tell you of many fast starts, but a lot of those have ended with what they refer to in Chicago as the "June Swoon."

Boulder baseball contest popular

If you want to compare your baseball handicapping prowess with other bettors', there's a free weekly contest at Boulder Station.

Entrants select 10 games a week, with a maximum of five plays on a single day, and get the money line available at the time they make their selection. No run lines or totals are used. The person building the biggest bankroll wins $500.

"We wanted to give something back to our regulars," said Kelly Airgood, Boulder race and sports book manager. "It's a nice shot at $500. We've already exceeded 400 entries and we'll probably hit 500 as we get into the summer months."

Airgood added the contest has increased camaraderie among his regular customers, who have fun needling each other when looking at the daily standings.

NBA and NHL finals

With the Spurs eliminating the Mavericks Thursday night, they now have to wait until Wednesday night to start the NBA finals vs. the Nets, who have been idle since last Saturday. The Spurs are between a -310 to -380 favorite to win the series. The Nets are between +260 and +300 so it pays to shop around regardless of which side you like. The line on Game 1 is the Spurs -6 1/2 with a total of 187.

o How low can the betting totals on the Stanley Cup finals go? I'm not just talking about handle, which has been abysmal from all reports, but also the over/under, which was set at 4 for the first two games of the series. And despite oddsmakers making bettors lay up to -150 to take the under, bettors have still bet it and cashed, as the Devils won each game 3-0. The offshore book CRIS made the line for Saturday's game 3 at 3 1/2, with over bettors having to lay -150.

Belmont odds popping up all over

The consensus of Las Vegas race books is that Funny Cide is 8-5 to win the Belmont. That's his future-book odds at Coast Casinos (The Orleans, Gold Coast, Barbary Coast, Suncoast), while he is slightly lower at 7 1/2-5 (or +150 as a money line) at the Excalibur and related Mandalay Bay Resort Group books and slightly higher at 8 1/2-5 (+170) at Bally's and the Park Place properties.

The Excalibur also has odds on Funny Cide to place (-140 on the "yes" and even money on the "no") and show (-380 on him to hit the board and +280 on him to finish out of the money).

Park Place oddsmaker John Avello has set the over/under for the running time of the Belmont at 2:27.80.

Fire at Moulin Rouge

The Moulin Rouge, located on Bonanza Road north of downtown Las Vegas, has a storied past, even though it was basically open for less than six months in 1955.

At that time, black entertainers such as Sammy Davis Jr. performed on the Strip but weren't allowed to stay in the posh hotels. The Moulin Rouge was the first high-class hotel-casino for African-Americans and it became an overnight sensation - literally. All of the top black entertainers would go there after their main gigs. The Moulin Rouge's Tropi-Can-Can show raised its curtain nightly at 2:30 a.m.

Frank Sinatra, Cary Grant, and other white celebrities would also go there, and the audiences followed. According to local legend, the hotel closed because it couldn't pay off its loans, which allegedly were called in by the banks because of pressure from the Strip hotels that were losing tons of business.

Over the years, there have been many attempts to reopen the hotel-casino and the latest renovations by current owner Bart Maybie were underway for an opening later this year.

That was until a fire burned it to the ground, all except the large neon sign, early Thursday morning.

After the blaze, Maybie said he had a $2 million insurance policy and plans to rebuild. Fire officials say they have no evidence of arson, but aren't ruling it out. Because the Moulin Rouge was on the National Register of Historic Places, the ATF has been called in to investigate.

* The Venetian is scheduled to open a 14-story, 1,013-room tower Sunday. That will give The Venetian 4,049 rooms, third only behind the MGM Grand (5,034) and Luxor (4,467).

* Bellagio is next on the list of hotel room expansions. Its "spa tower" of 925 suites, planned to be completed in late 2004, will bring the total number of rooms to 3,930.