02/02/2005 12:00AM

Just call this town Jacksonville West


While Jacksonville, Fla., a city of 1 million people, is priding itself on being the smallest host city of a Super Bowl on Sunday, Las Vegas, a booming metropolis of 1.5 million, is welcoming more visitors this weekend for the festivities.

In many ways, it shows that Las Vegas would be a perfect Super Bowl site - if not for the NFL's reluctance to have anything to do with the gambling mecca.

The Jacksonville Super Bowl Host Committee's website estimates 100,000 visitors are coming to the city this weekend and filling all of its 15,000 hotel rooms, plus another 3,500 cabins on cruise ships that are being used to house the overflow. Still, with all those visitors, many out-of-towners are having to rent homes or condos from locals at exorbitant prices, or get rooms and commute from Orlando, Fla., or Savannah, Ga.

Meanwhile, here in Vegas, the inventory of 131,503 hotel rooms will be filled to 95.3 percent occupancy by the 287,000 visitors, according to Marina Nicola, a spokesperson for the the Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority. And no one has to leave the area.

Of course, Vegas attracts tons of visitors every weekend (more than 35 million total in 2004 compared with 3.5 million for Jacksonville), so the comparisons aren't really fair.

The NFL estimates that a Super Bowl has an average economic impact of $250 million on the host city. Jacksonville may have that over Las Vegas . . . and then again maybe not. The Las Vegas visitors authority estimates only the non-gambling economic impact - which includes hotel rooms, restaurants, shows - for a holiday weekend. The figure for this Super Bowl Weekend is $101 million, but that doesn't include all of the betting on the game or any of the other action in the casino pit and at the slot machines.

Regardless, both Jacksonville and Las Vegas will be packed for the big game.

Super Bowl odds update

As of noon Wednesday, the Patriots remained a 7-point favorite over the Eagles with the over/under starting to dip slightly. The most common total earlier in the week was 48, but several sports books have lowered it to 47 1/2.

The money line - the odds to win the game straight up - vary more from casino to casino with the Patriots between -240 (risk $2.40 for every $1) and -300 depending on where you shop and the Eagles offered at +200 (bet $1 to win $2) to +250.

If you want 4-1 or 5-1 odds on the Eagles to win the Super Bowl, you get that, too. The catch is that it's for the 2006 Super Bowl in Detroit.

The Eagles and Patriots are the early favorites to meet in next year's title game. At most books, the Patriots are the 7-2 or 4-1 favorite with the Eagles the second choice at 4-1 or 5-1. The Colts are also a popular 5-1 choice, followed by the Steelers at 8-1, the Chargers and Falcons each at 12-1, and Packers, Jets and Broncos at 15-1.

Handicappers struggle at Leroy's

There's more than football action this weekend with a full slate of college basketball on Saturday in addition to the NBA.

College basketball bettors have been invited to the Riviera on Friday nights to hear analysis from some of the top b-ball handicappers in the city in the Leroy's Challenge, though the experts haven't fared too well so far.

This Friday night, from 9-10 p.m. Pacific in the Riviera sports book and aired locally on KBAD AM-920, is the last first-round matchup, between Golden Nugget race and sports book manager Nick Bogdanovich and local radio producer Mitch Moss, who will have "Paulie the Proxy" give his plays because he is in Jacksonville.

Last week, Dave Scandaliato went 3-2 with his five contest selections to defeat John Harper, who went 2-3. Their combined 5-5 mark actually raised the composite record of all contestants to 18-22 (45 percent) through four weeks of the contest. Each lost his best bet, which stand at a dismal 1-7 for the group.

But it can only get better.

The winner of this weekend's match will face Scandaliato on Friday, Feb. 18, in one semifinal. The other semifinal will be Feb. 11 with Ted Sevransky facing Fezzik, the handicapper with the one-name moniker.

One-named radio host

Larry Grossman's popular "You Can Bet on It" radio show, which airs locally Mondays through Fridays from 2-3 p.m. on KENO AM-1460, had gone on a six-month hiatus following the Super Bowl in the first 14 years of the show.

This year, however, Grossman has agreed to continue the show year-round, with Fezzik filling in as a permanent guest host when Grossman is doing other projects.

"In the past," said Grossman, "it was nice to take that time off for vacation and other things I'm involved with, but there were many times I wish I had the show because there is so much that goes on the rest of the year. This will let us cover March Madness, the Kentucky Derby and other Triple Crown races, the World Series of Poker, and many other things."

The show can be heard live and archived at cardplayer.com.