05/28/2001 11:00PM

Lakers killing books as well as opposition

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LAS VEGAS - The Lakers completed their sweep of the Spurs Sunday and will not play again until the NBA Finals start next Wednesday, but you won't hear many bookmakers complain about the gap in the schedule. Bettors have been riding the Lakers' winning streak (now at 19 games, including 11 in the playoffs) all the way to the bank.

"Memorial Day weekend was below average for us," said Doug Castaneda, sports book supervisor at the Stardust. "A lot of that had to do with the Lakers. The public was just betting them over and over."

The Stardust, along with most other properties in town, opened the Lakers as 8 1/2-point favorites in Sunday's Game 4, and the public jumped all over it.

The line moved to 10 at many sports books before bettors were willing to take the Spurs and the double-digit points. The line closed at 9 and 9 1/2 around town, but the point spread never came into play as the Lakers jumped out to an 11-2 lead and kept building it from there in a 111-82 rout.

The other NBA conference final series, between the 76ers and Bucks, has been much more competitive, but Castaneda said the bettors have been nearly as savvy.

The Bucks opened as 5-point favorites in Game 3 Saturday, but news of 76ers star guard Allen Iverson's tailbone injury soon changed that.

"The bettors knew immediately how important Iverson is to the 76ers, and we took in quite a bit of Bucks money," Castaneda said.

"By the time the line moved to 8 and then 8 1/2, we made back a lot on the straight bets as the public kept betting against the 76ers without Iverson."

The Bucks ended up winning 80-74, meaning those who bet the Bucks early at -5 and -5 1/2 were winners, but those who jumped on the bandwagon late lost their wagers.

With Iverson returning in Game 4 Monday, the public put its faith back in the 76ers, who opened as 6-point underdogs and were bet down to plus 4 1/2 and 5 points. The 76ers won, 89-83, to tie the series at two games apiece.

Game 5 was scheduled for Wednesday night in Philadelphia, with the 76ers installed as a 3-point favorite. Game 6 is Friday night in Milwaukee.

Auto races end well for books

The Indianapolis 500/NASCAR Coca-Cola 600 doubleheader couldn't have turned out much better for Station Casinos on Sunday.

Micah Roberts, race and sports book manager at the Santa Fe Station, said the house did very well on both races. Bettors didn't wager enough money to make him move Indianapolis 500 winner Helio Castroneves off his opening number of 7-1, as they were mostly betting contenders in the 15-1 to 20-1 range.

In addition, the Indy 500 proposition bets were winners for the house as bettors thought an IRL driver would win the race. The prop opened with CART as a -115 favorite (bet $1.15 to win $1) but the public made the IRL drivers the favorite, probably based on the fact that there were 26 IRL drivers compared to seven CART drivers.

"IRL had the quantity but CART had the quality," Roberts said of the competing racing leagues. "CART drivers finished 1-2-3-4-5-6 out of their seven drivers, so it wasn't even close."

Roberts said the public also liked "over 19 1/2" in the combined finishes of Tony Stewart in the two races. Stewart finished sixth in the Indy 500 and third in the Coca-Cola 600 to go way under the number and give the house another winner.

"It certainly helped cut our losses from the Lakers," said Roberts, echoing the comments of bookmakers all over town.

Roberts also said that not many bettors took Jeff Burton at 15-1 to win the Coca-Cola 600 (which he did) to make it an auto racing doubleheader sweep for bookmakers.

NHL betting cold as ice

Hockey is supposed to take the spotlight during the Stanley Cup Finals, but bookmakers say the action has been slow this season.

"The NHL always take a back seat to the NBA," said Jay Kornegay, race and sports book director at the Imperial Palace. "We're getting decent action, mostly on the Avalanche, but nothing compared to the Lakers, and certainly nothing to write home about."

The Imperial Palace opened the Devils as a -220 favorite to win the New Jersey-Colorado series, with a buyback on the Avalanche at +180. The public bet that down to -200/+160. Similarly, the public took the Avalanche (who have home-ice advantage) in last Saturday's Game 1 as a +110 underdog and were rewarded with a 5-0 victory. The over/under was set at 5, so all bettors received a refund of those wagers. That was the 12th push of the playoffs, with the over holding a 35-32 edge against the under. Home teams hold a slight 41-39 winning edge.

In Tuesday night's Game 2, the Imperial Palace again opened the Devils as a -130 favorite, with the Avalanche at +110, and the public bet it down to -120 and even-money on the Avalanche. The over/under was again at 5 with under bettors having to lay -130 while the over was +110.

Game 3 is set for Thursday night in New Jersey, and the Devils will likely be a big favorite regardless of the outcome of Game 2 Tuesday night.