06/21/2001 11:00PM

Lakers tilt future book


LAS VEGAS, Nev. - The Lakers, who made an historic run to the NBA title with 15-1 record in the playoffs, are favored to win the title again next year.

Now, that's not unusual. The champion is usually the favorite, at least before the draft and any trades are made. But even when Michael Jordan and the Bulls were unquestionably the best in the league, you could find them around 3-1. This year, the Lakers are 4-5 at the Imperial Palace, 6-5 at the Stardust, and 13-10 at the MGM/Mirage properties.

"We opened the Lakers at 8-5 (for next year's title) before the playoffs, but then lowered them to 4-5 after they went up 3-0 on the Spurs," said Ed Salmons, sports book manager at the Imperial Palace. "They are just that dominant."

Chuck Esposito, race and sports book director of the Park Place properties (Caesars Palace, Las Vegas Hilton, Bally's, Paris, Flamingo), concurred.

"The Lakers are head and shoulders above the rest of the league," Esposito said. "Usually in a future book for a major sport like this the favorite will be 3-1 or 4-1 and other teams at 9-2 and 5-1. But after the Lakers there's a big drop-off. We have the Spurs at 6-1 and the Sixers and Heat at 8-1. I can't remember a future book like this."

Salmons said the Imperial Palace has written the most tickets on the 76ers, who are at 15-1. Esposito said the Heat, Trail Blazers, and Pacers have been getting the most play at his properties.

"A lot of bets are made when rumors start circulating," Esposito said. "Gary Payton might be going to the Heat, so we got some bets on them, and word got around that Chris Webber might rejoin [former Michigan teammate] Jalen Rose with the Pacers."

Esposito went on to say that he would take down his futures during the NBA draft on Wednesday. However he pointed out that big-name veterans who get traded will likely have more of an impact on future book prices than this year's draft class.

The other variable for NBA fans is the potential return of Michael Jordan. Las Vegas Sports Consultants, which supplies odds to Nevada sports books, has the Wizards off the board until Jordan makes a decision. But Salmons blasts that kind of bookmaking and has the Wizards at 20-1.

"How can you book a future book and not list every team? It's an insult to the players," Salmons said. "There's a number for everything. Even if Jordan returns, he's 38 years old. How low do you think the odds would be?"

Sports Betting Notes: Devils the pick in NHL

NHL futures are also up, with the Devils the 7-2 favorite at Park Place and 4-1 at the Imperial Palace to win the Stanley Cup. This year's Cup-winning Avalanche opened as the 4-1 favorite at the IP but are now 5-1. Park Place has the defending champs at 4-1.

"The Avs have free agency issues and other questions, such as Ray Bourque's retirement, so the Devils are the logical favorite," Esposito said.

The NBA blows away the NHL during the season in the amount of betting handle, but both Salmons and Esposito said the future books are relatively even.

"The betting is considerably higher on the NBA right now, mostly because of all the attention on the Lakers and the Finals," Esposito said, "but the NHL will close the gap as the season approaches in the fall."

* In London last week, there was a lot of controversy over the Wimbledon seeds with Pete Sampras being ranked No. 5 in the world yet getting the top seed. In Las Vegas, oddsmakers didn't know what all the fuss was about. Sampras, despite slipping in the rankings, is the 2-1 favorite to win the men's single title. Las Vegas's native son, Andre Agassi, is the second choice at 3-1, and then there's a drop-off to Lleyton Hewitt at 7-1.

On the women's side, there are five players considered top contenders. Venus Williams is 5-2, followed by Martina Hingis (7-2), Jennifer Capriati (4-1), Lindsay Davenport (9-2), and Serena Williams (6-1).

* The Park Place properties have added the Breeders' Cup Mile to the BC futures they already had posted on the Classic, Sprint, and Distaff. John Avello, who sets the future book odds from his office at Bally's, said he expects to put up the Mile "within the next 10 days, followed by the Turf about a week later." Avello said he won't have the Juvenile and Juvenile Fillies posted until sometime in August, when the 2-year-old picture is clearer.

Keeping cool in Las Vegas

The temperatures have been in the low 100's here, low being a relative term. There are ways to stay cool in the desert, but with concerns about an energy crisis, it will cost you if you come here.

No fewer than 15 hotels are imposing a $3 energy surcharge per day for hotel guests, and all are on the Strip: Bally's, Caesars Palace, Flamingo, Harrah's, Imperial Palace, MGM Grand, Mirage, New Frontier, New York-New York, Paris Las Vegas, Riviera, Sahara, Stratosphere, Treasure Island, and Tropicana.

Pool parties are another way to keep cool and more hotels this summer are trying to lure tourists and locals alike. Here's the list: Tuesdays, The Orleans, 7-10:30 p.m. ($2 for women, $5 for men); Wednesdays, Suncoast, 7:30-10:30 p.m. ($2 for women, $5 for men); Thursdays, Union Plaza (free); Thursdays, New York-New York ($5); Fridays, Regent Las Vegas, 5 p.m.-midnight ($5).

If you want to get in the pool but don't want to stop gambling, there are swim-up blackjack tables at the Tropicana and the Hard Rock. That's one way to not lose your shirt.