08/11/2006 12:00AM

More action for race fans


Coast Resorts and Station Casinos have dominated the local horsepl-ayer market for obvious reasons. They offer solid comp programs and many creative non-parimutuel wagers, including house quinellas. Their racebooks have excellent amenities and a staff that understands horse racing and treats the customers well.

However, the Las Vegas population is growing so fast that it shouldn't preclude other casinos from trying to lasso a share of the local horse betting business.

I was happy to hear that the Rampart and Cannery casinos, in Summerlin and North Las Vegas, are starting two new promotions, in tandem, to attract new horseplayers.

First, they are offering a twin quinella jackpot, starting at $1,000, from Wednesdays through Sundays. The twin Q is a $2 minimum bet that requires players to pick the top two finishers in a pair of designated races. The bet becomes even more enticing when there is a carryover pool if no one wins the twin Q the previous day. That creates a positive expectancy for bettors.

Second, the Rampart and Cannery are starting a new contest to be held the second Sunday of each month beginning on Aug. 13. The $5,000-guaranteed Horse Handicappers Contest is free to enter, and there is a one-entry limit per guest. The contest is based on the first eight races at whatever Southern California track is racing at the time. There are two ways to cash in.

The Champions pool is worth $3,500 and will be shared among the first five finishers. Players try to earn the most points by picking winners among the eight contest races. First prize is $2,000.

The second way to win is in the Show 8 pool, which is worth $1,500. You must be a consistent handicapper and pick a horse to finish in the money in all eight contest races. If more than one horseplayer is successful, then the pot will be divided equally.

The new promotions remind me of the very popular Win and In the Money contest that used to be held on Fridays at Sunset Station years ago. I was always hoping that contest would return, and it finally has, with some new twists, at the Rampart and Cannery. The Cannery race and sports book, by the way, is all brand new, with seating for 130 and a television monitor at each counter space.

Horseplayers, for too long, have been underappreciated compared to bettors who play slots, table games, and sports. In what other wager does the house hold 15 to 20 percent of the betting, albeit before expenses? And when horseplayers make a big score, the money doesn't go away. They handicap the next race and churn the profits right back through the betting windows.

Richard Eng is the turf editor for the Las Vegas Review-Journal and author of "Betting on Horse Racing for Dummies."