04/25/2007 11:00PM

NFL draft off limits

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It's amazing to consider that despite the NBA and NHL playoffs going on and full slates of regular-season baseball games this Saturday and Sunday, a great deal of media coverage and talk among fans will be about the NFL draft.

The draft has really taken on a life of its own, with endless speculation about who will be the top pick and so on and so on and so on. With ESPN providing wire-to-wire coverage, I've heard the draft show compared to a reality show. The players go through the ups and downs of where they will make their living, and commentators throw in their two cents along the way.

But is it a "sporting event?" That's a gray area.

Nevada gaming regulations prohibit casinos from taking bets on non-sporting events, such as elections, the Academy Awards, and reality shows, basically anything that is voted on. (That has always brought up a question for me about boxing matches because the result is determined by judges, but we'll leave that for another time.) Another reason that wagering isn't allowed on those types of things is that often someone out there knows the results before other people, which is true in the case of reality shows that are taped days, weeks, and sometimes months ahead of time.

The most famous non-sports prop taken by a Nevada sports book was "Who shot J.R.?" in 1980 when it was offered by Castaways sports book director Sonny Reizner. The state's Gaming Control Board, however, made him take the bet off the board since some people connected with the show knew the outcome.

(Trivia note: It turned out that J.R. was shot by his sister-in-law, with whom he had an affair.)

Back to the matter at hand, it still would be fun to have wagering on the NFL draft here. It is available offshore for those who still bet on the Internet. Sportbook.com has LSU quarterback JaMarcus Russell as the heavy 1-6 favorite to be the first player selected. The Oakland Raiders hold the first draft choice. Georgia Tech wide receiver Calvin Johnson, generally regarded as the top player in the draft, is the second choice at even-money, with Notre Dame quarterback Brady Quinn at 30-1. Of course, you never know when a team will shock everyone, like last year when the Houston Texans took North Carolina St. defensive end Mario Williams over Heisman Trophy winner Reggie Bush and hometown hero Vince Young.

That's what makes the draft so unpredictable and so fun, and great for wagering. Bodog.com has taken things a step further by offering live wagering. Bettors can bet as the draft progresses on which player will be picked next, which position will be picked next, plus other propositions such as how many quarterbacks will be selected in the current round.

The fear, of course, is that someone will have inside information and pound the bookmakers, but if betting limits are kept low, that takes away incentive for any funny business. Maybe someday we'll see the day when Nevada loosens its regulations to allow these types of fun wagers.

Battle of the Surfaces

No, this isn't like Battle of the Network Stars. It's a tennis exhibition that, if you haven't heard of it yet, will be more in the news by next Wednesday, when Roger Federer, four-time defending Wimbledon champ and the top tennis player in the world but who struggles on clay courts, takes on Rafael Nadal, who has won the past two French Opens, played on clay. They will play on a specially designed half-clay, half-grass court at the Palma Arena in Mallorca, Spain.

The Las Vegas Hilton has Nadal the -130 favorite and Federer offered at +120. Players will play best-of-three sets under normal rules with the usual changes of side after each odd-numbered game.

Sports book notes

When the media starts tracking records and milestones on a daily basis, you can usually count on a Las Vegas sports book to set odds on it. With Barry Bonds approaching Hank Aaron's career home run record of 755 and Alex Rodriguez cranking out homers and approaching the 500 milestone, Wynn Las Vegas has posted a prop of what would happen first: Bonds hitting No. 756 or A-Rod hitting No. 500. Rodriguez, who was 22 shy of 500 heading into Thursday's games while Bonds was 15 short of Aaron, is a heavy favorite of -450, partly because he's hitting at such a hot pace, but also because Bonds takes off more days. Bonds is offered at +350. The prop was as high as -500/+400 on Wednesday before Bonds homered that night.

Another prop at Wynn asks bettors to predict the week in which Bonds passes Aaron. For instance, the dates of May 21-27 is offered at 200-1 and the odds decrease week by week until July 23-29, which is the favorite at 5-1. The rest of the season, the odds rise week by week with the final week of Sept. 24 through Nov. 1 at 30-1. If you think Bonds might have his season ended by an injury or otherwise not break the record, a "not hit in 2007" option is available at 20-1.

* The Las Vegas Wranglers is a minor-league hockey team in the East Coast Hockey League. The Wranglers are in the playoffs and, with their home games played at the Orleans Arena, they have been added to the betting boards at Boyd Gaming properties. The Wranglers had an 18-game winning streak after beating Idaho in game 1 of their seven-game series, but that was snapped Monday. The first game offered for wagering was Wednesday night with the Wranglers a 1 1/2-goal favorite. Idaho won 4-2, going over the total of 5 1/2.

* Station Casinos has Tony Stewart as the 4-1 favorite in the Aaron's 499 at Talladega Motor Speedway on Sunday. Jimmie Johnson is the second choice at 9-2 with his teammate Jeff Gordon at 5-1. No other driver is in single digits with Kevin Harvick the fourth choice at 11-1.