07/29/2009 11:00PM

NFL early lines barely move


LAS VEGAS - Our not-so-fair-weathered city has been hell on earth the past week, with temperatures in the 100s every day.

It reminds me of my glory days in the early 1980s when the onset of August meant the start of two-a-day high school football practices. The temperature didn't reach triple digits in suburban Chicago, but it certainly didn't feel any cooler than this. I'm sure the "heat index" - which according to my Google research wasn't widely used in weather reports until the 1990s - was much higher with the humidity in the 90-percent range. We would change between practices, but our sweat-soaked shoulder pads wouldn't dry out until Labor Day.

So this weather reminds me of football season. And the only way to escape the heat is to stay home or run out to the air-conditioned sports books. And there you will find many more reminders that football season is just a shovel pass away.

Week 1 NFL lines have been up at the Las Vegas Hilton since tax day, April 15, one day after the schedule was released. Most other sports books followed suit and the bettors responded by betting early and often. However, it's amazing how little the lines move despite being put up nearly five months in advance of opening weekend. The biggest move since the lines came out has been Denver opening as 3-point road favorites at Cincinnati, but the Bengals have been bet all the way to a 3-point favorite. The only other point spread to move more than a point has been the Carolina-Philadelphia game. The Panthers opened as a 3-point favorite but now the line is down to 1.

Even the whole Brett Favre saga had little effect on the Minnesota Vikings' opener at the Cleveland Browns. The Vikings opened as a 3-point road favorite, stayed there when it looked like Favre was heading to the Tinker Dome, and didn't move after it was announced that he is staying retired (and I join you in hoping this is the last you read about Favre for a while, but I wouldn't bet on that).

While Week 1 numbers certainly whetted bettors' appetite for football, that was just a hint at the menu to come. The M Resort on the south end of the Strip, followed by the Lucky's chain of books in northern and southern Nevada, have put up lines on every NFL game this season, all 17 weeks. The Hilton also has its Games of the Year with all primetime (and holiday) games plus other marquee games.

If you can't wait for the regular season, lines went up this past week for the Hall of Fame Game on Aug. 9, with the Tennessee Titans favored by 3 1/2 over the Buffalo Bills, plus the first week of preseason games Aug. 13-17. The M Resort has the Philadelphia Eagles as a 4-point favorite over the New England Patriots on Aug. 13, and no point spread is higher on any other game, with only two others more than a field goal (Jets -3 1/2 vs. Rams and Saints -3 1/2 vs. Bengals).

College football isn't left out of the feeding frenzy. The Golden Nugget has lines on 130 games through the season, while the Hilton has 118 Games of the Year for that sport as well, so if you want to bet now on the Red River Shootout, the line at the Hilton has Texas -1 vs. Oklahoma (the Golden Nugget opened it Texas -3 back in June).

Going to the dogs

Friday was slated to be a historic day in Nevada gaming history as the race books take parimutuel greyhound racing for the first time. Palm Beach Kennel Club is the first track to sign a contract and was expected to be up and running on Friday. Palm Beach has daily matinees at 10 a.m. Vegas time and runs Fridays and Saturdays at 4:30 p.m. Derby Lane in St. Petersburg, Fla., is expected to be the next online at a date to be determined.

Patty Jones, director of the Nevada Pari-Mutuel Association, said Thursday morning that 65 race books were signed up to join the greyhound pool, including all the outlets at the major chains (MGM Mirage, Harrah's, etc.). You previously were able to bet the pups in a lot, but not all, of the Vegas race books, but they have always been booked by the casino, which would pay track odds but were subject to house limits. Greyhound racing wasn't officially approved by gaming regulators until this past month.

Hinson back in winner's circle

Joe Hinson, 66, of Germantown, Tenn., won the Summer Classic handicapping tournament at the Gold Coast last weekend. He outlasted a field of 402 entrants who put up the $400 entry fee and made 15 mythical $200 win and place bets each day of the three-day tourney. He scored 34,144 points to win the $56,280 first-place prize and hold off Robert Schintzius of Williamsville, N.Y., who scored 32,094 and earned $19,269. Team Hinson collected another $8,040 as his daughters finished eighth, 10th, and 12th.