09/13/2005 11:00PM

No interest in a temporary home team


Mayor Oscar Goodman wants a professional sports team in Las Vegas.

A major-league team for a major-league city, he says.

He courted the NBA's Vancouver Grizzlies before they relocated to Memphis. He pursued MLB's Montreal Expos before they morphed into the Washington Nationals. He has appeared at a baseball owners' meeting to state his case for future expansion. He held meetings in his office with the owners of the Florida Marlins, who are threatening to leave Miami if they don't get a new stadium.

However, as much as Goodman, a former mob lawyer, wants a pro team and says he will do anything to get one, he does have some scruples. In the wake of Hurricane Katrina, he decided not to reach out to the owners of the New Orleans Saints and Hornets, who have lost use of their stadiums and had their fan bases scattered.

"It seemed like a bad thing to do," Goodman said on local ESPN radio this week. "We don't want a team under those circumstances."

But the phone still rang from the opposite direction as George Shinn, owner of the NBA Hornets, called the mayor's office. That in itself is a good sign for Las Vegas, as it had been Goodman who made the first overtures toward the Hornets. Regardless, Goodman said that Las Vegas would have to pass on being the temporary home of the Hornets this season.

Don't get him wrong. He wasn't just being a good guy. As Goodman told Steve Carp of the Las Vegas Review-Journal, "When we get a team here, I want it to be permanent and have it be a team we can embrace as our own."

Besides, Goodman said, NBA commissioner David Stern has made it clear that he won't allow a team in Las Vegas as long as the city takes bets on the league's games. Goodman said that even though the city agreed not to take bets on the 2007 All-Star Game, which will be played here, the casinos wouldn't be willing to give up wagering on regular-season and playoff games. He's counting on the NBA changing its stance.

"Our next step in getting a pro team is our hosting the NBA All-Star Game in 2007," Goodman said on the radio. "After all of the owners come here and see how great Las Vegas would be for the league, and how well the gambling is regulated and actually helps against point-shaving scandals, we feel the NBA will have to soften its stance."

Football contests continue growth

The Las Vegas Hilton SuperContest, in which football handicappers pick five NFL games against the spread each week, has drawn a record field of 505 entrants at $1,500 apiece, topping last year's 411. The total purse is $757,500, with the champion's share to be $303,000. If the winner hits more than 67 percent, he will also receive a $10,000 bonus paid by the Hilton. Second place will earn $121,200, with prizes paid to the top 20. After the first week of play, six contestants went 5-0. Their contest names - in which aliases are permitted - are BBs Guesses, DRC, Fairway Jay, Letitride-sports.com, Sundown, and Vitos.

* Station Casinos' The Challenge, with a similar format to the SuperContest, also saw a boost its entries with a total of 183 this year at $1,000 apiece compared with 121 last year. First prize is $91,500 plus a one-year lease of a Mercedes. After the opening week, Robert Francis is alone in first place at 5-0 with 21 contestants just off the pace at 4-1.

* Leroy's College Challenge, the newcomer to the scene, which has contestants pick seven college games a week, exceeded expectations in its first year with 364 entries at $250 apiece. Leroy's had guaranteed a $50,000 prize pool and $25,000 top prize, but with the higher number of entries the total prize pool is $91,000 with first place being worth $45,500. The King Fish and David Robinson went 7-0 last weekend to take the early lead.

Invitational tourneys kick off

Invitational contests restricted to well-known handicappers also continue in Las Vegas.

In the debut of the Leroy's Put Up or Shut up Invitational, in which invited participants put up $2,500 of their own money, Steve Makinen of statfox.com defeated Fezzik, the one-named handicapper. Each contestant makes seven football selections weighted from a mythical $110 bet on the first pick up to $770 for the best bet. Makinen went 4-3 vs. Fezzik's 2-5, but more importantly Makinen's plays showed a profit of $280 while Fezzik's lost $770. The contest came down to Fezzik's best bet of Ravens +3 vs. the Colts on Sunday night. This week's match, held in the Riviera sports book, features professional gambler Ron Boyles vs. Doc Moseman of Doc's Sports. The contest airs from 8-9 p.m. Fridays on KDWN AM-720.

* Boyles will then head across the street to the Stardust when he makes his first-round match vs. Fezzik in the Stardust Invitational from 9-10 p.m., also on KDWN. In last week's first-round match, defending champion Big Al McMordie went 4-3 to defeat 2003 champ David Stratton of GamingToday, who went 3-4.

Sports book notes

Football is the main attraction this weekend, but other sports betting options still exist with a full card of baseball games, highlighted by the A's-Red Sox and Phillies-Marlins series, and the third game of the WNBA finals. In other sports:

* Saturday night at the MGM Grand Garden Arena, two great boxers head to the ring - though unfortunately not against each other. Sugar Shane Mosley faces Jose Luis Cruz in a light middleweight bout. Mosley is a -600 favorite. In the featured match, Marco Antonio Barrera puts his WBC super featherweight belt on the line vs. Robbie Peden, who holds the IBF belt. Barrera is a -800 favorite.

* The Nextel Cup circuit begins its Chase to the Championship over the final 10 races of the year, starting with Sunday's Sylvania 300 at New Hampshire International Speedway. Only the top 10 points-earners through last week's race at Richmond International Speedway, won by Las Vegas's Kurt Busch, are eligible for the title. Station Casinos' auto racing oddsmaker, Micah Roberts, has points leader Tony Stewart as the 3-1 favorite to win the season-end title, followed by Jimmie Johnson at 5-1, Busch at 6-1, Greg Biffle at 7-1, Mark Martin and Matt Kenseth at 10-1, Rusty Wallace at 15-1, and Ryan Newman, Carl Edwards, and Jeremy Mayfield all at 18-1. Last year, I called Busch as the live longshot at 9-1. He's certainly still worth a shot at 6-1 as he has had great success in the remaining races, including winning last year's Sylvania 300. Martin and Wallace, both driving their last season, are the sentimental choices at decent prices.