08/30/2001 11:00PM

Now that it's legal, few bother to bet on UNLV

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Las Vegas got its first taste of what it's like to have UNLV football games on the betting boards on Thursday night, and the result was bittersweet.

The Rebels lost 14-10 at Arkansas in a sloppy game that neither team deserved to win. UNLV led, 10-7, until a little-used punter fumbled a snap to set up an Arkansas touchdown in the final minute. UNLV football fans were bummed about that, but some of them were holding betting tickets on UNLV +5 or +5 1/2, so they had some consolation money to dry their tears.

When the Imperial Palace put up its "College Games of the Year" in July, it opened Arkansas a 3 1/2-point choice. The wise guys bet that up right away to 4 1/2, which is where it closed a week before the game (the early betting closes on those games before the IP puts up its complete odds for that next week's games).

When the Stardust put up Las Vegas's official opening numbers last Sunday, it also got some Arkansas money at 3 1/2 and the number was bet up to 5 1/2 around town by kickoff Thursday.

"Just a few guys got the 3 1/2, then we moved it to 4, so those people got a push," said Bob Scucci, assistant sports book director at the Stardust. "Anyone who bet Arkansas on the last few days leading up to the game, which is when most of the money comes in, lost, so we didn't get hurt too bad by the line move."

Ed Salmons, sports book manager at the Imperial Palace, said he would be surprised if any books lost much money on the UNLV game.

"It was our third-lowest-bet game on the night," Salmons said. "For bettors here, it's just another game on the board."

The over/under on UNLV's number of wins was set at 6 1/2 with "over" bettors having to lay -160 (wager $1.60 to win $1) and "under" bettors getting +130 (bet $1 to win $1.30). The early bettors took the over, betting the line up to -180/+140 before some under money came in closer to the season opener. The prop closed with the over at -150 and the under +120. After UNLV's performance Thursday night, the under might be the right side.

College action expands

UNLV - and the University of Nevada up in Reno - aren't the only additions to the college betting boards this year. Don Best Sports, which sets the rotation of games on the betting boards in Nevada and in the Caribbean, has added Middle Tennessee State, South Florida, and Troy State this season.

Middle Tennessee State was involved in the biggest line move in Thursday night's contests. Vanderbilt opened as a 13-point favorite at the Stardust but was bet all the way down to 7 1/2 (other books that waited to see the line movement at the Stardust opened it lower and didn't get hit as much by the professional bettors in town). The wise guys were on the right side as Middle Tennessee State won outright, 37-28.

Bookmakers got a lot of their money back in the last game of the night. Arizona opened as a 3-point favorite over San Diego State, but the bettors jumped all over the dog and San Diego State actually closed as a 2 1/2-point favorite. Arizona fell behind 10-0 early (and the "smart" money looked smart) but went on to win 23-10.

As for the other new teams on the betting boards, South Florida, a 20-point underdog, covered in a 20-17 loss to Northern Illinois while Troy State was a prohibitive underdog at Nebraska on Saturday, though most sports books weren't putting up a line. Caesars Palace had Nebraska -49 1/2 while Station Casinos had it at 50 as of noon Friday.

Contest changes

With the Del Mar meet closing on Wednesday, there are a lot of changes in the schedule of handicapping contests this week. For starters, the Sunset Station contest that has been Mondays and Fridays during the meet will be Monday and Wednesday this week. All other Monday (New Frontier and Excalibur) and Wednesday (Arizona Charlie's and The Orleans) stay intact this week, but Arizona Charlie's and The Orleans will suspend their contests during the Fairplex meeting.

On Thursdays, the Stratosphere is putting its East Meets West quinella contest on hold until the Oak Tree at Santa Anita meet starts. Race and sports book director Rico Ruggeroli says the progressive jackpot, which stands at $2,379, will be carried over until Sept. 27. Meanwhile, the free Thursday contest at the Suncoast will continue. Race book manager Tom Timko and his staff are taking votes from horseplayers for which track they want to use for the contest, which had been using the last five races at Del Mar.

On Fridays, Binion's Horseshoe will suspend its Shoe Q contest until the Oak Tree meet, but Cyrill Burger at the Las Vegas Hilton says the SuperBook will probably continue its free contest, but he hadn't decided which track to use during the interim.

Ties can count as a win

Station Casinos has brought back "Ties Win" parlay cards in a variety of forms. They pay less than regular parlay cards (5-1 for a three-team parlay as opposed to 5.5-1 on Stations' regular parlay card and 6-1 for off-the-board parlays), but there is value to be found if the line moves in your favor.

For instance, if you like Purdue in its game against Cincinnati, you would have to lay 8 1/2 points on the regular parlay card and only 8 on the "Ties Win" card (and you win if Purdue wins by 8). The same goes with Memphis on Monday night's ESPN game vs. Mississippi State. Memphis is +16 1/2 on the regular card and +17 on the "Ties Win" version.

o Football contest sign-ups remain brisk around town. One contest that was inadvertently left off our listings last week was the "Gridiron Growler" at Barley's on Sunset Road. It costs $200 to enter and players pick 10 sides and five totals each week on NFL games. There are weekly prizes and a guaranteed $5,000 season-end winner.

o Las Vegas hasn't cornered the market on football contests. The Cal-Neva books in northern Nevada have a "Pick the Pros" contest in which players pay a $25 entry fee and pick straight-up winners. First prize each week is $7,500 with $25,000 to the season-long champion. Vegas bettors can enter at Club Fortune in Henderson.

o Boxer Vinny Pazienza, a former lightweight and junior middleweight titleholder, lost a major decision this past week. A judge ordered him to pay $208,000 in gambling debts to MGM-Mirage, plus 15 percent interest and the casino's attorney's fees.

o Texas Station and Santa Fe Station are sending a group of contest winners to Del Mar on Sunday, along with executives from the company. They're flying out in the morning and returning the same night after a day at the races. Sam's Town and the Golden Nugget have taken some of their players on similar day trips.

o Point Given's retirement caused Bally's race and sports book director John Avello to take down his Breeders' Cup Classic future book and readjust the odds. Galileo is the new favorite at 5-2 and Avello dropped the odds on a bunch of other horses. "Point Given was down to 7-5 with a ton of money," Avello said. "It's obviously good for our future book that he's out, but I hate to see this type of thing happen. Point Given is one of those horses who gets everyone out there. I was at the Travers and saw it first-hand. Everyone was talking about Point Given. It's a big loss for racing."