08/07/2003 11:00PM

NYRA's woes mean little to casinos

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LAS VEGAS - This past week, some news outlets were reporting that the New York Racing Association's simulcast contract with Nevada's race books could be in jeopardy because of potential criminal indictments against NYRA. The indictments are in connection with 16 mutuel clerks who were convicted of tax fraud and the three who were convicted of money laundering.

The reasoning, given in a New York Times article, which was reprinted in the Las Vegas Sun on Monday, is that Nevada and New Jersey have rigid casino and gaming rules and that NYRA could be found "no longer suitable to transmit horse races to Nevada casinos because an indictment and potential conviction pose a threat to the public interest or the effective regulation of gambling."

But if you think Nevada's racing community was having convulsions over the prospects of losing one of its most popular tracks, you would be mistaken.

"We don't know where this story is coming from," said one race book manager, who spoke on condition of anonymity. "It has nothing to do with horse racing. You've got horses on the track, running. That's what we care about here in Las Vegas. If it had something to do with race-fixing, or cheating in the parimutuels pools, that might be an issue and would be something our regulators would definitely want to look into, but as it stands it's a non-issue from the gambling side of it."

Officials at the Las Vegas Dissemination Company, which acts as the wagering hub for all Nevada race books, and the Nevada Pari-Mutuel Association were taking a wait-and-see approach.

"We're watching the situation like everyone else - New York racing is a very important product - but we haven't heard anything about not being able to take their signal," said Vinny Magliulo of the Las Vegas Dissemination Company.

"We haven't heard a thing from New York, or from our Gaming Control Board," said Patty Jones, director of the Nevada Pari-Mutuel Association. "It doesn't impact us if the mutuel tellers don't balance their drawers."

The clerks were found to be intentionally "shorting" their cash drawers. NYRA would deduct the amount from the employees' paychecks, resulting in the employees not having to pay taxes on that income. NYRA officials and lawyers met with the U.S. attorney's office in the Eastern District of New York Tuesday in an effort to avoid an indictment.

"There's a lot of politics involved with that situation," another race book manager said. "NYRA has its faults, but they've also been a scapegoat at times. We'll have to see how it turns out. If they lose their license, then it's a moot point, but as long as they're permitted to conduct race meets it appears we should be able to take the races."

Bill Nader, senior vice president of NYRA, said Friday that because of the ongoing investigation he couldn't comment on the status of simulcasting contracts, but he did say, "I hope we never have to find out."

Nevada officials would agree with that.

Other Nevada horse racing news

One immediate impact of the NYRA investigation has been the decision by NYRA and MGM Mirage to postpone construction plans for a slot-machine parlor at Aqueduct Race Course. The Las Vegas company, which reached an agreement in April to manage the slots operation, was planning to install 3,500 video lottery terminals and have the parlor open by Jan. 1.

* On Wednesday, the Gaming Control Board recommended approval for Club Cal-Neva in Reno to operate a satellite race and sports book at the Tuscany Suites hotel-casino on Flamingo Road in Las Vegas. The application also needs to be approved by the Gaming Commission in Carson City at its Aug. 21 meeting, but that's generally just a rubber-stamp formality.

* Handicapper Jerry Jacovitz, whose Jerry J's Power Page sheet is distributed at 13 Las Vegas-area race books, will be hosting a Del Mar seminar at Arizona Charlie's West on Friday at 2:30 p.m., previewing the twilight card which begins at 4 p.m.

* A year ago, the Imperial Palace became the first Strip property to host a weekly Saturday handicapping contest when it launched Super Saturdays (the Luxor has since joined the competition for weekend players). This Saturday, the Imperial Palace was planning to give away a pack of Seabiscuit trading cards to each entrant.

All Kobe, all the time

According to a ticket seller at the UNLV box office, there are still plenty of tickets available for the Oct. 24 NBA exhibition between the Los Angeles Lakers and the Sacramento Kings at the Thomas & Mack Center.

Lakers guard Kobe Bryant was in an Eagle, Colo., courtroom Wednesday in the first step of his sexual-assault case and is due back in court on Oct. 9 for a preliminary hearing. The Lakers have exhibition games on Oct. 7 and 8 in Tokyo, and the rest of his preseason playing schedule is up in the air.

Tickets for the Oct. 24 Las Vegas game are available in all sections, ranging from $13 in the rafters to $82 on the floor level.

You didn't really think you'd get through a sports newspaper this week without reading a Kobe Bryant item, did you?