08/20/2003 12:00AM

Oddsmaking services may drop out


Earlier this month, the Nevada Gaming Control Board sent a letter to the state's casinos, advising them that they might see their number of oddsmaking consulting firms dwindle.

A bill passed in 1997 requires state licenses for all sports information services that sell odds to Nevada sports books. Four entities were grandfathered in: Las Vegas Sports Consultants, Don Best Sports, professional handicapper/odds consultant Ken White, and longtime Las Vegas bookmaker Eugene Buonantony.

First and foremost is Las Vegas Sports Consultants, the company founded by Michael "Roxy" Roxborough in 1982. LVSC is the biggest supplier of betting information in the state, sending its odds to 90 percent of the state's sports books, and also has clients all over the world. However, its current owner, CBS Sportsline Inc., which bought LVSC from Roxy in 1999, is trying to sell the company because of an agreement its parent company, CBS, made with the NCAA in February. CBS Sportsline agreed to sell its gaming interests in order to get the rights to run the NCAA's website (ncaa-sports.com) and continue to televise the men's basketball tournament.

Gaming Control Board member Scott Scherer said Wednesday that CBS Sportsline has withdrawn its application to renew its oddsmaking license.

"They told us they have until the end of the year to sell the company, so they wouldn't be around to complete the licensing process," Scherer said. "Any buyer would then need to be licensed."

A new owner would be able to operate during the investigation process, which could take several months and even years, Scherer said.

As for the other oddsmaking companies, Scherer said Don Best Sports recently withdrew its renewal request, but that company mostly distributes odds instead of creating and selling its own. Scherer also said that White's license is up in the air.

"We haven't received a renewal request from him, and we're not sure if he's going to move forward," Scherer said.

Buonantony, who was most recently writing a weekly column for GamingToday newspaper under the name John Bennett, is on the Gaming Control Board's agenda to have his license renewed next month, and if the rest of the oddsmaking services fail to renew their licenses, he could become the only licensed seller of odds in the state.

Even if LVSC fails to renew its license, many bookmakers have downplayed the potential loss of an outside oddsmaker. While giving credit to how influential LVSC was 15 to 20 years ago when sports betting information wasn't as readily available and bettors had a better chance of getting it before oddsmakers could adjust, bookmakers say it's a service that has become less and less important. In addition, since Roxy sold the company, some bookmakers point to times that LVSC called them for help with lines.

The biggest loss for sports books would be the updated lines service that LVSC provides, in which they can monitor what other books are doing in real time.

While bookmakers would obviously be losing a tool should LVSC cease to exist, this could end up being good news for bettors.

One of the most common complaints about sports betting in Las Vegas is that all the books have the same odds. LVSC has done such a great job for so many years that a lot of books automatically put up the odds as they received them. As consolidation took over the industry, there were fewer and fewer places to shop for a different point spread.

But if LVSC closes shop and no one fills the void, every casino would be setting its own lines. You won't notice the difference as much in the NFL - mainly because pro football numbers are the easiest to set, plus the CRIS offshore book usually beats the Vegas books with the first line anyway, so that by Monday morning you pretty much have a consensus line for the following week's games. But there will be more differences in college football and then, especially, in college basketball and the NBA when winter rolls around.

Sports betting notes

The college football season kicks off Saturday with the BCA Classic between Kansas State and California. LVSC opened K-State at -27, and most books opened with that line along with 58 total points. The Stardust opened the line at -26 1/2 but it was quickly bet up and, as of noon Wednesday, was sitting at 27 1/2 along with just about every other book in town.

One exception was the Imperial Palace, which opened at -28 and was holding the line in anticipation of money on the high-powered Wildcats, who are known to run up a score or two in non-conference games under coach Bill Snyder. The game is at a "neutral site," of Arrowhead Stadium in Kansas City, but K-State should still have a huge home-field advantage. Even though it looks like the Wildcats are the play, I won't make it my first official wager of the season because that's just too many points to lay.

* Saturday's other game, Grambling at San Jose State, does not have a point spread available because Grambling is not one of the 117 "board teams" that are part of the Don Best rotation.

* The biggest fight in the relatively short history of women's boxing will be Saturday at the Mississippi Coast Coliseum in Biloxi, Miss. Laila Ali, the daughter of Muhammad Ali, is anywhere from a -450 (risk $4.50 to win $1) to -600 favorite over Christy Martin. Ali has the pedigree and size advantage and is 15-0 with 12 KO's. Martin has more ring experience, with a record of 45-2-2 with 30 KO's.

Saratoga and Del Mar

For the past few months, the Imperial Palace was the only race book in town to have a Travers future book. Race and sports book director Jay Kornegay said there wasn't much action taken the past few weeks, partly because of the uncertainty surrounding Funny Cide, and that the only horse his book had liability on was Wild and Wicked. Kornegay said he took a few bets on the Ken McPeek trainee at 20-1, which is what the morning linemaker at Saratoga made him Wednesday.

* In this space Wednesday, we mentioned Las Vegas horse racing fans taking short trips to Del Mar. The ink wasn't dry on those editions when it was learned that Bally's oddsmaker John Avello is in Saratoga this week for the Travers festivities, and that the Sam's Town team of Tony Paonessa, Norman Kelley, and radio hosts John Kelly and Patrick McQuiggan are going to the Del Mar races this Monday.

* Santa Fe Station is giving away two trips for two to Del Mar for the weekend of Sept. 6-7. Tickets for the drawing are earned for every $5 in parimutuel wagers made at the race book. They all go in a drum, and 25 tickets are drawn on Saturdays at 2 p.m. Winners must be present. The last two preliminary drawings are Aug. 23 and 30. After the final drawing, the 150 preliminary winners (25 each from six separate drawings) will be put in a drum and two will be drawn at 5 p.m. Each trip for two will include round-trip airfare on Southwest Airlines, a private box both days at Del Mar, one night at the Del Mar Hilton, and dinner at the Beach House in Cardiff by the Sea.