07/27/2003 11:00PM

Old debate: Parimutuel or fixed odds?


Let the trash talking of the future-book operators begin.

This year's first parimutuel Breeders' Cup future bet pool was held this past weekend with wagering offered in the Classic, Turf, Distaff, and Sprint. Bally's Las Vegas and its sister Park Place Entertainment properties are the only Nevada racebooks with fixed-odds futures on all of those races, so it's customary for betters to comparison shop.

So which is the better future-book pool? McKay Smith, the National Thoroughbred Racing Association's director of new media, appeared on the "Race Day Las Vegas" radio show on Monday morning and fired the first salvo.

"I would be remiss if I didn't mention - and my good buddy John Avello over at Bally's is going to kill me for this - but for 41 of 68 horses offered in the future wager you would have gotten a better price through our wager than at his casino," Smith said. "I only mention that because there's a common conception out there that you can't get a good price on a parimutuel pool on a future bet and I think we've demonstrated that's not the case."

When Avello was told of Smith's comments, he shot back a response to Smith and Ken Kirchner, the NTRA's senior vice president for product development. "Ask McKay and Ken where they got their list of horses from," Avello said. "They're riding my coattails. Besides, there were more than 68 horses in those four pools. Maybe they should check their math."

When contacted Monday afternoon, Smith and Kirchner admitted their miscalculation, but after going over all the odds again, the numbers ended up working even more in their favor.

"There were actually 53 that were better in our pool, 25 were better at Bally's, 4 were the same, and 10 were not available in both pools," Smith said, "So, overall, in the 78 cases that the odds differed, 68 percent were better in the parimutuel pool."

Avello said, "Obviously, they're two different animals. I've had these odds up for months, and I don't have the luxury of an automatic takeout, so when I take big hits on higher odds on some of the horses, I have to adjust downward until I get my books to balance. I'll keep adjusting and we'll see how it shakes out for the next parimutuel period [Aug. 29-Sept. 1]."

Avello then decided to call a truce.

"Hey, it's all good," he said. "I have the best of both worlds because people can come in and check my future odds and compare them to the others. And I get business no matter which way they decided to bet. I'm like a restaurant that serves two types of hamburgers . . . mine is prime and theirs is choice."

Kirchner said he would rather compare them to porterhouse and sirloin, but agreed that there's room for both future book offerings.

"Not everyone has the chance to bet both pools," Kirchner said. "We're just happy to show that you don't have to be in Nevada to get a square future-bet price. I'll let the fans decide what they want."

Bally's hosts DRF/NTRA qualifier

The Summer Stakes IV handicapping tournament is set for Friday and Saturday at Bally's with three berths up for grabs in the Daily Racing Form/NTRA National Handicapping Championship.

The entry fee is $1,000 and players make 15 mythical $2 across-the-board wagers each day. Contest points will be capped at 25-1 to win, 12-1 to place, and 6-1 to show. As of noon Monday, Avello said 140 people had already signed up after not breaking the 100-entry mark in any of the first three years of the tourney. Avello said the increase is directly attributable to the addition of the berths in the DRF/NTRA, which Bally's will host Jan. 23-24.

Coast launches Del Mar wager

The Coast Casinos (The Orleans, Gold Coast, Barbary Coast, Suncoast) will offer the Del Mar pick five on every Wednesday and Friday through Sept. 5.

It costs $5 to enter (with unlimited entries) and, as opposed to a traditional pick six, which consists of the last races of the day, you have to pick the first five winners on the card. Each entry includes a top pick and an alternate in each race. In the event both horses scratch, you are given the post-time favorite.

Coast Casinos will seed the pot with $2,000, and all entry fees are added to the prize pool and returned to all the winners. If no one goes 5 for 5 on a given day, all the money carries over to the next Wednesday or Friday. On the final day of the promotion, Sept. 5, there will be a mandatory payout with the pool being divided among the people picking the most winners.

In addition, the first 1,000 people to sign up will receive an official Del Mar hat.

Football contests for all budgets

The Boyd Gaming properties (Stardust, Sam's Town, California, Fremont, and Joker's Wild) started taking entries Monday for its free All-American Football contest. Starting with the first week of the NFL regular season, $10,000 will be awarded to the person picking the most straight-up winners each week on the contest card. There is no season-long prize, so everyone gets a clean slate each week, as there are no penalties for missing a week. And best of all, it's free.

* The most prestigious contest in town is the SuperContest at the Las Vegas Hilton. Entries and the $1,500 buy-in will begin being accepted Friday. Players pick five NFL games against the spread each week from point spreads that are made available on Tuesdays. Last year, there were a record 281 entries and the champion collected more than $160,000. There is an Aug. 24 deadline to be eligible for a $10,000 bonus tourney the last three weeks of the season. Another $10,000 bonus is available to the champion if his picks exceed 67 percent for the whole contest. That bonus has been collected only once.