09/06/2001 11:00PM

One bet lasts the entire NFL season

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While the first kickoff on Sunday opens the National Football League season, it will close the books on one of the best proposition bets available in Nevada.

The NFL "over/under" wins wager for the 2001 regular season is offered at only three sports books in Las Vegas, the Imperial Palace, Mandalay Bay, and an amalgamation of the Excalibur, Circus Circus, and Luxor.

The basic wager is to predict whether an NFL team will finish over or under a set number of regular season wins. Handicappers can use information like last year's results, off-season personnel and management changes, injuries, and 2001 strength of schedule to draw an educated opinion.

So why don't more major properties offer this wager?

"If they had had success, they'd still be doing it," said Nick Bogdanovich, race and sports book manager at Mandalay Bay. "It is a very popular bet. Tourists in particular love it."

"If you do it right, it's among the best bets you'll have," added Rich Dressler, race and sports book supervisor at the Imperial Palace. "One bet gives you a rooting interest all season. From a customer satisfaction standpoint, you really give them what they want on their home team."

"The professional bettors are so sharp at it, it's a tough thing to beat," said Jeff Stoneback, race and sports book manager at Excalibur. "The main reason we hung it is for our out-of-town guests."

The Dallas Cowboys drew the most one-way action.

"They pounded Dallas under," said Bogdanovich. The Cowboys under

5 1/2 wins is the shortest price at Mandalay Bay at -230. In other words, a bettor must wager $230 to win $100 on Dallas under 5 1/2 wins.

In an attempt to balance the action on Dallas, the Imperial Palace lowered the Dallas win total to 4 1/2. "We moved them to 4 1/2 after they cut Tony Banks," said Dressler. "Now they have no back-up quarterback behind a rookie in Quincy Carter."

"We opened Dallas at 5 1/2 under,

-120," echoed Stoneback. "After Banks, we moved them to 5 but they were still bet to -190 under."

Following are the NFL teams causing the most liability for the three sports books. From an overall handicapping perspective, it's important to know which NFL teams professional bettors believe will do well and which ones they think are in trouble this season:

Mandalay Bay: Baltimore Ravens 11 under, -150; Denver Broncos 10 1/2 over, -130; Washington Redskins 9 under, -150; Minnesota Vikings 8 1/2 over, -145; Atlanta Falcons 5 1/2 over, -170.

Imperial Palace: San Diego Chargers 7 over, -130; Carolina Panthers 6 1/2 under, -170; Chicago Bears 7 under, -200; San Francisco 49ers 7 1/2 over, -160; Miami Dolphins 8 over, -190; New Orleans Saints 8 over, -200; Philadelphia Eagles 9 over, -140.

Excalibur: New York Giants 9 over, -120; Washington Redskins 9 under, -160; San Diego Chargers 7 over, -140; New Orleans Saints 8 1/2 over, -160.

The NFL "over/under" wins wager has residual marketing value in that casino guests take their tickets home and can show them off to friends. Also, in an atmosphere where risk is not acceptable in some race and sports books, this is a bookmaker's bet.

"There is more and more pressure on Las Vegas books from the off-shores," commented Dressler. "We don't help our case by not having bets like this. It shows the public that we are still a bookmaker."

Richard Eng is turf editor for the Las Vegas Review-Journal and host of the Race Day Las Vegas Wrap-Up Show.