07/06/2001 12:00AM

Out of nothing, something bettable

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LAS VEGAS - Baseball players aren't the only people who take a little time off during the All-Star break.

Expect to see skeleton crews at many Nevada sports books early this week as book managers give their ticket writers some much-deserved time off.

The three-day span (Monday through Wednesday) has long been considered the slowest period of the year for sports books. The All-Star Game on Tuesday isn't a big betting event and no other major sport is playing at this time of year. In the past, many sports books would close up shop completely, at least on Monday and Wednesday, but that has changed a little.

There is some horse racing on Monday (Calder, Philadelphia, Delaware, Yavapai), so the books know there will be players around and they will try to get them to bet on the sports side. Monday's Home Run Derby at Seattle's Safeco Field is prime fodder for some proposition wagers, and there is one WNBA game Monday.

The Las Vegas Club has odds up for the Home Run Derby, with Barry Bonds and Sammy Sosa opening as the 2-1 co-favorites. Luis Gonzalez is next at 3-1, followed by Lance Berkman (6-1); Larry Walker, Juan Gonzalez, and Todd Helton (all at 8-1); and Manny Ramirez, Jason Giambi, and Chipper Jones (all at 10-1).

Alex Rodriguez, who left the Seattle Mariners this past off-season for a record contract with the Texas Rangers, is 12-1 to give the hearts of Mariner fans just one more twist of the knife. In all, the Las Vegas Club has 24 players listed, plus a field bet at 75-1.

The Imperial Palace was planning to put up their Home Run Derby and All-Star Game props over the weekend, with other books expected to follow suit. Last year, the IP handled more in prop bets than on the game itself.

Locals will find more books open than in previous years, mostly because so-called "minor" sports have seen increases in betting popularity. Micah Roberts, race and sports book manager at the Santa Fe Station, said his book will remain open, primarily for the locals who like to bet auto racing and golf early in the week.

Bert Osborne, who oversees the Coast Resorts properties from his office at the Gold Coast, said his company's sports books will be open for business as usual, but more because of their rise in prominence among Vegas's baseball bettors.

"Traditionally we have closed on those days, but since we've been putting up early baseball lines there's no reason to close now," said Osborne. "In fact, I'll probably put up [Thursday's] lines early on Wednesday since not much else is going on."

That wouldn't be a bad idea since the only games on the Wednesday betting board will be four WNBA contests.

It's always fair weather in books

Sports bettors can't be accused of being fair-weather fans. No matter the weather, bettors will find their way to the betting windows.

Las Vegas has been having unseasonably hot weather so far this summer, with record temperatures in the 110's. But that hasn't kept bettors at home (it's better to use the air conditioning at the casinos than to run up your own electric bill).

Hotels were booked solid with tourists for the Fourth of July holiday, and the locals also hit the race and sports book to bet holiday cards at racetracks throughout the country as well as a full slate of baseball games.

"We have our steady player base that comes out regardless of the weather," said Osborne, who gets mostly locals at the Gold Coast. "I don't see how the heat affected us at all."

Jonathan Jester, race and sports book director at the Las Vegas Club, has a loyal clientele of locals, plus he usually gets tourists from other downtown hotels who are shopping around for value. "We definitely had less walk-in traffic," Jester said, "but our usual suspects were all here."

It's football time up Canada way

The Canadian Football League opened its season Wednesday with two games and more Nevada sports books are taking action. Las Vegas Sports Consultants, which supplies to 90 percent of the books in the state, has the Montreal Alouettes as the 2-1 favorite to win the Grey Cup. The B.C. Lions are the second choice at

7-2, followed by the Hamilton Tiger-Cats at 4-1 and the Calgary Stampeders at 5-1.

The Alouettes won their opener 27-3 over the Toronto Argonauts, who are the longest shot in the eight-team league at 15-1. The Winnipeg Blue Bombers, 10-1 to win the title, upset the Stampeders 48-20.

* If you would rather bet NFL preseason games than other football leagues (the Arena League and NFL Europe haven't been anything to write home about), you have less than a month to wait. The Stardust has odds on the opening slate of exhibition games.

On Friday, Aug. 3, the Falcons are 2-point favorites over the Steelers. On Saturday, Aug. 4, the Bears are -4 vs. the Bengals and the Raiders are -6 1/2 vs. the Cowboys. The Hall of Fame Game, which used to be the first preseason game each year, will be played on Monday night, Aug. 6, and the Rams are favored by 4 over the Dolphins.