12/27/2007 1:00AM

Out-of-state phone bets start off with a trickle

EmailMassachusetts can be credited with another telephone milestone.

On March 10, 1876, Alexander Graham Bell of Boston made the first telephone call to his assistant, Thomas Watson, and legend has it that his first words were "Come here, Watson, I want you."

What happened on Dec. 23, 2007, might not make our kids' history books, but for horseplayers it might be seen as being just as revolutionary. Scott Trabucco, 42, picked up his phone in Easton, Mass., just outside of Boston, and called up the Wynn race book in Las Vegas. He reached race and sports book employee Greg Gorla and said, "Sam Houston, raceo2, I want $500 to place on No. 4."

It was the first legal out-of-state wager accepted by a Nevada race book. The state's Gaming Control Board and the Gaming Commission approved interstate account wagering in summer of 2005, but it has taken this long for all the approvals to be granted and the system to be put in place. John Avello, Wynn's director of race and sports, started taking bets from in-state customers a year ago and said he wanted to get all the kinks worked out of the system.

Anyone who has looked into account wagering knows there are a lot of limitations in the states that allow. Avello said he can now accept wagers from players in Kentucky, Ohio, Massachusetts, Maryland, Wyoming, North Dakota, and New Mexico. He said there are another 10 states that he could add but would have to apply to get approval from those states and will let demand dictate his next moves. The tracks are another hurdle, with Sam Houston, Mountaineer, and Tampa Bay being the biggest ones currently available.

"This isn't for everyone right now," Avello said. "A lot of people just bet on New York, Kentucky, and Southern California, but a lot of the tracks we are offering have full fields, so it's great for players who specialize in those tracks as they have big mutuel payoffs."

So, after using 35 in-state customers as guinea pigs, he was ready to try take an interstate wager and was looking for a customer who lived in one of the legal states and didn't limit his play to the major circuits.

He found the perfect fit with Trabucco, who flies into Vegas nearly every weekend. Trabucco was in the Wynn race book last Saturday and signed up for his account and made his deposit.

Avello said customers don't have to sign up in person, and deposits can be made with a bank wire transfer, cashier's check (with funds available the same day) or personal check (which could take a few days to clear).

Anyway, Trabucco returned home Sunday and made the historic call.

"I wanted to do something on the account right away to make sure it would work later when I might want to make an urgent bet," he said. "A friend helped me pick the horses. I mostly bet to win and doubles, but we weren't really crazy about the horse, so I went conservative."

For those who didn't scramble to look up the chart back in the third paragraph (and I know some of you did), the second race at Sam Houston that night was a maiden claimer and the No. 4 was Sacred Camp, who went off as the 1-2 favorite. The horse finished second and paid $2.20 to place, so let the record show that the first legal interstate bet into Nevada won and Trabucco picked up a quick $50.

Trabucco and his friend also played $200 to show on the No. 1, Kristy's Conquest in the ninth race, another maiden claimer, at Sam Houston. That filly won and paid $11.80, but he had to settle for the $3 show price.

"I'm rich; I made $150," joked Trabucco. "But the important thing was getting started. I'm more exciting because John said he's hoping to add Louisiana Downs and Keeneland when those tracks open and hopefully it will grow and grow."

Avello said he knows it's going to be an uphill battle.

"The way things are going now with account wagering, it's a ways away from the day when we're booking all the tracks over the phone," he said. "Many tracks and states might see this as an assault on them, but that's not the case. Our customers are not necessarily their customers and we can bring them business they might not otherwise see. Hopefully we can all work together."

Trabucco agreed from the horseplayer's standpoint.

"I've been betting since I was 5 years old," he said. "It's great that if I see something I like that I can just pick up my phone and make a bet instead of having to fight traffic to get to a track or OTB and risk getting shut out. The easier it is for me to bet, the more I'm going to bet, especially when we get to the spring and summer months."

The Orleans and the Leroy's books also have in-state phone wagering at this time, and with the trail being blazed, the thought is that they will take the interstate route as well as other casino companies jumping on the bandwagon.

Kentucky Derby future book update

In your last update before the juveniles turn 3 on Jan. 1, Wynn has Breeders' Cup Juvenile winner War Pass as the co-favorite at 20-1 (up from 12-1 a month ago) along with Into Mischief. Majestic Warrior and Court Vision are right behind them at 25-1, with BC Juvenile runner-up Pyro and Etched at 30-1, Tale of Ekati at 40-1, and Dixie Chatter and Jedi Code at 45-1. At last count there were 366 hopefuls on the list.