05/30/2003 12:00AM

Race books out at new casinos


Three brand-new casinos have opened in the Las Vegas Valley in 2003. However, if you are a horse racing fan, you're out of luck.

The Cannery, Tuscany, and Casino Monte Lago all debuted this year, but with one thing missing: a race book.

"People have come to me and asked if we had horse racing," said Rob Terch, sports book director for Casino Monte Lago. "I've had to tell them as of right now, no. It could come in the future."

The biggest reason for no race book is space. The square footage of each of the new casinos is relatively small: 60,000 for the Tuscany, 50,000 for the Cannery, and just 40,000 for Casino Monte Lago.

"It was a space issue," said Eric St. Clair, race and sports book manager for Rampart, which is running the sports book at the Cannery. "The original plans were just for a sports book." St. Clair and his boss, Sid Diamond, took charge of the Cannery after the plans were in place.

Terch echoed the same sentiment.

"The size of these new places, they're not big," Terch said. "We didn't have the room to do both here, so it was decided on sports."

"A race book is definitely in the plans for the future," said St. Clair, "but only when we can do it right. A locals race book needs to have enough seats and room for people, much less the television screens and boards."

The new casinos' construction was very cost-efficient - the Cannery came in at $105 million and the Tuscany at $100 million. (Casino Monte Lago officials have refused to release any figures.) Compare that to the projected $1.9 billion price tag for Steve Wynn's Le Reve on the Strip.

All three new casinos profess to cater to the locals market. However, the prototype for that philosophy can be seen in a Coast Resorts or Station Casinos property. All of them have expansive race books and run extensive contests and promotions to attract horseplayers.

St. Clair added that the Tuscany and Casino Monte Lago had to be fitted into existing spaces. When space is at such a premium, slot machines will win out over anything else because of the higher income they generate.

A possible solution that may not be too far down the road is the use of kiosk applications. Certain companies are working on stand-alone kiosks that can accept horse race and sports betting. And if you know the size of kiosks, you can squeeze them in almost anywhere.

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