08/31/2005 12:00AM

Saints' lines stay up on boards


In times of national or regional crisis - whether you think about the Gulf War or 9/11 or even the California wildfires in 2003 or the hurricanes in Florida last year - the public always turns to sports for an escape and as a sign of things returning to normal.

So, even though sports and sports betting are low on the totem pole of priorities in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina and the devastation she wreaked on New Orleans and surrounding areas, the reality is that it's business as usual in the sports books, with some notable adjustments.

The most obvious change was the postponement of Saturday's LSU-North Texas football game in Baton Rouge, La., which will be rescheduled. Sunday's Tulane-Southern Mississippi contest also was postponed. The games were removed from the betting boards, and any wagers will be refunded.

The betting lines on the New Orleans Saints have stayed on the boards for the most part.

"From what I've seen and books we've talked to, places that kept the Saints up on the betting boards were pounded with money on the under 7 1/2 season wins," said Sean Van Patten of Las Vegas Sports Consultants.

Jeff Sherman, sports book supervisor at the Las Vegas Hilton, said the Hilton staff monitored the situation closely.

"We took the Saints' over/under season bets down Monday and then put it back up at 7 1/2 on Tuesday," he said. Early Wednesday, the Hilton lowered the number to 7, then later took it off the board altogether.

Sherman points out that the Hilton doesn't have anything in its house rules that addresses a team not playing its games at home.

"Our rules say the team must play all 16 games," Sherman said, "so at our book we're just adjusting the odds and all bets are action."

Bettors who have placed wagers on or against the Saints prior to this week should check their book's own house rules, though most I've seen are the same as the Hilton's - all 16 games must be played vs. the originally scheduled teams, but game sites do not affect the wager.

Bettors also jumped all over the Raiders vs. the Saints in Thursday's exhibition finale. The line opened with the Raiders -4 1/2 last weekend and was up to -6 at some books as of noon Wednesday. Similarly, the Saints' regular-season opener at Carolina on Sept. 11 has gone from the Panthers -5 up to the Panthers -6 or -6 1/2.

Some people might think this is uncivilized, but it's the way of the world. The stock market doesn't shut down or stop trading on other businesses affected by such disasters, so why should the sports betting industry?

The Hilton has odds on marquee matchups posted for each week of the NFL season, but Sherman said the Saints didn't have any home games listed, so none of those were affected.

There were also no changes at the Plaza in downtown Vegas, which has lines for every game this season.

"We've kept them up for now," sports book manager Mike Colbert said of the Saints' schedule. "There's been no changes except for maybe a half-point here or there. We'll certainly change the home games down the line if they can't get the Superdome ready."

Some books have college football over/unders, and LSU's total of 9 has remained unchanged.

Horse racing notes

Last Saturday and Sunday, the Reno Hilton hosted The Great Gallop, a live-money tournament in which 52 handicappers put up a $200 entry fee and made $300 in parimutuel wagers on each of the two days.

Tournament veteran Joe Hinson of Germantown, Tenn., turned his $600 bankroll into $3,247 - winnings that he got to keep - to claim the $4,680 first-place prize for total earnings of $7,927. Maurice Burnett was second with a score of $2,093 to earn another $2,288. The top two finishers also receive an automatic berth into the Horseplayer World Series on Jan. 19-21 at the Orleans in Las Vegas.

Les Linkletter was third with a score of $2,017 to earn $1,560 in prize money, and Nick Jannis was fourth at $1,497.25 to collect an extra $1,040. Hinson, who had three entries in his name, also finished fifth with a score of $1,458 to pick up an additional $832.

* Friday is the last chance for Station Casinos horseplayers to win a trip for two to Del Mar this coming Monday.

The trip includes a bus ride to McCarran Airport, round-trip airfare to San Diego, a shuttle to the track, and a food-and-drink spread in a clubhouse suite.

The drawings will take place after Friday's eighth race at the participating Station Casinos (Palace, Boulder, Texas, Sunset, Santa Fe, Green Valley Ranch, and the Fiesta Rancho).

Tickets are earned for every $20 wagered at the betting windows during the Del Mar meet. There is a limit of 10 tickets per visit to the windows, but no limit on the total number of tickets earned.

The prize is non-transferable, but winners who can't make the trip (or decide to go by themselves) can receive $250 cash.

Each drawing will also have a second prize of $200 and a third prize of $100. Participants must be 21 or older and must be present to win.

* Las Vegas Review-Journal turf editor and Daily Racing Form contributor Richard Eng will also be at Del Mar on Sunday. He'll be part of the daily handicapping seminar at 12:30 p.m. and will be signing his book, "Horse Race Betting for Dummies," at 1:30 p.m.

* With Del Mar closing, Coast Casinos will put its weekly handicapping contests on hiatus through the Fairplex meet. But the Excalibur and Poker Palace will keep their contests going unabated.