08/27/2004 12:00AM

Sports betting 101 - literally

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In Las Vegas, they say football is king. King of the sports betting community, that is. Judging by all the attention on the activity throughout the country and in Congress, football betting seems to be king just about everywhere else as well. Unless the National Collegiate Athletic Association and lawmakers succeed in making betting on football illegal, another session of the king's court is about to be convened.

Which brings us to what can only be classified under "only in Las Vegas."

The University of Nevada Las Vegas is offering a class early this fall on the art of sports betting. That's sports betting, as in football betting. A quick check of the UNLV website, in the Division of Educational Outreach section under "general interest classes, personal growth," shows enrollment information on a six-session course entitled "Sports Betting: How to Win Betting on Football."

This is not a joke.

UNLV, an NCAA-member college, boasting a national championship in basketball and a John Robinson-coached football team, has a course on how students of the class can "gain a greater understanding of how to bet and win on football." That is what the course description says on the course information page. It goes on to say, "Your instructor, a senior sports analyst and professional handicapper, will also present prominent professional gamblers, bookmakers, and oddsmakers as guest lecturers to provide tips and share their ideas. Areas discussed will include betting styles, money management, value of numbers, line movements, the best places to make your wagers, information sources, parlays and how much you should expect to win."

How much you should expect to win!

Now, before you go running off to your local congressman, the Division of Educational Outreach at the university does not count this course for college credit. Anyone can enroll, and the course is not underwritten by the university. That means the university is not subsidizing the next generation of Jimmy the Greeks. At least a dozen students must sign up for the $99 course by the first session, on Sept. 29; the course runs each Wednesday evening from 7 to 8 p.m. through Nov. 3. As of Aug. 26, they had half that quota signed up. The instructor is Stephen Nover, a respected longtime gaming writer and sports handicapper.

This is not the first such gaming class conducted at UNLV. About a decade ago, Marty Mendohlson taught a class on "computer handicapping" that university representatives said lasted a couple of years.

Maybe the NCAA should take the course and find a way to win on football betting.

Ralph Siraco is turf editor for the Las Vegas Sun and host of the Race Day Las Vegas radio show.