09/26/2006 11:00PM

Stratosphere lowers vig on baseball bets

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Stratosphere lowers vig on baseball betsP

Football has been the focus of sports books here in Las Vegas the past month with the start of the college and pro seasons.

With games played Thursdays through Mondays and even this past Tuesday, football is far and away the No. 1 betting sport at this time of year. It will continue to be, but a lot of bettors will start devoting part of their bankrolls to the baseball playoffs next week.

Sports books will be trying to attract that action, and the most aggressive so far appears to be the Stratosphere, with its sister properties at Arizona Charlie's East on Boulder Highway and Arizona Charlie's West on Decatur Boulevard, which will be rolling out a 5-cent line during the baseball playoffs.

Most are familiar with the point-spread sports of football and basketball in which bettors are charged the standard 10-percent vigorish betting 11 to win 10. There are some books (especially on the Strip) that deal baseball that way. That is really a 20-cent line as bettors are laying 10 cents on each side and if a game is at -120, then the other side is pick 'em.

Now, in baseball, most books deal a dime line, or -105 on each side of an even matchup, and that's considered good value for the bettor. The bookmakers are basically looking to grind out a profit over the long run since there are so many more baseball games than games in other sports. The Stratosphere has been offering an 8-cent line throughout the season, and race and sports book director Robert Jaynes said he thought the timing was right to reduce the vig even further.

"We're always looking to get more people to our properties, especially since some people see them as being out of the way," Jaynes said, "and we've found that whenever we lower the odds, the bettors come out of the woodwork. We see it with our -105 lines on football on Thursday nights, we see it with our parlay cards when we increased the payoff schedules, and we saw it with baseball this year with the 8-cent lines. If this goes over well, we'll probably offer it all baseball season next year."

Jaynes said the nickel line would stay in effect up to about -160, at which point it would break to an 8-cent line (still better than any other place in town at that price) and will go to a dime line at around -200. This will certainly create situations where the best price in town on either the dog or favorite will be at his properties.

Most other books have a 20-cent line on totals and run lines (where one team lays -1 1/2 runs and the other gets +1 1/2). The Stratosphere will have dime lines on those also.

Another change of season

The weather has broken here in Vegas with summer ending and temperatures dropping (it's a nippy 89 degrees as I write this). Not exactly winter, to be sure, but it's still time for a winter sport as the NHL starts its regular season next Wednesday.

After opening the Ottawa Senators as the 6-1 favorite last spring, Las Vegas Sports Consultants has the Senators now at 11-2.

The Detroit Red Wings, who are annually among the favorites, are the second choice at 7-1 with the defending Stanley Cup champion Carolina Hurricanes next at 8-1. The biggest adjustment in the odds the past few months has been the Anaheim (they're no longer Mighty) Ducks being lowered from 15-1 to 10-1. Also at 10-1 are the New Jersey Devils, Dallas Stars, and San Jose Sharks, with the Philadelphia Flyers, Calgary Flames, and Buffalo Sabres at 12-1, and the New York Rangers and Edmonton Oilers at 15-1.

Rampart contest begins anew

Here's just a reminder that the free football contest at the Rampart in Summerlin starts over this Sunday.

The contest is the only monthly one in town and entails picking all Sunday and Monday NFL games with no point spreads. The first contest ended last week with Gary Marinch going 36-9 to claim the $5,000 prize in an abbreviated three-week contest.

With five Sundays in October, there will be five weeks in this contest for another $5,000. In case of a tie, the pot will be split evenly.

Players must register and put in their selections by 11 p.m. Saturdays at the Rampart.

o Several contests in town require players to put in picks every week, so those aren't open as much to tourists. But for anyone coming into town who wants to take a chance at the many contests (which pay much more than most office pools), here's a list of casinos that have contests that can be entered at any point of the season: all Station Casinos ($25); all Coast Casinos plus Sam's Town and Fremont ($25); Palms ($25); Club Cal Neva outlets at Tuscany and Four Queens ($25 for pro, $20 for college); Terrible's (first entry free, other entries $10); Fiesta Rancho and Henderson ($10); and all Leroy's outlets (free).

In addition, the Harrah's-Caesars family has a $20 contest card that can be played any week.

King Palm watch

King Palm, who has finished second in nine straight races, is entered to run Friday in the third race at the Oak Tree at Santa Anita meet. The 5-year-old is owned by the Maloof Brothers, owners of the NBA's Sacramento Kings and the Palms hotel here in Vegas, and is trained by Vladimir Cerin. The race is a maiden event at 1 1/16 miles. King Palm will get the services of Del Mar riding champ Victor Espinoza.

According to the Thoroughbred Racing Association's Directory and Record Book, the North American record for consecutive runner-up finishes is 10, set by Full Quid in 1980.