06/08/2004 11:00PM

Strip to dim lights for Reagan


LAS VEGAS - If you happen to be on the Las Vegas Strip at 9 p.m. Friday and all the lights go dim, don't panic. It won't be a case of life imitating art, a la the casino heist movie "Ocean's 11," nor will it be a repeat of the Bellagio blackout two months ago.

Instead, it will be a part of the national day of mourning for the passing of former president Ronald Reagan. The casinos on the Strip will dim their lights for three minutes. This is only the seventh time this has been done. The last time was on Sept. 14, 2001, for the national day of mourning following the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks. Others who were honored this way were slain president John F. Kennedy and prominent Vegas headliners Frank Sinatra, Dean Martin, Sammy Davis Jr., and George Burns.

Reagan, a former baseball announcer, got his big break in Hollywood in 1940 by playing the role of Notre Dame football legend George Gipp in the movie "Knute Rockne, All American." That role followed him the rest of his life as his campaign aides often implored voters with the famous line from that movie to "win one for the Gipper."

Reagan's critics usually chose to use references to his less-inspiring performances, such as the 1951 B-movie "Bedtime for Bonzo." It was that role, in which Reagan co-starred with a chimpanzee, that led to his performance with a group of chimps at the Last Frontier Hotel for two weeks in February 1954.

At 9 p.m. Friday in Vegas, it's time to dim one for the Gipper.

Tournament news and notes

The MGM Grand might revive its handicapping tournaments next year. Lamar Mitchell, race and sports book manager, said that after the book is relocated to the front of the hotel (near Studio 54), which should take place later this year or early next year, he'll look into doing tournaments. The MGM last held its own tourneys in 2001, with the Grand Racing Festival and the Surf & Turf, and also hosted the Daily Racing Form/NTRA National Handicapping Championship from 2000 through 2002.

* The Super Saturday contest at the Imperial Palace paid out its progressive jackpot last weekend, when Jim Muzio of Las Vegas scored 172 points to win $3,540. The really impressive thing is that Muzio didn't have Birdstone in the last contest race, the Belmont, but he had the winners in the five previous contest races and ran away with first place. The progressive resets at $2,000 starting this Saturday.

* Kathi Freleng won the drawing for a 42-inch plasma TV after the Belmont Stakes last Saturday at the New Frontier. Freleng visits from her home in Lomita, Calif., about once a month. The New Frontier gave away a plasma TV after each of the Triple Crown races.

NHL, NBA futures are up

The Tampa Bay Lightning won its first Stanley Cup on Monday night, following a thrilling seven-game series with the Calgary Flames, and Las Vegas Sports Consultants has made them the 5-1 favorite to repeat next year. The Red Wings are the second choice at 6-1, followed by the Avalanche, Senators, and Flyers all at 7-1, and the Maple Leafs at 8-1. The Flames are no better than the 12th choice at 15-1.

These bets have the usual disclaimers that "all bets are action regardless of team relocation(s), name change(s), or division/conference realignment(s)." But there's an added one that "all bets are action as long as a champion is crowned sometime in 2005, regardless of when season starts, length of season, or playoff format." This is because of the looming strike that is putting next season in jeopardy.

As of Wednesday, the NBA finals between the Lakers and Pistons was tied 1-1, with game 3 slated for Thursday night in Auburn Hills, Mich. But that hasn't stopped LVSC from posting odds for the 2004-05 title, which has the Lakers favored at 9-5; the Spurs at 9-2; the Kings, Timberwolves, and Pistons at 7-1; and the Pacers at 10-1. Next year, the Hornets (35-1) move to the Western Conference to make way for the expansion Charlotte Bobcats (longest price on the board at 400-1).

Sports book notes

The College World Series continues Friday with the Super Regionals. The eight teams that survive will move on to Omaha, Neb., for the double-elimination tourney, which starts next Friday. Texas is the 4-1 favorite, followed by Miami-Fla. at 6-1, South Carolina and Cal State-Fullerton at 8-1, and Georgia Tech, East Carolina, and Long Beach St. at 10-1.

* Speaking of "world" titles, the Berlin Thunder and Frankfurt Galaxy meet Saturday in World Bowl XII, the NFL Europe's championship game, at 9 a.m. Pacific time on FOX. Former LSU quarterback Rohan Davey, who is the property of the New England Patriots, leads the Thunder. Galaxy running back Skip Hicks, who is the property of the Cincinnati Bengals, leads the league in rushing touchdowns. No line had been posted at Vegas books as of Wednesday morning.

* Closer to home (and of a little more interest to bettors), the semifinals of the Arena Football League are this weekend, with the San Jose Sabercats favored by 4 over the Chicago Rush on Saturday at noon Pacific, and the Arizona Rattlers favored by 6 1/2 over the Colorado Crush on Sunday at noon. Both games will be shown on NBC.

* With the U.S. Open next week, sharp golf bettors will be watching the Buick Invitational this weekend. Ernie Els is the 6-1 favorite, and Phil Mickelson and Vijay Singh are at 8-1, but you might be able to find an overlay in the U.S. Open odds (which are already up in most books) if you find a lesser-known player who is rounding into form at the right time.