01/23/2003 12:00AM

Super Bowl action means party time all over town

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LAS VEGAS - The Super Bowl is one of the best reasons ever invented for throwing a party. And if you're in Las Vegas for the big game, you've come to the right place.

In fact, according to figures from the Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority and the San Diego Convention and Visitors Bureau, there are more than twice as many people coming to Las Vegas (271,000) this weekend than to the host city (100,000). That's not too surprising, since San Diego has only 51,469 hotel rooms while Vegas has more than 130,000.

So, it's also safe to assume there will be more parties being thrown in Las Vegas. Unless you're lucky enough (or well-connected enough) to have a VIP invitation to one of the dozen of private parties at the larger casinos, you have a tough decision to make. Detailed listings of parties are available at vegas.com and lasvegas.com, but here are a few highlights to help sort things out.

If you want to save all your money for betting on the game, you can always watch the game for free in just about any sports book in town and at any of the TV's that will be set up throughout casinos and at bars. Of course, good luck finding a seat unless you stake a claim early in the morning.

Free parties in larger venues include the Barbary Coast lounge, Barley's Brewery and Casino in Henderson, Fiesta Rancho's Roxy's Theater, Fiesta Henderson's Lava Lounge, Hard Rock Hotel's Viva Las Vegas Lounge, and San Remo's Chateau Ballroom.

Among the sports book offerings, the Aladdin has one of the most appealing setups. In addition to being free, it will have a special appearance by "Papa" Joe Chevalier, national sports talk radio host and two-time winner of the $10,000 Stardust Invitational handicapping tournament.

If you prefer sports personalities who actually played the game, there are several options. The NFL might not want to be associated with Las Vegas, but a lot of its former and current players sure do. Every year, the biggest collection of players turn out for the Royal Buffet at the Riviera. Among the players expected are Jim Brown, Terrell Owens, and Ricky Williams. Not surprisingly, the Riviera has the highest ticket price at $125. Another hotel hosting star players is the Stardust, right across the street from the Riv. Its $50-a-ticket All-American Super Bowl Party will be hosted by Vince Ferragamo, Cliff Harris, and Tom Mack. For Oakland fans, former Raider Greg Townsend will be at the The Orleans' Sazio restaurant party. Tickets are $35.

Hotels with private parties don't publicize their celebrity guest lists, but you can be sure there will be plenty of star-gazing all over town.

With television screens getting bigger and bigger all the time, you would think someone would have thought of this before, but the Palms is opening up its Brenden Theatres for Super Bowl viewing and showing the game on full-size movie screens. Tickets are $39.99. As with all the other pay-per-view parties, food and beverages are included.

Suffice it to say, if you don't find a fun place to watch Sunday's game, you're not trying at all.

Locals laying less

Back in 1992, Michael Gaughan owned the Barbary Coast and the Gold Coast, two popular locals casinos. While most books in town had the Redskins as a solid 7-point favorite over the Bills, he instructed his sports book managers to offer the Redskins -6 1/2 and the Bills +7 1/2. The risky promotion nearly backfired when the Bills rallied from a 24-0 deficit to pull within 24-10 (and one TD of a 7-point margin), but the Redskins resumed control and won 37-24.

Gaughan's casino holdings have grown to include The Orleans and Suncoast, but while no such middling opportunity is being offered this year, you can still find a betting bargain at any of the Coast Casinos. Those betting the Raiders -4 or the Buccaneers +4 have only had to lay 5 percent vig all week. So, a bettor looking to win $100 would only have to put up $105 instead of the standard $110.

And while no one followed Gaughan's risky promotion of 11 years ago, the other large locals casinos owner in town, Station Casinos, is also offering 5 percent vig on the point spread.

In addition, for those down on the Strip, the Aladdin sports book will also have reduced juice Sunday from 8 a.m. to noon.

Don't wait till next year

As if picking Sunday's winner wasn't tough enough . . .

So, the winner of Sunday's Super Bowl will probably be the favorite to win next year's title, right?

Wrong!

With so many tourists in town from all over the country, Las Vegas Sports Consultants made sure it sent out 2004 Super Bowl future odds to its clients so they could start taking future bets even before this Sunday's game takes place.

And instead of the Raiders or Buccaneers on top of the list, the Eagles are the 9-2 favorite to win it all. The Raiders are the 5-1 second choice, followed by the Rams (remember them?) at 6-1, and the Steelers and Buccaneers at 8-1.

I don't recommend tying up your money for a full year, but there are some intriguing teams out there. The Saints and Chiefs looked outstanding at different points this season, especially on offense, and could be a few defensive players away from contending. They're both 25-1.

The longest odds of any team that made the playoffs this year are the 30-1 on the Browns, so they warrant a look.

If you believe in Bill Parcells the miracle worker and think he can get a quarterback and then fill the other holes in the Cowboys' lineup, Dallas is a play at 35-1.

It's not likely that the Texans will become the first team to play in the Super Bowl in its home stadium, but if you're looking for the biggest upset of them all, they're at 250-1 as are the Bengals, who are on the clock with the first pick in this year's draft.

We're always looking forward.