02/09/2005 1:00AM

Super Bowl betting smashes records


Betting on last Sunday's Super Bowl broke records all across the board.

Nevada's sports books handled a record $90.8 million on Super Bowl XXXIX and held a record 17 percent of all wagers for a record win of $15.4 million, according to figures from the Nevada Gaming Control Board.

The handle and win figures were up 11.7 percent and 24 percent, respectively, from last year, when the previous records of $81.2 million in handle and $12.4 million in win were set. The previous record for hold percentage was 16.3 percent in 2001 for the Ravens-Giants Super Bowl.

The sports books shattered all those marks when the Patriots beat the Eagles 24-21 on Sunday but failed to cover the 7-point spread. It also helped that the game stayed under the total, which was mostly offered at 47 1/2 or 48.

"From talking to the sports books, everyone said most of their bets were on the Patriots giving up the points," said the man who compiled the data, Frank Streshley, research analyst for the Gaming Control Board. "Bettors were also on the combination of Patriots and the over, as well as Philadelphia on the money line to win the game straight up."

Streshley added that the books paid out a lot on the Eagles plus the points as well as the parlay combination of Eagles to the under, but that they would have paid out much more had the Patriots covered or if the Eagles had won outright. Key to the books' success was the Eagles' late touchdown when they were trailing 24-14, and their inability to score again and win outright.

Super Bowl who? On to next party

No sooner did Las Vegas wrap up its Super Bowl festivities - and finish counting all the cash - when the next big marketing event got under way.

The Chinese New Year (Year of the Rooster) celebration started Wednesday and runs 15 days, through Feb. 22. Some of Las Vegas's biggest high rollers are Asian, and this time of year goes a long way toward determining whether some of the biggest hotel-casinos - especially those that cater to a higher-end clientele, such as the Bellagio, Mirage, MGM Grand, Caesars Palace, and Venetian - will have a profitable first quarter.

Casinos roll out the red carpet to draw in the customers and make them feel at home. The Bellagio Conservatory has an animatronic rooster that speaks Mandarin Chinese, wishing guests a "Happy Chinese New Year."

The Palms has issued commemorative casino chips. In addition to common denominations such as $25 and $100, there are $8 chips, since that number is considered good luck in China.

Leroy's Challenge down to final four

At the Riviera from 10-11 p.m. Fridays, Jimmy Vaccaro, public relations director for the Leroy's sports book chain, gives guests a taste of Chinese culture - literally. As part of the Leroy's Challenge college basketball handicapping contest, Vaccaro buys Chinese food for everyone in the audience.

The comped meals have been more appetizing than the selections so far in the tournament - the combined records of the handicappers are 21-29 (42 percent), with best bets a wretched 1-9 - but that should change with the semifinals starting this week.

This Friday night, the No. 1 seed in the tournament, professional gambler Alan Boston, who went 4-1 in his first-round victory, will take on Ted Sevransky, who lucked out and won his round despite a 1-4 record. The other semifinalists are Dave Scandaliato and Nick Bogdanovich, who will meet next Friday night. The winners will compete in the finale on Feb. 25 for the $5,000 first prize and $5,000 to be given to charity.

For those who can't make it down to the Riviera on Fridays, the show is broadcast live locally on KBAD AM-920. Those in upstate Nevada can pick it up on KPTT AM-630 in Reno.

Winter Challenge this weekend

Speaking of Reno, the Winter Challenge Horse Handicapping Tournament takes place this Friday and Saturday in the Reno Hilton SuperBook.

This annual event, with a $200 entry fee, is a live-money contest. Entrants are required to play $300 at the parimutuel windows on each of the two days. Players cash their winning tickets and compete for the prize pool.

There are no caps on prices, as whatever you cash at the windows is what you earn. The only restriction is that multiple-race wagers - daily doubles, pick threes, pick fours - are not allowed.

* After this weekend, the next tournament in Reno will be the Harrah's Reno Horse Handicapping Tournament on April 20-22. The entry fee is $500, and players make 10 mythical $200 across-the-board plays per day. Starting this year, no partners will be allowed so that all the contestants can fit in the 110-seat race book.

Nevada's Super Bowl Handle

YearHandleResultWin/LossHold %
2005$90,759,236New England 24, Philadelphia 21$15,430,13817.0
200481,242,191New England 32, Carolina 2912,440,69815.3
200371,693,032Tampa Bay 48, Oakland 215,264,9637.3
200271,513,304New England 20, St. Louis 172,331,6073.3
200167,661,425Baltimore 34, NY Giants 711,002,63616.3
200071,046,751St. Louis 23, Tennessee 164,237,9786.0
199975,986,520Denver 34, Atlanta 192,906,6013.8
199877,253,246Denver 31, Green Bay 24472,0330.6
199770,853,211Green Bay 35, New England 212,265,7013.2
199670,907,801Dallas 27, Pittsburgh 177,126,14510.1
199569,591,818San Francisco 49, San Diego 26(-396,674)-0.6
199454,483,221Dallas 30, Buffalo 137,481,54113.7
199356,811,405Dallas 52, Buffalo 177,174,86912.6
199250,334,277Washington 37, Buffalo 24301,2800.6
199140,080,409New York Giants 20, Buffalo 193,512,2418.8

Source: Nevada Gaming Control Board