04/21/2002 11:00PM

Turning $2.80 into $20,000


When Bay Town Boy won a maiden claimer in the final race at Santa Anita last Friday, he earned $10,800 for his connections. But his victory was worth nearly twice that amount to Jim Dempster of Carson City, Nev., the winner of the $20,000 first-place prize at the Harrah's Reno Horse Handicapping Tournament.

Bay Town Boy's victory in the last race of the two-day contest gave Dempster 17,800 points to edge out Bill Beversdorff, of Austin, Texas, who had 17,520. Tournament points are based on 10 mythical wagers each day of $200 across the board, so the winning margin was the equivalent of a $2.80 mutuel payoff. Bay Town Boy's mutuels of $34.20 to win, $9.60 to place, and $8.60 to show (which was capped at $6) was just enough for Dempster.

Beversdorff received $6,700 for second place in the tournament, which drew 67 entrants who paid $500 apiece. The team of Ken Skoglund of Fairfield, Calif., and Tom Castle of Point Richmond, Calif., finished third and won $2,680. Joe Bradley of Modesto, Calif., was the leader after the first day - picking up $1,005 in daily prize money - and held on for fourth place and an additional $2,010.

Richard Goodall of Las Vegas collected $1,340 for finishing fifth. He also had another entry with his wife, Sally Wang, and they won the $1,005 daily prize on Friday and finished eighth to earn an additional $335.

Race book supervisor Christi Mitchell said a Wednesday night snowstorm hurt attendance at the tournament, especially from contestants who were planning to drive in from northern California. Herman Miller, the 2001 Handicapper of the Year, who is from Oakland, was among the no-shows.

'Under' the word in NBA playoffs

Betting on the start of the NBA and NHL playoffs was "under"-whelming this past weekend. No, not because handle was down, but because most games went under the total.

The under was 7-1 in Saturday's NBA playoff games, with the Spurs-Sonics game the only one to go over. Bettors fared well against bookmakers as they continued to bet the under no matter how low oddsmakers made the totals.

But bettors didn't do so well with the sides. Bettors chose to back favorites most of the weekend, and even though favorites (which were all home teams) won seven of the eight games straight up, they only were 3-5 against the spread as four winning favorites failed to cover (Kings, Hornets, Mavericks, Lakers).

The Mavs and Lakers were especially tough for chalk bettors as the Mavs, who were bet from 7 1/2-point favorites to 8-point choices over the Timberwolves, won 101-94. In the very next game on Sunday, the Lakers opened as 8-point favorites over the Trail Blazers and were bet up to 8 1/2 and even 9 at some sports books. The Lakers's 95-87 victory meant that everyone who bet the game at 8 got a push, but the Lakers bettors who jumped on the bandwagon at 8 1/2 and 9 lost their wagers.

Bettors also misfired on the 76ers, who opened as high as a 5-point dogs to the Celtics when it was uncertain if Allen Iverson would play. The line got bet down to 3 1/2 around town and it looked like bettors were on the right side when Iverson scored 15 points in the first quarter, but the Celtics took control and won 92-82.

With so many unders in the first two days, bookmakers also did well, because a lot of bettors like to bet favorite/over and dog/under parlays. Only one favorite/over parlay cashed in the eight games, which isn't good when a two-team parlay pays 13-5.

The under was also prevalent in the NHL: through Sunday, the under was 13-6. There were five shutouts in the nine games on Saturday and Sunday, and the under went 7-2 on those two days.

Favorites had a winning record of 10-9 through Sunday, but that's not a winning record for bettors, who typically have to lay 1-2 on NHL favorites. Underdog bettors have done very well, especially with the Canucks winning twice at Detroit, and the Blackhawks, Canadiens, Coyotes, and Senators also pulling of road upsets.

In addition, the Hurricanes were underdogs in their first two home games against the Devils and won both. The Red Wings on Sunday were the first road favorite to win.

What economic slowdown?

February's gaming figures went through the roof, thanks in large part to the Super Bowl and Chinese New Year falling in February instead of January. Nevada gaming win was up $54.1 million from February 2001 - an increase of 8 percent to $752.6 million - to register the first monthly increase since September.

Visitor volume has continued to improve in March, and it's clear to frequent visitors to the Strip that things are slowly getting back to normal, even if they're not at pre-Sept. 11 figures.

This past weekend, without no holiday, was very busy. But it wasn't just tourist traffic that was causing gridlock on the streets and in the casinos. Limousines were seen in every direction on the south end of the Strip as Tiger Woods hosted his Tiger Jam fund-raiser at Mandalay Bay. TV camera trucks have a way of stopping traffic, too, whether it's from closing down streets or from gawkers trying to see someone famous. And television cameras were everywhere trying to catch glimpses of Woods, Charles Barkley, Dennis Miller, Don Henley, Carson Daly, Gabriella Reece, Miss Universe Denise Quinones, etc.

But the Mandalay Bay area hasn't had a monopoly on camera crews. They were shooting all weekend for ABC's "Downtown" show, which airs this Wednesday night at 10 p.m. The "20/20" spinoff will devote its full hour to Vegas content such as nightclubs, strip clubs, high roller suites, gambling scams, the Rat Pack, and impersonator Danny Gans.

Other TV shows shooting in town include NBC's "Last Call with Carson Daly" at the Hard Rock; MTV's "The Real World" in suites at the Palms; an HBO documentary of the "Showgirls" show at the Rio; and crews from around the world to cover the World Series of Poker at Binion's Horseshoe. And it seems as if there is a movie being shot in Vegas nearly every day.

So if people aren't visiting now, the mass media marketing blitz is in full force to get them to visit soon.