02/24/2003 12:00AM

Tyson bout leaves a bad taste

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Neither bookmakers nor bettors took a bath on the Mike Tyson-Clifford Etienne fight in Memphis last Saturday, but a lot of people felt like they needed one after that sorry excuse for a boxing match.

With the bout lasting only 49 seconds and Etienne making no attempt to get back on his feet after being knocked down by Tyson, the cries of "fix" and "he took a dive" were louder than usual. But mostly, viewers had to laugh at themselves for being suckered into caring so much about an obvious farce.

Bookmakers say the handle didn't rank in the top 20 among Tyson fights, but all the controversy generated the week before the fight surely boosted betting.

Tyson was a -600 favorite at most books when the fight was "canceled" - it was later reinstated - last Monday. Bookmakers, with Tyson's physical and mental state in question, lowered him to between -400 and -500 later in the week and were kicking themselves afterward that they didn't keep the odds higher and attract more action on the glass-jawed Etienne.

This bout, and all of its preceding hype, is as close as it gets to professional wrestling - or as close as boxing can afford to get. Sen. John McCain has been drafting legislation for reforms in the sport. And just like in his crusade to ban college sports betting, McCain wants to outlaw boxing wagering, too.

Ugly exhibitions like Tyson-Etienne don't help rebut those who agree with McCain.

Getting the word out

Marketing departments at hotels don't have race book promotions at the top of their priority list. Unless you're in a race book at the right time, or hear it through word of mouth, promotions can be hard to find. And some race book managers aren't as adept as as they should be in getting news out to their customers.

But that's not a problem at the Coast Casinos. The Coast Casinos have a monthly newsletter for their Turf Club members called "At Post." It's an invaluable source for horseplayers, especially considering that the Coasts have more tournaments and promotions for horseplayers than any other casino group.

For instance, this Thursday there's a free contest at The Orleans on the last two races at Aqueduct and races 3-5 at Santa Anita. Those racking up the highest win mutuels in those five races will split up the $1,000 prize pool.

On March 13, there will be a free $2,000 contest ($1,500 to the winner, $500 for second place) held concurrently at the Suncoast and the Barbary Coast. On that day, races 7-9 from Aqueduct will be used along with the second and third at Santa Anita.

And then there's the March 19 appearance by Gary Stevens.

Each issue of "At Post" includes future book odds, news on upcoming tournaments, and a column by Linda Ferris.

Other Coast Casinos news gleaned from February's issue:

* The next big handicapping tournament in town ($500 entry fee) is the Championship at The Orleans on April 3-6. The early-bird deadline is March 12.

* The Gold Coast has installed a dozen IPT's (Interactive Player Terminals) in the race book, allowing players to access racing information and make wagers at their desks without having to run up to the windows.

Busch plays second fiddle again

Station Casinos had Dale Jarrett as a +110 underdog to Las Vegan Kurt Busch (-140) in a head-to-head matchup in last Sunday's Subway 400 at Rockingham in North Carolina. Anyone who bet that prop got their money's worth as the two drivers traded the lead twice in the last 10 laps and battled to the checkered flag with Jarrett winning by 0.966 seconds.

In the regular betting, Jarrett was 10-1, the same odds at which Michael Waltrip was available the previous week in the Daytona 500.

Busch finished second in both races and leads the Winston Cup point standings heading into this Sunday's race in Las Vegas, the UAW DaimlerChrysler 400.

Weir does it at 18-1

Golfer Mike Weir stole last weekend's Nissan Open as the sixth choice at 18-1 by overcoming a seven-stroke final-round deficit to Charles Howell III and winning a playoff. It was Weir's second comeback win of the season (he rallied from four strokes back to win the Bob Hope Classic four weeks ago).

Tiger Woods had an off week. We should all be so unlucky. He finished with a 6-under 65 on Sunday to tie for fifth and earn only $171,000. Poor guy.

Woods is the 7-2 favorite in this weekend's Accenture Match Play Championship. Weir is at 20-1, very tempting considering he is atop the PGA's money list and how well he is playing.