06/24/2005 12:00AM

Vegas books to add dime superfectas


Las Vegas is usually the pioneer when it comes to new forms of gambling, and then the rest of the country catches up. Well, the shoe has been on the other foot as it pertains to fractional horse race wagering, but Las Vegas will catch up beginning Tuesday.

On June 28, Nevada race books will begin offering 10-cent superfectas on parimutuel racetracks that offer it. Over the past few weeks, the Nevada Parimutuel Association has been going over the new wager with its vendors, CBS tote system and the Las Vegas Dissemination Company, and everything has worked fine.

"I made the first test wager last Tuesday," said John Avello, director of race, sports, keno, and poker for Bally's Las Vegas. "I bet a $22 10-cent super ticket, it hit, and I got back $18."

Bally's can afford the $4 loss, but more importantly the software and hardware changes made to accommodate the 10-cent wagers worked.

"I think it's great for our horse racing bettors," said Lou D'Amico, director of race and sports for the Plaza. "People who never bet supers before will start betting them now because they're more affordable."

Fractional wagering has been available in other countries, but has just recently gained acceptance in U.S. horse racing. It lowers the cost of betting and makes high-end pools like the superfecta, pick four, and pick six more affordable.

"It's expensive to invest a lot of money in the pick six or superfecta," said Avello. "This gives you a chance to play with the big boys, but on a lower scale."

Previously the lowest denomination for a superfecta was $1. Now, a $1 five-horse box, which costs $120, will cost only $12 as a 10-cent super.

What race book operators are wary of are the operational problems that may occur. "We're in uncharted waters," said D'Amico.

"We have to be careful," said Avello. "We don't want somebody betting $3 in 10-cent supers shutting out someone trying to bet $300."

Once any logistical problems are addressed, other fractional wagers may be added in the near future. Some racetracks offer a 50-cent pick four, while overseas you can play the pick six in a fractional amount.

"This is bringing a Las Vegas mentality to horse betting," said D'Amico. "Even in Strip hotels like Caesars or Wynn Las Vegas, you'll see penny slots. You have to cater to the smaller players, too, not just the high rollers."

"We're trying to bring new blood into the racing game," said Avello. "When winning's instilled in you, that'll be the hook that keeps you coming back for more."

Richard Eng is the turf editor for the Las Vegas Review-Journal and host of the Race Day Las Vegas Wrap Up radio show.