08/19/2004 12:00AM

Vegas goes Hollywood - been doing it for ages


Earlier this month, bodybuilder turned actor turned governor Arnold Schwarzenegger was here in an attempt to lure back businesses that have left California for Nevada.

The rally was held at the Fashion Show Mall, but Arnold got a chilly reception from the private sector, which enjoys the relatively low cost of doing business here as opposed to the Golden State.

If his staff had done its market research, it would have realized that Arnold would have probably found a more receptive audience in the casinos and especially in the race books, because it has been shown time and again that our crowd loves to go to California and celebrates everything about the Hollywood culture.

Billboards all over town are inviting Station Casinos customers to enter and win a trip to Del Mar. Casino marquees are generally reserved by the entertainment department to promote shows, or the casino side with large slot jackpots. The race and sports books usually only get that kind of exposure for Super Bowl parties, March Madness, and right now with football contests. The race side is limited to the Kentucky Derby parties, and to a lesser extent the Breeders' Cup.

So, this is rare indeed, and you have to attribute it to Stations knowing its customers love a California getaway.

Horseplayers earn a drawing ticket for every $20 bet in any Station race book (Palace, Boulder, Texas, Sunset, Santa Fe or Green Valley Ranch), and every Friday night there's a name drawn at each property for a trip for two to Del Mar on Labor Day, including round-trip airfare to San Diego, transportation to and from the track, and VIP treatment in a clubhouse suite.

The trip will be reminiscent of when Green Valley race and sports book manager Kelly Downey took a couple of players to Santa Anita back in February, and they were featured on the Discovery Channel show, "American Casino."

A group at Sam's Town will be taking a similar trek to Del Mar next Wednesday. The longtime 1 and 1A race and sports book entry of Tony Paonessa and Norman Kelley will be going, as well as other executives from Sam's Town, John Kelly and Patrick McQuiggan from the Sam's Town-sponsored "Track Talk" radio show, and 20 invited guests.

Instead of going to California, the Coast Casinos-owned Suncoast is bringing Del Mar to its customers on Monday, Aug. 30. It will be an all-day event with a seminar at 9 a.m. with "Race Day Las Vegas" radio host Ralph Siraco and National Turf Radio's Jon Lindo; another seminar at noon with Daily Racing Form's Brad Free, who will be autographing his book, "Handicapping 101"; a guaranteed $5,000 contest on five Del Mar races ($20 to enter); a free $1,000 ladies-only contest on four races; and a souvenir raffle after every race from Del Mar.

If your California dreamin' involves the northern part of the state, Terrible's has a promotion for you. It's for sports bettors, who earn a drawing ticket for every $10 wagered through noon next Wednesday, when the drawing will be held for a trip for two to San Francisco, including round-trip airfare, hotel accommodations, and two tickets to the Sept. 12 Dave Matthews Band concert at Golden Gate Park. One winner will be drawn, along with two alternates. The winner need not be present, but must claim the prize within 24 hours or Terrible's will start contacting the alternates.

But all these trips to California and bringing the excitement here is just the tip of the iceberg of Las Vegas's fascination with our neighbors to the west.

It was announced this past week that the Motion Picture Hall of Fame Foundation will begin building a Las Vegas Walk of Fame on the sidewalks of the Strip, from Mandalay Bay on the south end all the way up to the Sahara. Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery.

Adding to that, the sale of the Aladdin Hotel is expected to be completed next week to Robert Earl, owner of Planet Hollywood (of which Schwarzenegger once owned a piece), who will be re-theming the resort in Tinseltown's image.

The marriage of cultures between California and Nevada has been going strong since 1920 when silent-film starlet Mary Pickford came to Reno to get a quickie divorce so she could marry her frequent co-star Douglas Fairbanks.

Hollywood types have been coming to Nevada for one reason or another ever since, and vice versa. Before George Maloof and his brothers opened the Palms in 2001, they held a launch party at the Playboy Mansion to hobnob with the Hollywood crowd and create a buzz. Hugh Hefner returned the favor last year when Playboy held its 50th anniversary bash at the Palms.

The Palms is the No. 1 spot in town these days for celebrity sightings, with most of the A-list stars (as well as some from the B-list) going through their doors, and this weekend promises to be no different with the Bravo-produced "Celebrity Poker Showdown" being held all weekend, the "World's Wildest Bachelorette Party" on Saturday night, and the "Palms Girl" pageant - in which Maloof plays the role of Hef's heir apparent - on Sunday.

It's all about bringing Hollywood to Vegas, because the middle class will follow. Vegas is for everyone, and as stated above, horseplayers here love California, and all California horseplayers are welcome here. For proof, the next time you see jockey Mike Smith on a mount, check out his right pant leg. There's an ad for the Palms.

Arnold, the businesses might not be returning to California, but we're sending plenty of business your way. So come on back soon, and bring your friends.