06/02/2010 11:00PM

World Cup fills usual lull at sports books

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LAS VEGAS - With the Kentucky Derby and Preakness Stakes winners (Super Saver and Lookin At Lucky) staying home, a lot of casual horse racing fans will be doing the same thing instead of flooding the race books here Saturday for the Belmont Stakes.

With no Triple Crown on the line, the Belmont loses a lot of its luster and is relegated to just the biggest race on a stakes-filled day. So, while regular horse racing fans will be enthused and betting into Belmont's all-stakes pick four and pick six, which both have guaranteed $1 million pools, there aren't any special parties or promotions by Las Vegas race books to attract the masses.

But business is definitely picking up on the sports side of the books. This is usually the time of year when bookmakers watch the NBA and NHL playoffs wind down and then get ready to take their vacations during the dog days of summer. However, the World Cup starts next Friday and is promising to be heavily wagered here in Vegas and around the world through the title game on July 11. Race and sports books managers will likely be minding the store until then before taking their vacations, just in time for Saratoga and Del Mar, and most will be opening their doors as early as 4 a.m. some days during the opening week to accommodate the World Cup crowds.

Spain had been the 7-2 favorite at the Las Vegas Hilton but has been raised to 4-1 as the co-favorite along with Brazil. The only other teams in the 32-country field at single-digit odds are Argentina (6-1), England (7-1), and The Netherlands (8-1). The United States is at 60-1.

Speaking of our national team, the United States-England game next Saturday, June 12, at 11:30 a.m. Vegas time is expected to be one of the most heavily wagered games here. The Hilton has England as a 1-goal favorite with a money line of --140 (risk $1.40 for every $1 you want to win) attached to that side. The United States is +1, but you also get +120 (win $1.20 for every $1 risked, or odds of 6-5). The total on the game is 2 1/2 goals, with the under costing --120 and the over at even money. The Hilton also offers the three-way wager, which includes the draw as an option, something common for international wagerers: England --250, draw +350, U.S. +650.

Some book will offer just one way of betting the games, but the Hilton gives both options, so be sure to shop around. Most books also will be offering prop bets to get their piece of the action.

More sports book notes

The NBA finals started Thursday night with the Los Angeles Lakers hosting the Boston Celtics as a 5 1/2-point favorite and --240 on the money line to win outright (risk $2.40 for every $1 you want to profit) with the Celtics offered at +200 (odds of 2-1). The total was 192. The game took place after press time. Odds for Sunday's Game 2 are expected to be around the same numbers. The Lucky's Race & Sports Books here in town have posted an advance Game 3 line, set for Tuesday in Boston, with the Celtics as a 3-point favorite. This matchup, with the traditional rivals, is about the best the bookmakers could have expected from the finals, at least after LeBron James and the East's No 1 seed (and best overall NBA regular-season record) Cleveland Cavaliers were eliminated.

* The Philadelphia Flyers won a back-and-forth Game 3 of the Stanley Cup finals vs. the Chicago Blackhawks 4-3 in overtime Wednesday night to get back into the series after losing the first two games in Chicago. Early posted lines for Friday night's Game 4 had the Flyers between a slight --115 favorite at the Las Vegas Hilton up to a --125 favorite at the M Resort. Expect Sunday's Game 5 back in Chicago to have the Blackhawks around --200 at home like they were in the first two games. The most interesting betting aspect of this series has been the over/unders. Game 1 was set at 5 1/2 goals, and then after the teams doubled that in a 6-5 Chicago win, the total for Game 2 was inflated to 6. So, what happened? It went way under with the Blackhawks winning just 2-1. Game 3 was dropped to 5 1/2 again, and went over with the Flyers' 4-3 win. Oddsmakers kept the Game 4 total at 5 1/2 for Friday night, though there was a premium to be paid on the over at --130 (with the under at +110).

* NFL opening-week lines have been available since shortly after the schedule was announced in April, and the Las Vegas Hilton also has its NFL Games of the Year posted with 80 games, exactly five a week for the other 16 weeks in the schedule, including all Sunday and Monday night games as well as Thursday games and the Christmas Day match between the Cowboys (--5) and Cardinals. So, what about college football, you ask? Well, the Golden Nugget is set to release its advance lines next Friday for 200 games. Last year, the Nugget did 129 games, but thanks to the success of the promotion (both in terms of publicity generated for the property as well as profits), race and sports book director Tony Miller decided to expand the menu. It comes to an average of about 15 games a week, many of which will be traditional rivalries. Miller said he is working on the numbers with his supervisors Aaron Kessler and Keith Fredrick as well as input from Tony Sinisi of Las Vegas Sports Consultants. Yep, football is right around the corner.