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Apr 24, 2001 8:06 AM

Derby creates excitement
House ready with fixed odds

The climax of the horseracing season is right around the corner.

And the race books are reaping the benefits.

Take for instance April 14, when there was the Wood Memorial (at Aqueduct), the Blue Grass (at Keeneland) and the Arkansas Derby (at Oaklawn).

"We had a packed house," said Caesars Palace race and sports book director Chuck Esposito. "There’s a lot of enthusiasm. These races have Derby-quality horses."

The Kentucky Derby is next Saturday May 5 and all horse betting does well during the Triple Crown season, according to Esposito.

"All handle goes up," he said. "I think it’s similar to the Super Bowl. A lot of people want to be part of the excitement. The Derby is the most exciting two minutes in sports."

Books ready for Derby

According to race bookmakers, fixed odds are working out well for the books and no panic is setting in on one possible horse hurting the house.

"On every horse, we’ll either break even or we’ll be in the black," said Jay Kornegay, Imperial Palace race and sports book director. "I really don’t want to break even after doing all that work."

Esposito also said money has come into the book proportionally in the Derby Future Book.

"We’re in pretty good shape," he said. "Handle there is good. There’s a lot of action on the favorites like Point Given and Congaree. There’s a lot of public support on those horses."

Point Given, who is the favorite on all Derby future boards, has a career record of 5-3 and has earnings of $1,218,500.

"If Point Given wins, it will be good for the house," Kornegay said. "We’ll be all right if Millennium Wind wins, or Congaree wins, or Balto Star wins."

Breeders’ Cup Classic

The Imperial Palace already has released odds on the Breeders’ Cup Classic futures Oct. 27 at Belmont Park. Tiznow is a 5-1 favorite, while Captain Steve follows at 8-1. Point Given and Albert the Great both are 15-1.

The long shots are Windsor Castle, Lasersport and Denied, all 85-1.

In all, 45 horses can be played individually.

The IP opened odds on the Classic last Friday.

The race is 1¼ mile and has a $4 million purse.


Remodeling going on at Caesars
By: Adam Soboleski

If you’ve been at Caesars Palace race and sports book, there has been a little remodeling going on.

Caesars Palace sports book will be moved over to the race book, where ticket writing and cashing will take place at the current race counter.

In the last two weeks, the sports line neon board has been turned off.

This is because Caesars is constructing The Colosseum, a showroom right near the sports book.

The remodeling has bettors asking the ticket writers’ what the current lines and odds are.

According to Debbie Munch, Park Place public relations spokesperson, construction will close down the existing sports book in "early May."

"(During the summer), you’ll see the race and sports book all at one long counter," said Caesars Palace race and sports book director Chuck Esposito.

Esposito said the current race book would get "a few new big screen new televisions," including a 60-foot screen for sporting events.


XFL good for house, barely
By: Adam Soboleski

So was Xtreme Football League betting as bad as its television ratings?

According to two sports book directors, that’s almost true.

"We were taking about a dime ($1,000) per game," said Ed Salmons, Imperial Palace sports book director. "It did beat regular season NBA games, but there are more regular season NBA games."

Mandalay Bay race and sports book director Nick Bogdonavich said betting did decrease as the season went on, except for last Saturday’s championship game when the Los Angeles Extreme defeated the San Francisco Demons 38-6. Los Angeles was either a 7½-to 8-point favorite depending on the book.

"We wrote a decent amount," Bogdonavich said of the championship game. "But the NBA playoffs, boxing and baseball were going on and the book was filled for those. It wasn’t intentional money."

Salmons said the IP had about $500 on each side of the total, which opened 44, went to 45 and closed 44.

"Betting was comparable to a regular season (XFL) game," he said.

Salmons added that public money was minimal.

"Most of it was wiseguy play," he said. "Wiseguys were looking for an injury."

As for the season, the house did well, especially on the futures.

"Los Angeles opened the favorite (to win the title at 3-1), but the public always likes to bet longer odds and Chicago (the longest shot at 15-1) was played heavily," Salmons said. "The season went O.K. for us. It was a winner, but don’t forget it was small limits."

But the product never took off with bettors and fans across the country.

"The games were low scoring," Salmons said. "All the rules were set for the defense. When a new league starts, defenses have an advantage over offenses.

"We get more action on higher scoring games in the NFL," he added. "The (recent) St. Louis Rams’ games were bet a lot. The San Francisco 49ers’ games, in their heyday, were always bet heavily and had a high over-under because people like to bet the over."

Don’t forget, the XFL was minor league football.

And Salmons asked two interesting questions: "What if there was betting on minor league baseball? Or would people bet on the CBA (Continental Basketball League)?"

The XFL’s schedule position in the calendar year did help attract bettors and enough for the house to make money, according to Salmons.

"Anything that time of year until the NCAA men’s basketball tournament - helps," he said.

There is talk that the league will not be back next year - or at least NBC may not be televising games. On Sunday, the XFL website did not have a final score and summary on the championship game until 3:30 p.m. PST.