Soccer notUSA’s Cup

May 28, 2002 9:24 AM

The World Cup soccer event dwarfs the Super Bowl, but not in this country.

"Maybe 20 years from now, we’ll probably have a bunch of sports book managers that play soccer," said Mike Piranio, race and sports director at New York, New York. "The kids are definitely playing soccer in big numbers."

It will be interesting to see both the television and betting numbers for the World Cup, which begins Friday right in the middle of the French Open tennis, hockey’s Stanley Cup and NBA Finals.

"There certainly is a lot to keep the plate warm," Piranio said. "We are planning to show USA games in the World Cup live, even if they are at 2 a.m."

While the Cup has basically been a flop in U.S. television markets, Las Vegas sports books are getting surprisingly good action so far.

"We have all kinds of World Cup bets, including group play, country matchups and individual play," Piranio said. "The fact the event is in Korea and Japan hurts from a time standpoint, but we’re getting some interest on Italy, Argentina and England."

The USA is 50-1, compared to favorite Argentina at 3-1. Defending champion France is 9-2, which is a nice lead-in to the French Open.

WHERE’S THE LOVE? ”” Anna Kournikova is 50-1 at the French, but most Vegas books don’t care.

"I know a lot of sports books that don’t have odds for the women’s draw, but we do," Piranio said. "In fact, we like promoting women’s sports. We even have odds for the WNBA games."

Las Vegas Sports Consultants listed odds for men’s singles, but strangely omitted the women. It can be argued that women’s tennis is far more appealing than the men. Spain’s Juan Carlos Ferrero, hardly a household name, is the men’s favorite at 4-1, ahead of Andre Agassi (6-1), phenom Andy Roddick (15-1) and a fading Pete Sampras (35-1).

"We have Venus Williams as the 5-2 women’s favorite, followed by Jennifer Capriati and Serena at 7-2 and Justine Henin at 4-1," Piranio said. "The tourney started Monday, but we will have updated odds for the quarters, semis and finals. Personally, I think Monica Seles has a good chance. She has a major left in her."

Shifting to motorsports, Piranio said that the NASCAR race at Charlotte received more betting interest than the Indianapolis 500.

"Too many international drivers in Indy that nobody knows about," said Piranio, who supported Palace Station race and sports director Micah Roberts statement that NASCAR betting outdid Indy. "NASCAR is more popular here."

Next week things really heat up with the Lewis-Tyson fight and the Belmont Stakes, again competing with the month-long World Cup.

"We had big days for the Derby and Preakness and expect another good turnout for the Belmont with the Triple Crown at stake," Piranio said. "There’s enough on the plate, that’s for sure."

The other event this weekend is the Hasim Rahman-Evander Holyfield fight in Atlantic City. Holyfield is a +135 underdog to Rahman, the minus $1.65 favorite.

"When you said fight, I thought you were talking about Lewis-Tyson," Piranio said. "Not much action on Holyfield."