World Cup giving baseball run for $

Jun 11, 2002 7:48 AM

The undoing of Mike Tyson and War Emblem was predictable, but England beating rival Argentina in soccer? Now that’s a story in itself.

"It caught me by surprise," said Jason Small, a bartender at the popular Crown and Anchor Pub on East Tropicana Avenue and proud native of Newcastle.

"We hadn’t beaten Argentina since 1966 so it was long overdue," Small said. "We had about 200 people for the game early in the morning. Here, time isn’t important."

Wagering was huge this past weekend where the Belmont Stakes and the Lewis-Tyson fight highlighted one of the busiest weekends of "off-season" betting seen in Las Vegas in a long time.

"Terrible’s has been leaving the daily odds on the World Cup games and a lot of our customers have been going over there to bet," Small said. "Even though England is our team, we have a great international mix in our place. More than 300 showed up here to see Sweden play. There’s a big flow."

The delirium that carried over into the streets on London over beating the "hated" Argentines brought back memories of the Falklands War.

"Well, it wasn’t quite like that here, but there were a lot of happy people."

There was equal jubilation for the outcome of the Lennox Lewis fight, which was shown at the C&A for just $22.

"Lewis has a following, being British," Small said. "We expected a big crowd. It’s great to be English and live in Las Vegas."

World Cup interest, however, is no longer restricted to area taverns with an international flavor.

"It surprised us," said Dave Pemberton, race and sports director at the Rio. "A lot of our customers asked if we would leave the big screens on at night so they could watch the games. Most have accents."

Pemberton’s tongue-in-cheek remark shows that Las Vegas, as an international market, is benefiting from the many foreign visitors and new residents who view the World Cup as a major sports betting event.

"It is definitely getting action," Pemberton said. "There is an international clientele. We have had decent bets ranging from $500 to $1,000. The largest was a $3,800 bet on Cameroon to win $1,000. Cameroon did beat Saudi Arabia (1-0) that day."

Mark Goldman, director of race and sports at the Venetian, also admitted that the handle from World Cup wagering was a pleasant surprise.

"We’re taking more from the World Cup than baseball," Goldman. "Here at the Venetian we have an international crowd, but that doesn’t mean most of the people are for Italy. The bets vary."

Johnny Avello, race and sports director at Bally’s/Paris Las Vegas mentioned at the start of World Cup play that a lot of bets were going towards Argentina, Italy and England. With defending champ France at the brink of elimination, those bets look even better.

Also, World Cup parties are beginning to spring up at places where such events would never have been considered. The Venetian is also entertaining the possibility of a Cup party due to the heightened interest.

"It’s in discussion," he said. "I will say that Cup interest is up and that has been part of the thought for considering some type party later in the competition."

The Crown and Anchor is already stoked for Tuesday’s 11:30 p.m. game between England and Nigeria.

"It’s at an earlier time and I know we will be jam packed for that game," he said.

WORLD CUP GROUP STANDINGS ”” points

A:     Denmark 4, Senegal 4, Uruguay 1, France 1

B:     Spain 6, S. Africa 4, Paraguay 1, Slovenia 1

C:     Brazil 6, Costa Rica 4, Turkey 1, China 0   

D:     S. Korea 4, USA 4, Portugal 3, Poland 0

E:     Germany 4, Cameroon 4, Ireland 2, S. Arabia 0

F:     Sweden 3, England 2, Argentina 1, Nigeria 1

G:     Mexico 6, Italy 3, Croatia 3, Ecuador 0

H:     Japan 4, Russia 3, Belgium 2, Tunisia 1