Dumb L

Jun 8, 2004 6:11 AM

Who said the smart money was on Jones and the Lakers, anyway?

The public loves the Lakers and Smarty, even when they lose.

"The Lakers have a fan base like no other team in sports," said Rich Dressler, sports manager at the Imperial Palace resort. "The public sees the Lakers as a party. They want to be part of it and will bet them regardless of the points."

That would explain why Los Angeles opened again as an 8½-point favorite for Game 2 of the NBA Finals, despite an 87-75 loss to the Pistons in the opener of the best of seven at Staples Center.

The start of the NBA Finals highlighted a busy weekend for the books beginning with the Triple Crown bid of Smarty Jones, continuing with the Hopkins-de la Hoya tuneup boxing doubleheader at MGM Grand and ending with Monday night’s Game 7 of the Stanley Cup hockey final.

"Detroit plays solid defense and showed it in Game 1," Dressler said. "If the Lakers had won, you would have seen the spread lower. The Lakers are faced with a must-win situation so the public will back them."

Imperial Palace, famed for their numerous propositions bets for major sports events, did well with one on Kobe Bryant.

"Our prop on Kobe was his total adding points, rebounds and assists," Dressler said. "We put the number at 35½. The public naturally bet Kobe and it came up 33, which was great for us. We’ll have more props with the Lakers and I’m sure the public will bet on all the Lakers."

Las Vegas Sports Consultants oddsmaker Mike Seba concurred that the Lakers’ need to win in Game 2 warranted the opening number to match Game 1.

"We sent the (Game 2) line out at 8½ and everyone was settling on eight," Seba said. "I would not be surprised if it goes up to 9. Detroit has quite a team, but the Lakers will go all out for Game 2. Of all the games in this series, Detroit really had the best shot at winning the opener."

Sunday night’s victory did dramatically alter the prices on the entire series. Los Angeles went from —575 to —280 on one offshore service. The Pistons improved from +475 to +240.

"We had the Pistons at 75-1 to sweep the series in four games," Seba said. "We don’t alter the opening price, but I would imagine it would be 30 or 40-1 now."

BELMONT STAKES

Even Vegas was saddened when Birdstone caught and passed Smarty Jones in the final quarter of a mile.

"Everyone wanted to see something that hadn’t happened in 25 years or so," said Paul Morris, race book analyst at Imperial Palace. "Smarty gave everyone a run for their money. We had people standing in the aisles and stairwells. I think the only one really happy was Sunny, one of our employees, who bet $30 on Birdstone and won around $900. Sunny was talking about that horse for three weeks."

Morris said the IP handle was up 10-to-15 percent from last year’s Belmont when Funny Cide won both the Kentucky Derby and Preakness only to fall short in New York.

"Smarty got people interested in racing," Morris said. He was unbeaten, on the cover of Sports Illustrated, heck even my mom who never watches a race was interested.

STANLEY CUP

Hockey is one of the biggest sports promotions at Imperial Palace, so having a Game 7 gave the sports book one more large boost.

"The NHL the past couple of games has really been up in betting and attendance here," Dressler said. "We have been a hit with the public with our second and third period betting. When Game 6 went to overtime, we had some action there as well."

Tampa Bay and Calgary represented two underdog teams that few people thought would reach the Stanley Cup final, a fact that Dressler thought helped betting interest.

"We were expecting another big crowd for Game 7," he said. "We opened Tampa Bay at —145, but you could have gotten —150 around town. You can’t ask for more than Game 7 in the Stanley Cup. There’s nothing like it in sports."

MGM BOXING:

It was business as usual with both Bernard Hopkins and Oscar de la Hoya taking care of their respective opponents and securing a big-money matchup, most likely in the fall.

"When you have a card like that with two fighters facing tuneup opponents, it’s basically guaranteed that both will win," Dressler said. "It’s hard to get excited about that.

Hopkins won easily in a 12-round decision over Robert Allen, who he sent to the canvas during win. Previously unbeaten Felix Sturm gave de la Hoya a much more difficult fight, some believing that he might have won the 12-round decision.

FYI:

Is it possible that Tiger Woods may not be favored at the U.S. Open next week? No.

"The gap is shortening, but Tiger Woods is 9-2 and still the favorite," Seba said. It’s true Tiger hasn’t been winning, but he’s right there.

"After winning the Memorial, we moved Ernie Els up to second choice with Phil Mickelson at 5-1. Vijay Singh is third at 8-1 and then there’s a big gap to Davis Love and (Retief) Goosen at 18 to 20-1. Sergio (Garcia) is right there too."

If you want a good longshot try Stephen Ames, who has five straight top 10 finishes and has not placed worse than 13th in his last six events. Ames tied for sixth at the Memorial.

"Right now Ames is part of the field (4-1) but I would suggest shopping around," Seba said. "If you can get individual odds on him, go for it."